March 27, 2015

HOW TO SEND A PROPER WEDDING INQUIRY

We get many inquiries a week from prospective clients whom are interested in obtaining more information about our services. Believe it or not, this initial contact that we have with them can already be telling to us if we would be a good fit.

I chat about this a lot with my vendor friends in the industry, and decided to do a blog post so that I can offer some tips on how to property craft an email inquiry. Remember, weddings are highly personal events and the "interview" goes both ways. I understand that this process is new to most couples, and hopefully, this post will educate them in making a great first impression with wedding professionals! 

Tips for sending a proper wedding inquiry:

1. Do not, I repeat, do not send an email with your first (or only sentence) being "How much do you charge?"

Wedding professionals should not be seen as a commodity. Finding the right vendors to fit your budget is important, but if your concern is solely about the costs, then you are viewing every vendor as being exactly the same. It is assumed that you are inquiring with them because you found yourself admiring their portfolio online, or that you obtained their name from a trusted referral. Take the time to find out more about their product/service, their personality and their approach to events before you get into pricing. The pricing only makes sense once you have a context to put it in.

2. Introduce yourself, and offer some information about your wedding.

Most people prefer using email as an initial point of contact. That's great and efficient, but can also feel a bit impersonal. When you are inquiring for an event as personal as a wedding, I suggest offering a little more information besides your wedding date. It would be nice to include both you and your fiance(e)'s names, and to convey some preliminary thoughts you may have for your wedding, such as guest count, potential venues or geographical locations, and any other initial vision you may have. It would also be much appreciated by vendors if you can tell them where you found their website, and what it was that drew you to reach out to them.

3. If possible, include a phone number to reach you.

Wedding vendors get a lot of spam mail, which includes "fake inquiries" in an attempt to scandal money. Your email is always a lot more trustworthy when you include an actual phone number to reach you. 

4. Request a phone consultation prior to an in-person meeting. 

Time is a scarce resource these days. If we met with every inquiring clients, we'd never have time to actually work on our events! I'm sure it's the same for our couples, who are incredibly busy with their work and social lives. Therefore, by requesting a phone consultation prior to an in-person meeting, you are respecting everyone's time. Ofcourse, if all goes well with the phone consultation, it would be an excellent idea to proceed with an in-person meeting (assuming you are located in close proximity to each other). 

We all want to work with people that we enjoy being around, so as you interview your wedding vendors, please look beyond the pricing and try to understand and appreciate what they truly have to offer. The result will be very rewarding to all parties.

One of my favorite parts of the job--being the first to greet my couples right after they are pronounced husband and wife! 

Cheers, post signature

March 10, 2015

THE COST OF A WEDDING IN SAN FRANCISCO

When I am contacted by newly engaged couples, one of the first questions I get asked most often is:

How much is my wedding going to cost?

To be honest, that's like asking how much a house will cost in the United States. There is such a huge range in pricing! I get it though, because if I'm not a professional Wedding Planner and I am newly engaged, I would likely ask that very same question as well. 

The truth is, there are so many variables to a wedding that I can't even provide a range without gathering a lot more information. We've planned weddings for 120 guests for $100K, and we've planned weddings for 120 guests for $1.5 million dollars. That's a pretty wide spectrum, so you see, without spending more time getting to know your vision, your priorities, and your style, the number I throw out at you will not be a useful reference point.

When we start the planning process with our clients, one of the first things we do is to put together a realistic budget. Budgets are important, because almost everyone has some number in mind in terms of how much they'd like to spend on their wedding. Even a million dollar is a million dollar budget, and clients always want to know where and how their money is spent. Prior to creating the budget, we ask our clients an abundance of questions to get to know their vision on a macro and micro level. Gathering such information will help us to assess the type of venue that's suitable for them, the quality of vendors, and the amount of decor there will be.

Within each vendor category for a San Francisco wedding, there is a really big range in pricing. A full-time, experienced and professional photographer can cost between $5000-$20K. Venue rentals can range from $2500-$30K. A solo guitarist for your ceremony can cost $600 whereas a string quartet can be between $1000-$1800. For non-design vendors, the variation in pricing could have to do with the vendor's level of experience. A photographer that's relatively new and trying to build a good portfolio would likely charge less than a photographer who has hundreds of weddings under their belt and is well sought after. It may also have to do with the different ways the vendors structure their businesses. A volume-based company who has the manpower and capacity to take on several weddings a weekend would likely charge less than a boutique company that takes on a limited number of weddings.

Design vendors create proposals based on the products they are providing and the staffing required to execute each design idea. There are huge variables here too.

A more simple escort card display like the picture below can cost around $500 for the table and linen rentals, and the silver trays.

Photo by Jennifer Skog

A more elaborate escort card display like the picture below can cost around $3500 for the tree rental, installation, break down, and the labor to hang each card.

Photo by Lisa Lefkowitz
An event with 100 chiavari chairs can cost $1000 to rent, deliver, and pick up.



An event with 100 ghost chairs is double that, costing $2000 to rent, deliver, and pick up.

Photo by Augie Chang Photography
Even the exact same design concept can be more costly to install at some venues versus others, depending on the timing and logistics. For example, at a venue like the Bently Reserve in San Francisco, we have the luxury of an all day set up. Vendors can arrive early in the morning for their installation, and have plenty of time to do what they need to do while working around other vendors. At a venue like the De Young museum, we can only access the event spaces after closing hours, giving vendors a much tighter window of time to load in and set up, equating to more labor involved.

If you don't have a Wedding Planner to help you establish a realistic budget, I would suggest the following steps to do it on your own:

1. Discuss your vision and priorities. Do you envision your ceremony being outdoors? View or no view? What type of venue would you want your wedding to be held? A hotel? Museum? Winery? Think about the experience as a whole that you want to create for your guests. What would you want your guests to say or feel when they leave your wedding?

2. Do your homework. Research on the rental rates of the type of venues you like. Go through vendors' online portfolio to hone in on the quality of work that appeals to you, and then find out the price ranges of those vendors.

3. Do a low and a high column for your budget. You'll likely come in somewhere in between. When creating your budget, account for the following categories:

Venue rentals
Officiant fees
Ceremony musicians
Catering
DJ or Live Musicians/Band
Photographer
Cinematographer
Floral Designer
Lighting Tech
Stationer
Cake Designer
Transportation
Hotel Room Blocks
Furniture and/or specialty rentals
Makeup/Hair Artist
Attire and Accessories

4. Always add a contingency amount of at least 15-20% of the entire budget. Things come up that you did not account for, which could increase costs for you as you get closer to the wedding. For example, when you finalize your timeline, you may realize your need your photographer and videographer for 2 extra hours for a more complete coverage.

Remember that a budget is dynamic. Having one in place helps you to understand costs in the beginning of the planning, but numbers will shift around as you progress. If you come across a photographer that you absolutely love and want to hire, you may decide to splurge on his/her fees by going over budget in that category. This may entail reducing the budget for another category, or an increase to the overall budget. The important thing is to know what you feel comfortable with, and to be realistic. You can't ask for ghost chairs if you absolutely do not want to spend more than $10 on a chair.

Lastly, my advice is to always respect vendors' pricing. Sure, it's okay to ask if they can work with your budget, but ask nicely. Don't demand or threaten them to lower their prices for you. Many wedding vendors are small business owners, and are talented artists who try to make a living by doing what they are passionate about. This means they need to make money too! Respecting each vendor's pricing and talents will only make them want to go above and beyond for you on your wedding day.

As always, feel free to ask us questions in the comment section or the inquiry form on the right column of this blog!



Cheers,
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March 4, 2015

HOW TO READ A CATERING PROPOSAL

Upon securing your wedding date and venue, one of the first vendors you're likely to contact will be the caterer. Some venues have a single in-house caterer that you are required to use, and others may have a list of preferred caterers that you need to choose from. If you are offered a choice of caterers, we recommend starting with 2 catering proposals.

In requesting a catering proposal, it is best to provide some concrete information to the caterer besides your date, venue, and guest count. Be open in sharing your culinary delights with them. What are your favorite restaurants and cuisines? What are some favorite dishes that you enjoy? Any allergies or ingredients that you simply detest? What do you think your guests would savor? Are they adventurous eaters? What desserts are you drawn to regularly? Best cocktail that you've ever had? Secret family recipes you want to incorporate into your wedding menu?

Then, share a snapshot of your wedding vision with them on a more macro level. For example, if you are getting married at the Asian Art Museum, how do you plan to utilize the spaces there for ceremony, cocktail hour, and dinner + dancing? Will guests be shuttled in, or will they drive independently? What time do you want to start/end the event? Are you envisioning a sit-down, plated dinner or interactive food stations? 

The more information you are able to provide, the more accurate the catering proposal will be in reflecting the context of your wedding. Otherwise, you may be getting a more generic proposal, which makes it hard for you to see if the ideas and costs can actually be applicable to your event.

Although every caterer works differently, catering proposals typically include 6 parts:

1. Food-- this is the part that may be the most familiar to you, as it will be similar to reading a restaurant menu. To start out, many caterers will offer you a list of choices for hors d'oeurves, appetizers, entrees, and desserts. 

2. Beverages--there are several tiers to the type of liquor and wine a bar can have. Brands matter here, so the pricing will reflect the tier that you pick.

3. Labor/Staffing--this includes all the labor that will be required to execute your event seamlessly. Servers, kitchen staff, number of chefs, bartenders....trust your caterer to determine the right number of staff for your event. Different venues have different complexities, and without knowing the way an event runs on the backend, it's impossible for you to know the proper staffing that is required for a smooth event. Trust your caterer! 

4. Rentals--Most non-hotel venues do not store any equipment in-house, and thus will require your caterer to bring everything to the event. From kitchen equipment to tabletop items, everything will be rented and delivered on-site the day of your event, and because the caterer is usually the one to set everything up, it makes the most sense for them to manage the rental orders. There are a ton of choices for you to choose from in terms of rentals, from chairs to linens to chargers and everything in between, so the pricing will reflect the items that you choose. For example, a chiavari chair costs between $6-$9 each, and a ghost chair costs around $18 each to rent, so there is a significant difference there! Because such decisions are usually not made until later in the planning + design process, most caterers price their proposals out with basic, standard rental items. 

5. Production Fees--Some caterers will have a production fee on their proposal, equating to about 15-20% of the overall costs. This is to offset some of their internal production costs, such as trucking, permitting (at certain venues), etc. 

6. Taxes and Service Charges--Here in California, taxes are high and can account for about 10% of the overall proposal costs. Some caterers will automatically include a service charge as well, that is between 10-20%, which serves at the gratuity for their team. Others omit this, allowing you to decide if you would like to extend gratuity at the conclusion of your event. 

Many couples get sticker shocked when they receive catering proposals, because they expect that they can get a really nice meal for $100-$150 per person, just as you would at a fancy restaurant. However, they failed to take into account all the other costs that go into producing a wedding, which bumps the prices up quite a bit! Just remember this: there is a lot of labor involved on a wedding day, and nothing is as easy as it appears. If you've hired really professional, exceptional vendors, please trust them to staff appropriately to ensure you have a seamless event!

One of the best parts of the wedding planning process-- food tasting! 

The caterer plays a huge part at your wedding, so definitely take some time to do your due diligence before picking one that is the best fit for you. Some caterers will offer a pre-booking tasting for a fee, so if it is important for you to taste their food before you hire them, don't be shy to ask about that.


Cheers,

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January 26, 2015

BEHIND THE SCENES VIDEO

It's hard to convey all the sweat and tears that take place behind the scenes for each event. The amount of work that is required to produce a wedding is astounding, though it may not be as obvious to clients and guests. With a short window of time to set up and thousands of details to attend to, having an exceptional team with good dynamics can make a great difference for everyone.

Amanda created a short video with footage from one of our weddings last year to show some of the team work that was involved in producing the event, and we're sharing it here as it may be helpful for our readers to see what goes on behind the scenes on a wedding day!

JLE Wedding Production from Jubilee Lau Events on Vimeo.

Cheers,

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January 7, 2015

VIVIAN + DERRICK'S WEDDING AT ASIAN ART MUSEUM

Vivian and Derrick's beautiful wedding at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco was on a rainy day in March, but nothing could dampen their joy in marrying each other. The excitement in their eyes when they had their first look inside the lobby of the Ritz Carlton hotel was contagious, and really set the tone for the rest of the day.




They exchanged beautiful, personal vows inside the gorgeous Samsung Hall at Asian Art Museum in front of their closest friends and families. Afterwards, guests enjoyed cocktails and hors d'oeuvres in the Loggia while we flipped Samsung Hall to become the reception space.





During the wedding planning, we had conspired with the bride on the coolest surprise for everyone. Even the groom was kept out of the loop. To spice up the evening a bit, we arranged for San Francisco Flash Mob to kick start the dance floor after dinner! Towards the end of dinner, members of the flash mob trickled into Samsung Hall, disguised as servers. Then, on cue with DJ Jason Mitchell, the flash mob started their dance on the dance floor and immediately got everyone cheering in shock and amazement. It was so much fun!!



Needless to say, the dance floor remained full for the rest of the night. We love the energy that surprises bring to a wedding! 





As always, we worked with a great team to help bring our clients' vision to life! 

Event Planning + Production: Jubilee Lau Events
Venue: Asian Art Museum
Catering: Taste Catering
Floral Design: Chestnut & Vine
Photography: Cliff Brunk
DJ: Jason Mitchell
Lighting/Draping: Enhanced Lighting
Makeup/Hair: JBeautique
Transportation: Classic Cable Car and Pure Luxury

Cheers, post signature

January 2, 2015

BLACK TIE WEDDING AT THE BENTLY RESERVE


If you're looking for a classic, quintessential San Francisco venue, the Bently Reserve should surely be on your list. Once an old banking hall known as the Old Federal Reserve Bank Building, it's Beaux-Arts exterior has been an iconic building in the heart of San Francisco's financial district for many, many years. It's classic, marbled banking hall inside is one of our favorite spaces to plan and design weddings! 

Alice and Randall fell in love with the space for its clean lines, high ceilings, and beautiful chandeliers. From the start, they imagined a formal, black tie wedding at the Bently filled with glamorous details. We had so much fun getting to know them through the planning, which helped us greatly in creating a wedding that truly reflected their personalities and style. 

On the morning of the wedding, Alice and her ladies got ready at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, conveniently located just blocks away from the Bently Reserve. Randall and his men were even closer, at Le Meridien Hotel, right next door to the Bently. Both places offered stunning views of the city! 











The two had their first look at the Embarcadero, and I don't think I'll ever forget the way Randall teared up when he saw his beautiful bride. It was such a sweet, sentimental moment, and the first of many times that day in which Randall teared up. 




We arranged for a cable car trolley to take them around San Francisco for their bridal party photos. Alice, looking absolutely remarkable in her Vera Wang gown, definitely made a lot of head turns as even tourists were snapping photos of them along the way.








At the Bently, white chiffon drapery softened up entry ways to the banking hall as ushers welcomed guests to the ceremony. The room was lined with rows of sleek, white Chameleon chairs with faux diamond buckles, and a black baby grand piano sat behind the last row, filling the room with soft, beautiful music.


As I witness the sentimental moment of Randall watching Alice come down the aisle to be married to him, I can't help thinking to myself that every couple needs to always, always remember this moment during hard times in their marriage. That moment of feeling overjoyed and immensely grateful to be marrying each other and all the reasons why they've decided to join union as one. Getting to be a part of such a monumental day in people's lives will always remain one of my greatest rewards of being a Wedding Planner!


The mood always lightens once the formality of the ceremony is over. Guests are ready to kick the party up a notch with cocktails and hors d'oeuvres, and the energy is much greater when the newlyweds are present. We advise clients to do the majority of their family and bridal party portraits before the ceremony, so that they can join in on the festivities of the cocktail hour and spend more time with their guests.



A room flip is required at the Bently Reserve, because both the ceremony and reception takes place in the same banking hall. We have approximately 1 hour for the room flip, and to execute smoothly, every logistical detail must be thought through in advance. Each vendor has very specific needs in terms of their set up. The band requires a certain amount of space, access to electrical outlets, space for speakers, and adequate time for sound checks. Dinner tables are set in layers that consists a team effort from the floral team and catering team. The lighting team has ladders and equipment that has to be maneuvered around everyone else. Without a detailed plan in place, it would be pure chaos as everyone would be toppling over one another trying to get their job done in time. 

As challenging as room flips may be, it is also a rewarding experience to see how awe-inspired guests are when they walk back into the same room one hour later and see it in a completely different context! 



For the remainder of the evening, guests feasted on a sumptuous meal catered by Componere Fine Catering, danced the night away to the tunes of their band-- Black Market Jazz Orchestra band, and indulged in desserts that included a nitrogen ice cream station and macarons hung from a faux banyan tree.




Thank you to our hard working team of vendors who helped to make this wedding a huge success! 

Event Planning + Production: Jubilee Lau Events
Event Design: Gloria Wong Design
Venue: Bently Reserve
Catering: Componere Fine Catering
Photographer: Samuel Lippke Photography
Cinematographer: Lighthouse Studios
Floral Design: Hunt Littlefield
Lighting/Draping: Enhanced Lighting
Music: Bay Music + Entertainment
Officiant: Jon Olson
Cake: Studio Cake
Banyan Tree: Blueprint Studio
Furniture Rental: Hartmann Studio
Chameleon Chairs: Classic Party Rentals
Linens, napkins, napkin rings: Wildflower Linens
Paper Goods: Good on Paper
Makeup/Hair: Mimi & Taylor
Transportation: Classic Cable Car

Cheers, post signature
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