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Choosing The Perfect Wedding Venue

For week two of the bridal wedding series, we are talking about choosing the perfect wedding venue. This is one detail of wedding planning that sets the mood and style of your wedding day and plays a huge role in your wedding experience for you and your guests. Today we are talking with Hannah from one of the top venues in Cleveland Oh, The Lake Erie Building. Hannah breaks down this process and helps make it seem less intimidating. She walks through the questions to ask when touring venues, and what to look out for when choosing your perfect wedding venue!

You definitely want to bookmark this one!!

Meet Hannah

Hi friends! My name is Hannah and I am the director of events at the Lake Erie Building. I’ve been guiding others through wedding planning for seven years now and have helped more than 300 couples walk down the aisle. I am a certified wedding planner through the Bridal Society though most of what I do these days is strictly from a venue standpoint. Outside of work, I reside in a southern suburb of Cleveland with my husband of six years, our two dogs, and 18-month-old daughter. I love to garden – I’m growing a huge flower garden this year – and I also really enjoy baking.

Lake erie building wedding venue and florals
Photograph by: This Lovely Light

Choosing The Perfect Wedding Venue

So you’ve recently got engaged and Aunt Sally keeps asking when is the big day? A question that’s a bit difficult to answer until you find your venue. The venue is usually the first piece of the puzzle and the most stressful. It seems that venues are popping up on every corner offering something different at vastly different price points. Even though you have a vision in mind for your wedding day, how do you choose the perfect wedding venue?

Make a list of the venues that catch your eye. Next you will want to email or call them for more information. Before scheduling a tour, make sure you know their price, capacity, and what dates are available. If any of these three points are outside of what you’re comfortable with – don’t tour that space! It’s okay to tell a vendor, I’m sorry but that’s not going to work for us. I also strongly recommend touring alone, as a couple – at least at first! Once you’ve selected a location, that’s when you should bring your parents, siblings, and aunt Sally back to see the space and start daydreaming of décor.

Questions To Ask during Your Venue Tour

When you are touring, make sure you get a rundown on everything that’s included and everything that’s not. Hannah recommends to bring a pen and notebook to keep notes in or ask to record the conversation you have with the venue coordinator, so you can go over everything once you’re back at home. Make sure you come prepared! Here are a few questions she recommends to ask:

  1. Are tables and chiavari chairs included?  At the Lake Erie Building, we include tables and chiavari chairs for all your guests whereas some venues are simply the space and everything else needs to be rented in.
  2. What does the bridal and groom suites look like? This helps you plan out if this is a space you would like to get ready in or if you need to consider another location. If you are getting ready photos done, does it have good natural lighting for your photographer.
  3. Are there preferred vendors you are required to use? For example, some venues have a list of caterers that are required for you to use. Some couples love this and some others like to bring in their own.
  4. Are you allowed to serve alcohol? Yes, there are venues that don’t allow alcohol. If so, you need to ask can you bring it in or do you have to get it through the venue’s vendor.
  5. Is there an additional fee for a ceremony onsite?  Most venues offer two spaces for ceremony and reception, but there can sometimes there can be a fee to have your full wedding day there.
  6. What time does my event have to end and what time does everything need to be out of the space?  Make sure you take notes on this. Each venue has their own guidelines for this. So come in beforehand with an idea of how late you want your reception to go til.
Lake Erie Building wedding ceremony exit
Photography by: This Lovely Light
Photograph by: Mallory and Justin

The Planning Process with Your Wedding Venue

Once you have chosen your perfect wedding venue, give them a call or email to let them know you’d like to book. 

Following the booking process, you will start setting up your planning meetings. This is where the fun begins! Your first planning meeting will mostly like occur six months prior to your wedding date. This may seem too far in advance, but this gives you the ability to book your core vendor team and really narrow in on the details. Remember your wedding coordinator is here to help you along the way!

What To Expect at a Planning Meeting

At a planning meeting, you can expect to go over your vendor selections and walkthrough of the whole space. Going over the floor plan for your wedding day.

At the Lake Erie Building, all our floor plans are custom. This is where we sit down with you to discuss your wants and needs, and go over the vision boards and ideas you may have. Don’t be afraid to bring in any items you want to hang or have included in the space. This not only helps you to brainstorm with your venue coordinator, but start to see your vision come to life.

Hannah also recommends that you ask your venue coordinator if you are able to see the venue when setup for a wedding. She has found that this helps her couples understand the spacing of the venue and to see the space in different lighting. Most likely when you tour the space, it will be empty and during the day. So if you are able to see the space during a wedding event, you can see what the lighting will look like during your reception.  Granted it’s not always possible to accommodate these requests, it never hurts to ask!

Lastly, if your venue is providing the catering, this is likely when you’ll have your tasting and select your menu choices. This is a great time to bring your florist, photographer, family, or anyone that may be helping you make the space your own! communicate with your venue who you are bringing to the taste testing, so they can accommodate everyone.

The final planning meeting usually occurs two weeks prior to your wedding. This meeting generally includes the finalizing of plans and going over what to expect on the day(s) of your rental. This meeting is Hannah’s personal favorite! It’s when everything sets in and the couple realizes that they’ll be in the space just a couple weeks later celebrating their marriage!

Lake Erie Building wedding ceremony exit
Photography by: Lizzie Schlafer

How To Enjoy the Wedding Planning Process

Wedding planning can be stressful, and as cliché as it sounds, make sure you take the time to enjoy it! Hannah shares a few ideas for this:

  • Have a first look. Most couples like to stick to traditions, but having this time with your fiancé(e) before you make it official can be really calming. And I promise your walk down the aisle will still be just as special. 
  • If you haven’t seen the reception space set up for your specific event, ask to see if before the rest of your guests. Make sure your planner and photographer are on board so the room is ready to go when you arrive! 
  • Dance your feet off! Get on that dance floor – there will never again be a wedding that will have this specific group of people in attendance. So be on the center of the dance floor all night. This will encourage your guests to get out there and dance too! AND to go along with this, make sure you hire an amazing DJ – don’t skimp here – they keep the party going! 
black and white lake erie building wedding couple

Stay True To Yourself

If I could give one piece of advice to every couple, it’s stay true to yourselves! Between Pinterest and Instagram, I almost feel like weddings have turned somewhat into a competition of beauty. This inherently isn’t bad, but can easily tie a couple into a wedding that’s trendy and maybe not necessarily “them”. Have the wedding that is uniquely you, no matter what that looks like. Remember when choosing your perfect wedding venue, your wedding should be a celebration that highlights you as a couple and your love story!

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May 8, 2020

Tips to Choosing Your Wedding Photographer

If you’re on the search for choosing a wedding photographer, you are probably engaged to the love of your life, have created a Pinterest board, and are constantly scrolling on instagram for the perfect photographer!!

Well, know that you are not alone and that I have been there!!

We have instant access to the most magical weddings which is amazing, but can also become quickly overwhelming. While we can search on The Knot, Pinterest, and instagram for inspiration, we need to ask: how do we narrow down all the details and create a dream wedding?

I believe it’s all about finding a place where you can get inside information from the professionals.

I wanted to create a place where brides can learn from the professionals and walk away with helpful tips to help ease the stress of wedding planning and be left feeling confident on their wedding day!

To kick start this bridal wedding series, I will be sharing what questions to ask your wedding photographer before booking and what to look out for when you are scrolling on instagram and Pinterest. So without further ado, here they are!

What to Look For When Choosing Your Wedding Photographer

1. Determine a budget

After planning my own wedding, this is one of the most valuable tips I can give you! If you have not taken time to plan out a budget for your wedding, you need to! I highly recommend doing this before you start reaching out to vendors. One of the first questions a vendor will ask you, is if you have a set budget for their service. If you don’t have a set budget, I encourage you to go into the conversation with an open mindset. It’s okay to not know the ins and outs of pricing! Just know that you have the freedom to ask questions to gain a better understanding. Pricing becomes a guide to laying out a foundation for the rest of your planning and helping you prioritize what is most valuable to you.

2. Determine your wedding day style

When you are deep in wedding planning and pinning your favorites on Pinterest, consider what style you are attracted to. Do you have a vision for your wedding day? What is the mood you are wanting to set? These questions not only help lay out the decor for your wedding, but help you narrow your search for photographers. With Pinterest and Instagram, you can scroll for days, but it’s knowing your style that will help you see photographers images in a different light. It’s asking yourself: Can I see yourself in their images? Have they photographed at a wedding venue like the one I chose? What photos do I value most from the wedding day?

bride sitting by a window reading a note from her groom
black and white image of bride and groom running in an open field

All of these questions will help you narrow down your search and learn what your photography non-negotiables are. Yes, we are talking about the dating term, non-negotiable in this context. What are your non negotiables with wedding photography and how do these fit with your style?

Each photographer offers something unique. From their editing style to the way they capture the details of a wedding day. It’s looking at one’s image through the lens of your non negotiables. Here are a few questions to ask yourself to help continue this conversation.

  • Does their style compliment the setting of your venue?
  • Is their editing style something you are excited to print and place in your home for years to come?
  • What style of photography are you looking for? (Candid, adventurous, editorial, journalistic)
  • Will their editing style highlight the colors you have chosen for your wedding?
  • Are you looking for images with alot of movement or more traditional portraits?

Remember that it’s about how they capture the emotions and memories of your wedding day!

bridesmaid hugging bride on the morning of her wedding day

3. Know the experience you want on your wedding day

Choosing your wedding photographer plays a huge role in helping set the experience of your wedding day. Most likely, you will be interacting with your photographer the most on your wedding. So, now you may ask, how does that really impact your wedding day experience? This goes back to tip number two, when choosing your wedding day style. You want to find a photographer that vibes with your personality and will help elevate the experience you are wanting. In between the ceremony and reception, you will be with your photographer and bridal party for photos. You need to think how will the photographer continue the celebration of the day as they are capturing the portraits. Your photographer’s shooting style should compliment your personality and relationship as a couple.

bridal party hugging bride and groom

Here are two questions to ask a photographer to help you determine if they fit your wedding day experience:

  • Ask them to walk you through their full experience from booking to final delivery of images
  • Ask them to explain what their approach to wedding day photography is

At the end of the day you want to find a photographer that leaves you feeling comfortable and confident! Someone that you know you can build trust with and will add a sense of peace to your wedding day. Choosing a wedding photographer that will make you their top priority and help make this the best day ever!

bride and groom portrait at gervasi vineyard

4. Use the engagement session to see if it’s a good fit

This is a perfect time for you to meet the photographer in person and experience their shooting style firsthand. I think this is so valuable when it comes to documenting beautiful photos on your wedding day.

I love offering an engagement session to my couples and having that time to get to know them before their big day! It not only helps them gain confidence in front of the camera, but it allows me to see how they interact as a couple and speaking encouragement to them! It is like a practice run before the big day. You will learn the direction I give for posing and how to be natural in front of the camera. The goal is that on your wedding day you are looking forward to your portraits and even forget the photographer is there.

If you are hesitant about an engagement session, remember it is the best time to learn more about the photographer and a time for you to gain confidence in front of the camera!

5. Ask to see a full wedding gallery

This is definitely one question you want to leave in your back pocket as you are looking for wedding photographers. Wedding photographers usually break down the wedding day into different categories, “the main events of the day.” For example, the bride getting ready, detail shots, the ceremony, the family portraits, etc. Each of these events require the photographer to understand the lighting of the space and what equipment is best for capturing that moment. This leads to how does a photographer capture all those moments?

That’s when you ask to see an entire wedding gallery from a past client.

This not only shows you the beautiful shots that initially attracted you to their website or instagram, but the not so candid images that play a role in telling the story of your wedding day. It allows you to see that they value each moment of your wedding day whether it is the first look, details of the ceremony space, or the family portraits. You want a photographer that takes the time and care needed to capture each moment beautifully. While family photos aren’t the first one to be shared on social media, those will be the ones you hang in your home and send to loved ones.

bride and groom family portrait at gervasi vineyard

It about how they capture your wedding day in full. You want a wedding photographer that can handle any lighting or setting with confidence and ease. A photographer that provides you with a gallery that captures the details and monumental moments of your wedding day!

6. Learn about the timeline for receiving your gallery and prints

Most people overlook this detail when choosing their wedding photographer. When booking your photographer, make sure to read their contract in full. They should include this information in the contract and clearly communicate this information to you. Here are a few questions to consider that will help you gain clarity on this topic:

  • How will I receive the final edited images and will I have full rights to them?
  • Does my gallery have an expiration date?
  • What is the best way to order prints from my wedding gallery?
  • What type of prints and albums do you offer?

All in all, when it comes to choosing your wedding photographer, it comes down to knowing your visual style and building that trust and genuine connection with them. When this connection established, you are able to move forward with confidence knowing that your photographer understands your vision and values for your wedding day! Happy wedding planning and I hope walking through these tips and questions help you pick out your ideal photographer!

Feel free to comment below or email me if you have any question or suggestions to share to other couples!

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May 1, 2020

Graduation Spring Senior Session

ana maria seniors | Medina, Oh

Writing this blog post is bittersweet. Last month, I had my graduation spring senior session with my amazing 2018 senior team. Before they graduated, we all got together for one last celebration. The photoshoot took place in a cute studio space where we spent the afternoon eating lots of pizza and cotton candy! While not all the girls could make it, it was so much FUN to see these ladies and celebrate with them one last time!

Ladies, it has been a true honor spending this past year together and celebrating apart of senior year with you. I have loved getting to know all of you and feel so lucky that I was able to be your senior portrait photographer. As you head off to college in the fall, my prayer is that you continue to chase after your dreams, grow into strong beautiful women, and remain confident in who you are. Know that I will always be cheering you on and am so excited for you as you begin these new adventures!

Thank you to all the vendors who helped in making this time so special! This shoot could have not been done without you : Art of Sucre,  Pretty Little Things and the gorgeous venue space, Molly Watson Photography Studio

It was so hard to narrow it down, but here are a few of my favorites from this graduation spring senior session! I loved the lighting in this space and each of the outfits the girls chose. Don’t they have great style! I hope you enjoy these photos show the excitement of graduation! Enjoy!

best friends throwing confetti for graduation session

best friends throwing confetti for graduation session

Graduation spring senior portrait session

best friends throwing confetti for graduation session

Black and white spring senior session

senior best friend portrait

best friend spring session

best friend cotton candy senior session

best friends eating cotton candy senior shoot

class of 2018 best friend spring senior portraits

Of course, we had to do some with college tees!

Graduation college tee girls senior shoot

graduation college tee senior session

best friend cotton candy senior shoot

graduation college tee best friend senior shoot

best friend floral dress senior shoot

best friends walking senior shoot

best friend floral dress senior shoot

best friend floral dress senior shoot

Love ya girls so much and Congrats to all of you!!

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July 4, 2018

Thanks for sharing in the adventure and stopping by!