Same Sex Receptions for the St. Louis LGBT Community

February 7th, 2012

As an Event Designer and Caterer, I have seen countless vow exchanges over the past 27 years. And as a single man seeking my Prince Charming, I often think about my own wedding day celebration. The tradition of exchanging vows during a ceremony is an old and honored custom. A commitment ceremony with reception is becoming an increasingly popular choice among the LGBT community. It is our right to commit our lives to each other and allow those we love to witness and rejoice in that moment.

Planning an event can be overwhelming. The first step in the planning process is to determine the date, the budget and what type of celebration you want to host. As I always tell my clients, have the very best of whatever you can afford, work with the season and work within reason. If your budget only allows for a small ceremony followed by cake and lemonade, set an amazing table with the best cake and lemonade possible and be proud of it. If a fantastic buffet luncheon with centerpieces and a quartet fits the budget, go for it. Or if a glamorous evening function is the direction you are going in, provide an amazing sit-down meal and premium bar. Again, avoid debt and disappointment by having the best of what you can do comfortably. You have the rest of your life to throw other parties!

I think the biggest mistakes gay couples make when planning a reception is adopting heterosexual roles, cliche wedding stereotypes or trying to create a bar or club-like atmosphere. As a planner, I treat the event as two unique individuals uniting in faith and love yet try to retain some wedding traditions and etiquette. I find that alternating the bridesmaids/groomsmen during the wedding processional makes a beautiful statement and represents the couple equally. Partners can walk down the aisle together or one at a time with their parents. I like to create a double aisle for dramatic ceremonies and choreograph the wedding party members walking in union. A “Y” shaped aisle is also very effective and attractive. I avoid the cliche wedding songs but also find that many classic and modern music translate well for the ceremony. Whatever the level of celebration, keep in mind that this is a special and very sacred day! Have fun but show good taste.

When discussing the ceremony with your officiant, explain the points that matter most to you both and go over the verbage thoroughly. I have found that the most memorable and touching ceremonies are those with very personal messages and vows created by the couple. Traditional acts such as exchanging rings and the first kiss as partners continue to be important elements of the ceremony.

Working with an Event Planner and Facility Coordinator can help eliminate stress and expose you to a wealth of information and choices. Work with someone you trust and who shares your vision. Review their planning experience, photos of their work and check references. Be open to someone’s non-emotional point of view.

Finding a location for both the ceremony and reception and a caterer should be your first priority. Many reception sites and vendors book over a year in advance. Ask questions, review packages and menu options and make sure that their staff is both willing and comfortable hosting a same-sex celebration. Bands and entertainment also book quickly so determine the route you want to go (live music or disc jockey) and attend either public events they are playing at or listen to their compact discs.

The right photographer is critical in capturing the special day. Trust me…the day is over in the blink of an eye! Your photos and video will allow you to look back on the day accordingly and witness many of the special details that one can over look on their wedding day. Be clear about the type of photographic style you are looking for and have a list of photos you want taken. Just remember that a limited number of outstanding photos are better than several hundred mediocre ones. Invest wisely in your photographer and videographer.

Although we see many types of centerpieces, I believe there is no substitute for flowers. Male couples often question me about floral options and do not want to appear too feminine. My advice is to keep it simple, understated and elegant. Orchids, compact roses, calla lilies and long grasses all look masculine and appropriate. Clusters of potted flowers always look beautiful and make a great favor for guests to take home. Color choices can certainly go in any direction but all white flowers remain a tried and true classic. When it comes to apparel, avoid matching outfits but certainly wear complimentary colors and styles. An important rule to follow is to wear day and time appropriate outfits…such as a morning coat or suit for a day wedding and tuxedo for an after 5:00PM event. However, do not be seduced by the standard tuxedo rentals. Seersucker or linen suits in the summer, wools suits in the fall and winter, cottons and linens for a beach or grill party. Avoid fashion extremes on this important day. Whatever the theme…beach, backyard or ballroom, think timeless and tasteful.

As we redefine our role in society and continue to fight for equal rights and legal unions, the LGBT professionals of today want it all…commitment, marriage and family. The Coronado Ballroom is here for our LGBT community and we welcome celebrations of all kinds. I want to work with you and your partner to create the day of you have dreamed of and deserve. With proper planning, organization and vendor support, you can go from “I do” to “We did”.

Rob Schaefer
Single, Hopeful and Available…and St. Louis Wedding Professional Hall of Fame Inaugural Inductee

Finding Your Perfect Something Old, New, Borrowed, and Blue

October 6th, 2011

One of the questions I love to discuss with brides is what their something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue will be. Yet sometimes, this tradition can cause more stress than necessary, as brides try to find their perfect items. Below is a little bit of background on each, and a few examples to get your creative juices flowing to help you find your perfect items.

Each item represents a good-luck token for the bride and it is believed if she carries all of them on her wedding day, her marriage will be happy. Something Old symbolizes continuity of the past and moving into the future. This item can be an antique, an heirloom object, or a sentimental piece that represents the bride’s past. You could use a childhood pillow for the ring bearer’s pillow or wear a childhood treasure (like a ring, bracelet, rosary, or locket), borrow a friend or relative’s handkerchief, or wear heirloom jewelry or a veil that has been handed down. You can also go vintage: carry a vintage purse or compact mirror, wear a vintage headpiece, or wrap vintage ribbon around your bouquet. You could also take some of your mother’s or grandmother’s wedding gown fabric or lace and sew it inside your gown or simply place a sentimental picture in a locket and wrap it around your bouquet (could be of you and your groom as children or your parents or grandparents on their wedding day). What I love about the “Something Old,” is it could also be as simple as wearing your signature perfume scent.

Something New traditionally means optimism and hope for the bride’s new life ahead. This one should be the easiest and can be as simple as your new wedding dress or veil, but you could also carry a new purse, wear new jewelry, the perfect new shoes, or new lingerie. Another idea is to carry a custom-made handkerchief with your new initials embroidered on it.

Something Borrowed has traditionally been an item from a happily married friend or family member, whose good fortune in marriage is supposed to carry over to the new bride and it represents borrowed happiness. It can also be something borrowed from a friend or relative and reminds the bride that she can depend on her friends and family. A lot of the something old items mentioned can also be translated into something borrowed, but you could borrow a handkerchief, headpiece, jewelry, or veil, or simply borrow a wedding cake cutting set or cake topper. Make sure it’s something you want to return the owner, as traditionally is should be given back.

Something Blue traditionally represents love, good fortune, and fidelity. It can be as simple as a blue garter, blue shoes, or blue lingerie, but also consider incorporating ice-blue into the mix: a simple sash to compliment your gown or paint your toenails ice blue. You can also use blue ribbon to wrap your bouquet or on the groom’s boutonniere or wear sapphire, tanzanite, opals, or aqua marine jewelry.

There are so many other examples and the lists are never ending. I hope that you find whatever fits you perfectly and you can find inspiration in these examples. Wishing you happy planning!

Creative Alternatives to the Traditional Guestbook

July 6th, 2011

Are you looking for a guestbook that is memorable for your guests, but also something that can be a lasting item for you as well? Then look no further for fun and unique guestbook ideas to incorporate into your big day:

Photobooth – Although not a new concept, I love photobooths because they can serve as both a favor and keepsake for your guests, as well assist in creating your guestbook. Most companies include an additional print that evening and with scrapbooking supplies available nearby, guests can write well wishes under their photo. From the traditional photobooth to the unique, photobooths have long provided entertainment and fun for young and old alike.

Fingerprint Tree – I recently had a bride who had three paintings that pieced together to form a tree. Guests were then invited to use stamp ink to stamp their thumbprint on the canvas to create leaves and sign their name underneath it. Now, one of a kind piece of artwork is a lasting display in her home and a unique talking piece. You can order these cute, already made paintings on Etsy or create your own.

Musical Instrument – Do you already have a guitar instrument on display in your home or office? Then why not supply a guitar for guests to sign to put on display right next to the rest of them? This could easily range from any favorite instrument, but if music is something that brought you and your fiancé together or is a favorite pastime, this option could be a perfect fit.

Platter – Another older concept, but you can incorporate your monogram or specialty design onto a specialty platter for guests to sign and display in your home.

Picture Frame – Again, although this is not a new concept, a framed favorite photo of your and fiancé with matting allows guests to write their well wishes and for you to easily display in your home. Once you receive your wedding prints, easily trade it out for a favorite photo of your big day.

Photobook of Engagement Portraits – Most photographers now include or provide a book of your engagement portraits, which is perfect for providing as a guestbook. Not only do your guests to see all of your great engagement photos, but you can lay this out on your coffee table and display it through the years.

Guestbook Puzzle – Etsy is just one site that has adorable puzzles which are provided for guests to write their well wishes on and then you can piece together and either display in your home, or keep in a special box to put together each anniversary and reminisce about your big day.

Calming your nerves…

June 23rd, 2011

We have all attended events where the speaker or bridal party member is nervous about giving a speech or toast. And through the years I have seen individuals make poor decisions on how to calm those nerves. I can honestly tell you that there is no magical cure for the jitters but there are a few tricks to make you look cool as a cucumber!
But first, let’s talk about what you SHOULD NOT DO…such as drink alcohol. The number one cause for blunders, mishaps, and upset tummys is alcohol. When you are nervous, you perspire which leaves you dehydrated. And when you are nervous, you tend not to eat. Wine or spirits hitting an empty, dehydrated body strike like a ton of bricks. Being tipsy only makes matters worse standing in front of a crowd and very often, guests become ill or make an embarrassing scene.
Caffeine is another culprit at the crime scene of public speaking. Despite the myth that it will make you more alert, it is only going to increase your anxiety and heart rate. Too much coffee is also going to make you feel nausea. A new fad is to drink 5 hour energy drinks and perhaps mix them with alcohol. Imagine putting the two worst substances for your nerves together…and downing them times 10. I recently had a bridesmaid give the bride such an energy drink right before the ceremony. She had no idea what she was drinking (she does not drink coffee) and it caused dry heaves and horrible heart palpatations. YEEK!
These are a few tricks I have learned over time to calm nervous anxiety.
*A small bite of dark chocolate causes a serotonin burst in the human brain and makes you feel quite happy…and there is just enough caffeine to perk you up sensibly.
*Chamomile Tea really does calm you down. Ice it if you don’t drink hot tea although a warm beverage will help your stomach jitters and remarkably, make you feel cool.
*WATER – Water will make your feel stable and cool. Dehydration is bad.
*Eat a bird protein. Chicken or Turkey does make you feel calmer! Think about how sleepy you feel after Thanksgiving dinner!
*Chewing anything with mint or drinking peppermint tea stimulates creative thinking and clarity and calms the stomach.
*Ladies make sure your foundation garments are not to tight or restricting. I may not have smelling salts should you swoon Scarlett!
*BREATHE – Deep, slow breathing will help!

Rob Schaefer
St. Louis Wedding Professional Hall of Fame Inaugural Inductee

Rob’s TOP 10 Holiday Party Tips

November 9th, 2010

1) Establish a THEME or DESTINATION for your event.
Examples – A Traditional Holiday or Paris in Winter

2) Always consider the 5 human senses and appeal to each one…sight, sound, taste, touch and smell.
Examples:
*Potted Herb and Flowers Mixed with Ornaments or Fruits
*A Piano Player or Holiday CD Music
*A Focused Menu of Local or Seasonal Fare (Traditional, Local, Italian, Asian, Latin)
*Embellished Linens with a Mixture of Serving Pieces – Mix it Up!
*Floating Candles in Glass Cylinder Vases with Greenery

3) Focus on 2 to 3 KEY elements about your event and use them to create a strong impact.
Examples:
*Add Casual Tableware to Your
Formal China for Color and Impact
*Floral or Greenery to Suit the Mood
*A Signature Drink or Bar to Carry Your Theme
*An Amuse Bouche or Tidbit to Greet Guests
*Live Music

4) DO NOT DO EVERYTHING YOURSELF – assign duties or use a
Catering and Event Professional. Call Rob at 314-367-4848 x 108

5) Proper Lighting is Critical! It redefines space.
Lighting should be used to create a feeling of progression during
your party. Colored bulbs, beaded shades and candles make a
huge difference.

6) Try to use Flowers and Ingredients that are in season. This is when
they look and taste the best and cost the least!

7) Focus your menu – having a limited menu of really delicious
food, drink and sweets is ALWAYS better than a lot of average fare.

8) Always have supplies available to create an emergency centerpiece (clear glass
bowls, food coloring, cranberries and floating candles) and purchase at least 3 “on call” gifts for the
forgotten birthday/anniversary or the
unexpected guest. And take a small hostess gift when you go out!
One of my favorites is a candle from Smelly Things Candle Company.

9) Never place bars or food stations near doorways. You will create bottlenecks.
Place your bars “deep” inside the house or yard so guests will not stand near the
front door and create a jam. Passed drinks and hors d’oeuvres should be near the
front door. And remember that the kitchen is the hearth of the home – people are
drawn to it. If the Hostess spends a lot of time in the kitchen, so will the guests!

10) A great event has a beginning, middle (crest) and conclusion.
The Host and Hostess set the tone for the event. If you aren’t having fun…nobody else will.

Rob Schaefer
Inaugural St. Louis Wedding Professional Hall of Fame Inductee

Rob’s Fall Tips for Entertaining at Home…

October 14th, 2010

-Work with the Season.
Fall Flowers and Fruits and Vegetables are at their peak and most
inexpensive.
Red, Gold, Copper, Chocolate Brown and Black are fantastic color choices for this time of year.

-Think Upscale
Fall is more than Scarecrows and Corn Shucks. Sleek black vases filled with cattails, clear vases of berries with floating candles, massed out branches with hanging votive candles and outdoor tables strewn with golden leaves look amazing.

-Focus on Impact
Limit your menu and make every course or station an experience.
I have one client who is having cinnamon martinis and butternut soup squash shots while guests walk up the driveway flanked by copper lanterns. Roasted pork mini-sandwiches on tidbit plates with autumn vegetable risotto in martini glasses are featured inside with Fall Sangria and Mulled Ciders. The Backyard will focus on burlap wrapped cocktail tables with pumpkin damask overlays from Party Arts and a lavish chocolate S’more and Crepe station created from old wine barrels and wooden planks. Guests are taking home a fluffy, fleece throw as their parting gift which they can cuddle in all evening long.

-Create an Environment
Lighting – Fall means less light so choose tall scented candles, lanterns and a fire pit or bonfire to create the look. Change your light bulbs in the house to amber bulbs as well.
Music – I love a solo violinist or guitar to get a fall party started and then you can always merge into quality cd or IPOD as the evening progresses.

Live music is an amazing treat for your guests and helps to set the mood.
Decor – I love mixing linens and textures and using my client’s materials to create a great party. Grandma’s mason jars look great on a patio with candles burning in them. Mom’s copper pots and cake molds make great buffet decor and that old orange afghan Aunt Doris gave you makes a great table top linen.
Dad’s Wheel Barrel makes a great statement filled with Iced
Ciders or Sodas.

Rob Schaefer
Inaugural St. Louis Wedding Professional Hall of Fame Inductee

A Friday Kind of Love…

August 18th, 2006

When my parent’s got married, more than 50% of all couples had a luncheon. Weddings were held on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. As I look back at old wedding photos, I am speechless of how beautiful receptions were at that time.

What happened?

I hear the frustration of many brides today because they wait too late to book a church, a facility or a vendor. The best vendors in the industry book Saturdays 1 to 2 years out.

And why the cause of so much fuss and frustration? Because people are dead set on a Saturday Night Reception with Bar. Saturday Nights book up quickly and since this is prime time for all of us in the industry, prices tend to be higher. There are so many brides out there that could have such a beautiful and magical experience on a budget if they would just think outside the box. Can’t afford the Saturday night minimums at most places, then have a luncheon or brunch! Are your guests local? Is your guest count small? Get creative!
As Rob always says, have the best money can buy with the budget you have. If all you can afford is cake and punch, have the best cake and punch in the midwest and be proud of it. If you can have a beautiful Sunday Luncheon with iced tea and lemonade, then do it. Wedding receptions have evolved from very special celebrations to rowdy parties. And you are kidding yourself and doing a disservice to your guests if you think that “they won’t notice the cheap meal” as long as you keep the liquor flowing at some dark, dingy place.
I think it is such a shame and a waste that so many beautiful Friday nights and Sunday days go wasted because people refuse to be flexible. With the money you save, you could have a breathtaking luncheon wedding with specialty linens, gorgeous flowers and the very best vendors in St. Louis at your side. Wine and champagne could easily accompany lunch as well. A small band or quartet could easily play during the entire experience. And the couple could change and have a beautiful send off for their honeymoon.

Friday Nights are NOT just for rehearsal dinners. A beautiful Tuscan Supper or Spanish style Dinner with Tapas would be magical and memorable. Current style magazines are full of gorgeous looks that can be implemented at a smaller reception. I want all the brides of St. Louis to have the most amazing receptions possible regardless of where they have them. Think beyond Saturday Night and think beyond the Open Bar!

I have never followed the herd my entire life and have always tried to find the possibilities for any party. Call me the Lone Bull. Now granted, I can’t be at all your special receptions but every fairytale has room for modifications.
Be an Original. I am.
Rob

Catering & Event Planning
by Steven Becker Fine Dining