Dodi and David's Shenandoah Woods Wedding

Photo by Josef

Photo by Josef

David and Dodi were wed in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountain on a dreamy summer day in August. On that very morning, in the very same spot they exchanged vows, I saw the cutest brown bear roaming around just hours before guests arrived.  The only reason I didn’t freak out and am able to call it cute is because there was ample distance between myself and the furry guy as I worked to set up David and Dodi’s event. The Pavilion at Shenandoah Woods is such a gorgeous venue, offering magnificent views and sightings! 

The vibe of the event reflected both David and Dodi’s lively, beautiful, kindred personalities equally. It was rewarding as a planner/coordinator to watch their ideas and visions unfold and come to life. In working with David and Dodi, it was clear that their plans were driven by passion, which in turn led to the most magical, meaningful, memorable day. The major highlights would have to be the following: 1) Dodi’s show stopping lace romper worn at the reception and 2) The Silent Disco!!! 

As they celebrate their one year anniversary (boy does time fly!), I can only hope that they are still basking in newly wed bliss and that their passion is just as fierce as the day I met them! Congrats again, Dodi and David!

Dodi and David’s Vendors:

Coordinator: Tarra Morgan, The Plannery

Venue: Shenandoah Woods

Catering: Valley Pig Pickin

Photographer: Josef Sullivan Photography

Silent Disco: Headphone Disco

Bartenders: Garnished Events

Florist: Vivian’s Flowers

Rentals: Classic Party Rentals

Easy ways to personalize your wedding

Nowadays lots of my clients express a desire to personalize their wedding. In fact, I’d even go so far to say that they feel the pressure to personalize every single detail. I don’t find that necessary. I think the personalization of weddings has gotten a bit out of hand (much like the fun DIY weddings of days past). So I wanted to outline my top 5 favorite and EASY ways to personalize your wedding:

Your Wedding Ceremony

Photo by Chris Ferenzi

Photo by Chris Ferenzi

Lest ye forget, the ceremony is the whole reason you’re having a wedding in the first place. It marks the official moment you and your partner actually get married. I find that the best way to personalize your wedding is to make the ceremony truly reflect you as a couple. How? That could simply mean making sure your pastor or rabbi really knows you both individually and as a couple. It could mean you both taking the time to write the ceremony yourselves. It could mean incorporating some favorite readings that reflect your own partnership and future together. There are tons of ways to make your ceremony personal - I always urge clients to put the most thought into this part of the day, that so often gets overlooked, because it really is the emotional center of the entire event.


Photo by Shandi Wallace

Photo by Shandi Wallace

Whether you’re a musical person or not, music connects to most of us on a pretty emotional and personal level. So another very easy way to personalize your wedding is to be thoughtful about your music throughout the event. Process into your ceremony to a special song. If you’re doing parents dances, pick songs that mean something to you both. Have music that you love but that isn’t danceable or ceremony-worthy but still reflects you or your partner? Use it at the cocktail hour!

Wedding logo

Photo by Justin McCallum

Photo by Justin McCallum

I used to scoff a bit at wedding logos - I felt as though it really hit home that your wedding was something to “market” (belch). But - I will say that if you take the time to create one that feels meaningful to you and your partner, you then have ONE thing that you can use everywhere! It makes a lot of decisions way easier - what to put on the program, the cake, lighting, favors, invites, website, etc? Your logo. BAM. Decision done, now you can go off and do other fun things with your day, all while personalizing that wedding of yours :)

Look beyond the centerpieces

Photo by Hannah Hudson Photography

Photo by Hannah Hudson Photography

Another very easy way to personalize your wedding is to add small little touches to your dining tables - and I’m not talking about votives. I’ve had clients add different Funko Pops to each table cause they were both huge comic fans, clients who framed hilarious quotes from their first online dating conversations, and clients who incorporated all the national parks they’d visited into each dining table.

Cake Toppers

Photo by DuHon Photography

Photo by DuHon Photography

Again, we’re talking easy here. Since you may want to buy a cake topper anyway, why not make it personal? I’ve seen folks have mini figurines made of them (and their dog!) on etsy, one bride’s father hand-crafted their cake topper, and my favorite (I am a musical theatre nerd at heart, remember), a couple use Tangled characters on top of their cake (even Pascal made the cut!). I’ll also mention, my Mom and step-dad deserve a starting-the-trend award since they absolutely SHOCKED their parents back in 1988 by putting some small clown shoe figurines (my step-dad had studied clown/mime back in the day) next to small high heeled figurines in lieu of the traditional cake topper. So this one is close to my heart!

Wedding Guest Table Assignment Ideas

How do you tell your guests where they should sit? There are actually a lot of options out there and chances for you to get creative when thinking about wedding table assignments. Below are my top five favorite ways to communicate those assignments to your guests!

Escort Cards

Photo by Jessica Crews

Photo by Jessica Crews

The most common option is via the traditional escort card, which lists the person’s name and what table they are assigned to. A couple of things to consider with this option is that you need an escort card table to display and arrange the escort cards (though it can often be “flipped” later into dessert or even a favor table, fyi!). Menu choices can also be indicated on the escort cards. One little tip from me to you: if you don’t need to indicate menu choices (i.e. you have a buffet or family style meal), put couples on ONE escort card to save money on how many you need to print! And finally, per one of my earlier tips… alphabetize them, please!!

Non Traditional Escort Card

Robinson Imagery

Robinson Imagery

You can take the same concept, but get creative with some non traditional escort cards! I’ve had couples at an outdoor, farm wedding attach names and table info to fruit (!), insert names/table info to potted succulents or attach the info to other favors. The sky’s the limit as long as you can communicate the name and table details to your guests!

Banners or Signage

Another option is to create a board or creative sign with each table listed and your guests names underneath. This requires the signage to be easy to locate for guests to look at during cocktail hour - and also requires that your guests have good memories :) You can also do the same concept on banners or other items that also list names beneath table numbers!

Wedding Placecards

Photo by Mantas Kubilinskas

Photo by Mantas Kubilinskas

In addition to table assignments, you may also want to assign folks specific seats at those tables. I’ve had couples have fun with it during their Halloween weekend wedding (with vampire teeth as place card holders!), or you can get creative and use new tools like the Cricut to carve out their names, or make things easier and simply add their names to the top of each menu on their place setting.

Don’t! Have a Cocktail Reception Instead

Photo by Stephen Gosling

Photo by Stephen Gosling

I don’t recommend this for everyone - in fact, it’s rare that a cocktail style reception with no assigned seating really works. But it can! A couple of things to consider is that if you’re not providing assigned, formal seating for everyone, you still need to provide plenty of OTHER seating - from low-top cocktail tables, to lounge chairs, you still need to have seating for everyone. In addition, make sure the food you’re serving is actually edible with one hand and no utensils - people hate standing up and eating awkward food. It’s the best way to make guests grumpy. Also, generally don’t recommend this for large weddings. This style of a reception works best for smaller, more intimate groups. And finally, make sure you clearly communicate the style of reception to your guests so they know what to expect (hey last week’s blog post, how you doing?).

Why communication is key to a stress-free wedding

Besides hiring a planner or coordinator (heeeey), the #1 key to a stress-free wedding is communication. Why? Because when you communicate it tells people what to expect. And people are always more comfortable, and then more likely have fun and relax, when their expectations are clear and are met. So here are my top five ways to clearly communicate in order to eliminate wedding-related stress!

Communicate with Family and Wedding Party

Photo by Amanda Gilley

Photo by Amanda Gilley

From the early stages of your wedding, make sure you find out what your parents (and any other family members or close friends who will be involved) want and expect from your wedding. What are their priorities? What are your priorities? Do you have to do everything they want? No. But people always respond better when they feel heard. Plus, you may think you know what your family wants, and then make decisions based on assumptions - when in fact, their real priority is something completely different. As the day gets closer, also make sure to clearly communicate what you need and expect from them - who will be giving a toast (and how long should it be? Answer? 2-3 minutes!)? Where do they need to be for photos? What is the general timing of the day? Again, when people know what to expect, they can relax and (gasp!) have fun!!

Create a Wedding Website

Photo by Porter Watkins

Photo by Porter Watkins

Please oh please, if you don’t do anything else, make a wedding website. Embrace all the amazing options we have out there today and communicate details and information super easily to your guests via your wedding website. I always recommend putting your wedding website address on your Save The Date, if possible. Things to make sure to include? Logistics! Transportation, travel and hotel information, the timing of the day, gifts/registration information, and attire. Want grumpy guests? Don’t mention the ceremony is on grass and have women grumble about their stilettos getting stuck in the mud. The more guests know, the more they can prepare and be ready to enjoy their day.

The other reason to share all of these details? So you don’t get phone calls and emails with questions you have to answer!

It’s also a great place to share more information about you as a couple and the wedding party, so people can start to get to know one another. You can give guests ideas of things to do in the area. Nowadays you can also collect RSVPs online which is a HUGE time-saver. And most importantly, any other small, unique details about your day can be shared there - wedding hashtags (see below!), unique ceremonies, all of those can be described or communicated on the website.

Use those wedding welcome bags

Photo by Love Life Images

Photo by Love Life Images

Welcome bags aren’t just to make your guests feel welcome (and provide that oh-so-necessary water and Advil for the next morning). It’s a great place to communicate with your guests. Lots of couples include an info sheet (frankly, repeating the details on the wedding website!) to hit home the important information guests need to know. Use those welcome bags to your full advantage and slip some info in there to make sure guests know what’s up!


Photo by DeNeuva Photography

Photo by DeNeuva Photography

As I mentioned, above, nowadays I find lots of ceremonies that have unique elements to them. Whether you’re blending religions or cultures, want an “unplugged” wedding (aka no cell phone photos please), or simply want to share more information about what’s going to happen during the ceremony, programs are a great way to communicate with guests so that they feel comfortable and don’t have questions or feel uneasy about what’s going on. Learning about what the chuppah represents, or why a certain reading means so much to you allows them to relax and connect to the ceremony.


Photo by Love Life Images

Photo by Love Life Images

Wedding hashtags can also be a really fun way to communicate with your guests during and AFTER the wedding. By encouraging guests to use a specific, unique-to-you wedding hashtag, you can find guests photos after-the-fact, comment, and enjoy the fun again, after the day is over. If you DO decide to go with a wedding hashtag, make sure to communicate the hashtag widely, both on your wedding website, programs, and even signage throughout the reception!

The Small Stuff: what couples often forget in the wedding planning process

This week we’re talking about some of the small details - and no, I’m not talking about the beautiful wedding details that get photographed, like the paper goods or boutonnieres. I’m talking about the small stuff that sometimes make a HUGE difference - and that couples often forget about, or don’t even know!


Load-in and Load-out

Photo by Darling Photographers

Photo by Darling Photographers

There’s no reason anyone who hasn’t planned an event before should know how long it takes to load-in and load-out multiple vendors - the catering, tables, music, floral details and anything else you may be having at your wedding. So I’m here to set it straight. Traditionally, we need at least two hours. Why is this important? Because as much as I love venues, they often don’t break it down and make it clear to couples that this load-in/out time is sometimes included in their reservation. In other words, you think you have 8 hours at a venue? Well once you subtract the load-in and load-out hours, you only have 5.


Invite time vs. Doors opening time!

Photo by Sarah Gormley

Photo by Sarah Gormley

Similarly, couples often forget that guests don’t just magically arrive right when the wedding begins. You need to build in a 30 minute buffer for guests to arrive, drop off coats/gifts, maybe even grab a drink or program, and find their seats. The invite time on your invitation is the time the ceremony STARTS. Therefore, you need to assume guests will start arriving 30 minutes prior to that invite time. 5:30pm ceremony? You need to have everything ready and set for guests by 5:00pm. Again, a little window of time you may not have accounted for, but that is really necessary in the planning process.


Vendor Meals

Photo by Susan Hornyak

Photo by Susan Hornyak

You’ve got to feed your vendors, please! It’s important that you not only request vendor meals (and don’t forget to check their contracts to see if it has to be a hot meal, or if a sandwich/packed lunch meal will do), but to consider when all the vendors will actually be eating and add it to your timeline. This not only notifies your vendors that you’ve thought of them (which is always nice for us to see), but it also helps inform the caterer so they know when to have those meals ready. Vendors often eat at different times (and some have specific requests, so always check with them first) - but in general, the photographer and DJ eat during dinner, once the guests have been served. There aren’t any huge moments the photographer will be missing (and pics of people eating are never very attractive), and the DJ is usually just playing a playlist they’ve put together for dinner - it’s not as interactive a portion of the evening (like post-dinner dancing). You want your vendors to have energy to do their job well. Most of your vendors are working very long hours on the day-of. So feed them, please.


Escort Cards

Photo by Mathy Shoots People

Photo by Mathy Shoots People

Escort cards are, again, something anyone who has never organized or planned a wedding before may event know exists. But it’s an easy, organized way for guests to know where they are seated. But it’s only easy and organized if you alphabetize your escort cards, please! I’ve had couples give me escort cards organized by table number. I’ve had couples give me escort cards in which they forgot to note the table numbers! So double check those cards, and think about how the GUESTS will be looking for them - by their name. Alphabetized, please :)



Photo by Shandi Wallace

Photo by Shandi Wallace

Finally, when I say the small stuff, I do mean the STUFF. Couples often forget about how the little things that will be coming in, and usually, going out at the end of the night. Is the florist returning to pick up the centerpieces? If not, what’s happening to them? Who is taking the leftover alcohol at the end of the night? Who is taking gifts and cards? What about the leftover programs, or your guest book? Obviously, if you have a coordinator (yo, hire us!), they will help you organize and think ahead about all of these details. But either way, don’t forget the small stuff!

Unique Wedding Activities

One of our most popular blog posts is the post I did about our family’s annual tradition of hosting our own lip sync battle (yes, seriously). It made me realize a round up of some of our favorite unique wedding activities that we’ve seen The Plannery clients do over the years could be fun and provide some inspiration for those looking to add a little twist to their wedding day. So check out some fun options below and get inspired!

Wedding Professional Performances

Photo by Justin McCallum

Photo by Justin McCallum

Yup - we’ve had some clients really go all out. My favorite was the wedding we recently featured that hired a very famous Beyonce drag performer to surprise their guests after their first dance. It was insane and amazing and so much freaking fun!

Wedding Silent Disco

Silent Disco Wedding

Tarra worked a wedding (that will be featured on our blog soon!) where they did a silent disco! I love this idea, especially for any venues that have sound/noise restrictions! Such a fun way to work past those limitations and still have an awesome, unique wedding!

Wedding Flash Mob

Katie | the plannery Favorites-0049.jpg

I once got an email from the mother of the bride asking me to help with a surprise - she and a ton of other family members had put together a flash mob to surprise the bride during the reception with a huge dance to celebrate. It was so much fun and the bride loved it - it definitely got the dance party started, too! This obviously takes some rehearsal and planning/prep work, but it’s worth it if you know someone who loves dancing and loves surprises :)

Wedding Lip Sync Battle

I obviously had to include this one. One of our couples did a huge, hilarious lip sync battle at their holud, the night before their wedding. People really ran with it, including ridiculous costumes…

Wedding Performance by a Bride or Groom


This one is personal for me - my husband surprised me with a song he'd written me at our wedding. But we’ve also had one of our clients who was a musician with the US Army Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps, surprise her husband with a performance. Whatever your talent is - it’s a fun time to share it with your new partner!


You can’t go wrong with inviting local mascots to the wedding. I’ve had brides invite them to surprise the groom, I’ve had them act as ushers, and I’ve had them simply join the dance party (which even got some local press!). They’re also always a fun photo opp for guests, too!

Fun accessories!

Light up wedding bracelets

One of my weddings bought these amazing bracelets that were gifted to all guests that lit up, changed colors, and flashed at different times based on the music that was being played. It was super fun and made it feel like a real dance party

Adam and Ryan's Carnegie Institution of Science DC Wedding

Photo by Justin McCallum

Photo by Justin McCallum

Adam and Ryan signed on to work with me back when I was about to have my 2nd baby! I helped them get started - nailed down the venue and some of the major vendors, had my baby (!), then came back to help them out with the rest of their planning. And I’m SO blessed and thankful that they took a chance on a very pregnant woman. This might have been one of my favorite weddings of all time. They were so much fun to work with and I knew that their love and their wedding would be so special. Justin McCallum’s awesome photos capture every moment, big and small. They started the day with some photos around the Carnegie Institution of Science. Then after signing the license with friends and family, they had a beautiful ceremony in the round. One of my favorite details was that they’d ordered two custom gobos - one for during the ceremony (which listed both of their “maiden” names), and one after, pronouncing them, The Hunters :)

After the cocktail hour, their wedding party had some of the most fabulous entrances I’ve ever seen, including their officiant walking in to Like a Prayer, the ring bearer dancing, and of course, Ryan clacking that fan.

Dinner by Main Event Catering was delicious, as was their stunning custom cake (which incorporated their married logo) by Fluffy Thoughts.

And then… it was the best part of the night. Adam and Ryan did their first dance to Beyonce’s XO, and then announced the incredible Riley Knoxx. This infamous Beyonce performer surprised the guests with a 20 minute set and kicked off the dance party like no one else. (and BTW, she also appears in Taylor Swift’s new music video!). It was legit one of the best weddings I’ve had the honor of being a part of - I need more Beyonce in my life (who doesn’t??).

Thank you and congrats again to Adam and Ryan for allowing me to help plan and organize this awesome day! And a special shout out to Scorpio Entertainment. They not only kicked ass as DJ but had a ton of other elements to coordinate - like Riley’s performance/lighting/sound, the special logo lighting, etc - and nailed it all.

Adam and Ryan’s Vendors:

Planner: Katie Wannen, The Plannery

Venue: Carnegie Institution of Science

Caterer: Main Event Caterers

Photographer: Justin McCallum

DJ, Lighting, and Sound: Scorpio Entertainment

Florist: Highway to Hill

Cake: Fluffy Thoughts

Hair/Make-up: Ebonie Jones

Performance! by Riley Knoxx

Claire and Mike's Mount Vernon Inn, VA Wedding

Photo by Casey Crowe Taylor

Photo by Casey Crowe Taylor

Claire and Mike’s wedding took place on a breezy, cool day in early November. So many elements of their special day were truly timeless. Casey Crowe Taylor absolutely outdid herself with documenting every moment for them. So blown away! I acknowledge that my blogs are getting redundant regarding praising the photography.  Very grateful to have worked with some of the best photographers in the game this past year. 

Following their early afternoon ceremony at Catholic University in DC, we all crossed the Potomac River later that evening to their reception at Mount Vernon Inn. Claire and Mike’s ride being the most fashionable of all in a blue 1962 Cadillac provided by Camelot Classic Car.  

Mount Vernon is a place near and dear to Claire and Mike’s hearts. The place where they had the very first date. As a coordinator, a lot of times we can be spoiled with an easy laid out, straightforward venue. Other times, venues are not as easy or straightforward and require a little more forethought.  We had a great final planning meeting and came up with a great flow for how to best work in a compartmentalized space.  And well if I am being honest, in this case I was still spoiled because the staff at Mount Vernon are total rock stars!  Great food, great company, great band, it is my hope Claire and Mike are beyond happy with how everything turned out on the day they committed to each other in marriage. Congrats to them!

Claire and Mike’s Vendors:

Ceremony Venue: Catholic University

Reception Venue and Catering: Mount Vernon Inn

Coordinator: Tarra Morgan, The Plannery

Photographer: Casey Crowe Taylor

Band: Lucky Pocket (formerly Empty Pocket) from Sam Hill Entertainment

Cake: Swiss Bakery

Hair/Make-up: Modern Bridal Studio

Florist: Thurman & Fig

Guest Transportation: Fleet Transportation

Car for Couple: Camelot Classic Cars

Invitations and Programs: Artisan Matchmaker

Ellie and Nicholas, Longview Gallery, Washington DC Wedding

Photo by Sarah Gormley

Photo by Sarah Gormley

Ellie and Nicholas got married at Longview Gallery, one of my favorite non-traditional wedding venues in DC. They were such a unique couple - their wedding hashtag was #acrosstheaisle - a nod to the fact that she’s a Democrat, and he’s a Republican. You can’t get more DC than that!! Their day started with some photos in the area (by the incredible Sarah Gormley). After a beautiful ceremony, they had cocktails in the back gallery while we flipped the ceremony space into the dining room - so they could eat the incredible meal from Well Dunn! Dancing and sweet treats (including mini Jeni’s ice creams…yummm) followed. He is in the military, and they honored that part of him not only by using his sword for the cake cutting, but with their cake toppers (incredible yoga soldier statues! Yoga for her, soldier for him). My most favorite detail, however, was their “guest book” - two posters for guests to sign: one of Reagan, the other of Obama.

Enjoy this awesome DC wedding! And congrats again Ellie and Nicholas!

Ellie and Nicholas’s Vendors:

Venue: Longview Gallery

Coordinator: Katie Wannen, The Plannery

Caterer: Well Dunn

Photographer: Sarah Gormley

DJ: DJ Evan Reitmeyer

Florist: Uncloudy Studios

Ceremony Music: Tiffany Rose Violin

Hair/Make-up: Ariel Lewis

What does a wedding coordinator actually DO?

Photo by Jess Latos

Photo by Jess Latos

This week we're talking about wedding coordinators!

What to look for in a wedding coordinator? I firmly believe all wedding vendors should make the PROCESS (not just the day-of) easier. Look for a coordinator who is a clear communicator, easy to talk to, friendly, real and who also reflects your values (#loveislove folks!)

Does a coordinator only help out on the day of? NO! We are usually involved months ahead of time, to help couples with their timeline, look for any red flags in the structure and organization of the day, coordinate all details with all vendors, and do a final walk through of the venue. There's no way to do a good job on the day-of without prior planning and involvement.

Coordinators are also important because we help run the rehearsals, along with your officiant. We help line up and organize all wedding party members, talk through (and physically put them!) where they'll be during the ceremony, and cue both the music as well as the actual processional and recessional. All those small logistical details matter!

One of a coordinator's most important jobs is to make sure everyone else is doing their job! We are there at load-in to make sure the caterer, venue, sound/music, lighting and all other vendors are there on time, setting up as they're supposed to, and everything is going according to plan. Trust me, you want someone ELSE worrying about whether the DJ is an hour late (which has happened to me - it all worked out) :)

So what does a coordinator do during a wedding? I always say we think of it as a cueing system - we're always 5-10 minutes ahead of what's actually happening, thinking ahead to the next transition and what needs to happen to make it run smoothly. So why have a coordinator? So your DJ doesn't announce the toasts while the bride is in the bathroom (something I've seen happen at a wedding I didn't coordinate!). A coordinator helps all those seemingly effortless moments happen.