Tips + Tricks | Booking Your Photographer

In continuation of our vendor T I P S + T R I C K S blog from last month on booking your DJ, we wanted to touch on another I M P O R T A N T vendor – your photographer! Photography is a H U G E part of weddings in this day and age, mainly because pictures can last a lifetime. Although your special day is one that we G U A R A N T E E that you won’t ever forget, pictures can bring these memories back to life every time you look at them! In order to learn about the Tips + Tricks that photographers have on booking a photographer, we reached out to our F A V O R I T E photographers for their advice [bet you never would have guessed that!].

For most couples in the beginning of their vendor search, the W E B is the place where the search begins. Many photographers will have their work shown throughout their site, or have a portfolio that you can review. As Joanna Carina from Carina Photographics notes in her blog, you should be drawn to the picture style of the photographer, including the posing, expressions, lighting, etc. Extra T I P: to take it one step further, ask to see a full wedding album from beginning to end, not just a few portfolio images on their website. That way, you can see if this photographer would capture E V E R Y T H I N G that you’d like them to. You can also use social media [all hail I N S T A G R A M] and search hashtags to find wedding photographers in your state // area. Last but not least in your search, ask friends + family. They can be a G R E A T resource when looking, especially if they were an actual client of the photographer! Also, consider the editing style of the photographer – do they just add a T R E N D Y filter to it and call it a masterpiece? You may notice when researching different photographers that their edit style may have a blue tint, or a warm overlay. If you’re a fan of this look, make sure you are confident you will L O V E it 10 years down the road!

The mood, lighting, and pose of this shot are P E R F E C T I O N – Carina Photographics knows what she’s doing when it comes to great wedding photography!

Once you’ve narrowed down your list of potentials to a reasonable number, meet your options in person! You will want to feel comfortable around this person, as they will be spending a L O T of time with you throughout one of the most I M P O R T A N T days of your life! You will want to ask about their experience in photography, experience photographing weddings, etc. Make sure they they aren’t just a hobby photographer, but a professional one. You’ll want to feel an instant C L I C K with this person, and feel confident in their ability to capture your wedding day P E R F E C T L Y. A rule of thumb, as stated by Scott from Midwest LifeShots Photography, is “If you look at a photographer’s work and say “I love all of this!”, than great, book them right away and don’t look back. If you look at the work and only like about 70-80% of their work, go elsewhere. Better for your sanity to not have to worry all day if they are taking something you’ll be happy with” [and we totally agree!]. Before you meet in person, ask if they can bring with them a physical wedding album [if this is something you’re interested in purchasing] so that you can see their work.

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Midwest LifeShots catching Kellie behind the scenes – we L O V E this shot!

Most photographers will have multiple package options. These packages can include different number of hours covered, more than one photographer, etc. Find out what the cost of the entire packages is, including tax and any other expected fees, and really focus on what is included in the package. Packages can have T O N S of different variables, including digital prints, regular prints, both, etc. You want a package that fits your needs on your wedding day, to make sure that you have the memories that will last you a lifetime. You’ll also want to figure out how their payment process works: is it all up front? Do you pay half to secure your date and half at the wedding? Do they take cash // check // credit? Extra T I P from the great Jeannine Marie Photography: Sometimes if you pay in full or by cash/check, it saves the photographer money on credit card processing fees, so they may offer a discount! Photography is one area of your budget that you will N O T want to skimp on. If you find a photographer that you absolutely L O V E, but the price just isn’t right – try to do some negotiating, and let them come back with an answer to if they can accommodate your price range.

Day of Coordinator, Tips + Tricks, Booking Your Photographer_0947.jpgThis C U T E shot by Jeannine Marie Photography captured such a sweet moment – love it!!

Photographers book quickly – potentially a full year [or even T W O] in advance. You’ll want to book your photographer as soon as you know that they are the right fit for you. If you are looking at a larger photography company, make sure you ask who the lead photographer is for your day before signing any papers, and ask to see their specific work. Also, as Bridget from Shots by Bridge states, “Let your photographer help with the timeline. They are going to know exactly how much time is needed to get all of the necessary coverage. And there is nothing worse than feeling rushed on your wedding day” [+ we agree!].

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Such a sweet photo of Angie + Brooks’ wedding by Shots by Bridge – such C U T I E S!

While we L O V E that you just read through our Tips + Tricks blog, we wanted to share these other A M A Z I N G blogs from our favorite photographers if you’re still looking for more tips on booking your photographer!

On your wedding day, you are the M A I N event. All you should have to do is smile, be beautiful, get married, and have a blast with your family and friends. Hire someone who’s work consistently puts a smile on your face, and that you trust to cover your P E R F E C T day. Also, don’t forget that your mom, best friend, maid of honor, etc., want to enjoy the day too, so hiring a wedding coordinator to relieve the stress of all parties is H I G H L Y encouraged [hey – we do that!]. Special H U G E thank you to the below photographers who gave us their T I P S + T R I C K S on booking a photographer [who we also H I G H L Y recommend if you’re looking for G R E A T results!]!

Shots by Bridge
Midwest LifeShots Photography
Jeannine Marie Photography
Carina Photographics

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Face behind the camera: Shots by Bridge 

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Face[s] behind the camera: Midwest LifeShots Photography

Day of Coordinator, Tips + Tricks, Booking Your Photographer_0945.jpgJeannine Marie Photography in action – doing what she does best [capturing G R E A T memories!]

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Face behind the camera: Carina Photographics 

Tips + Tricks | Booking Your DJ

At Rustic Elegance, we L O V E working with great vendors. Throughout our time as wedding coordinators, our paths have crossed with some A M A Z I N G ones! As a part of our Tips + Tricks blog segment, we decided to reach out to a few of our favorite DJ’s to ask for their Tips + Tricks on Booking a DJ for your S P E C I A L day.

DJ’s can be present just for the reception, working the dance floor and engaging the guests in the “after-party”, or they can come to the ceremony to run the mic // sound system, and then head to the reception with the group for the M A I N event. We reached out to some of our favorite DJ’s and they provided some great T I P S + T R I C K S, which we outline below:

You will want to make sure to feel comfortable and relaxed around your DJ, so make sure to meet with them prior to your wedding day. Pay attention to the way that you feel when you meet this DJ in person, and even on the phone. Keep in mind that you’re shopping for a DJ’s personality and talent vs. just the cheapest option! You want someone who will E N G A G E your guests, and make it a night to remember. JD Fischer from Ignite Event Group stated, “Essentially, you are handing a live microphone to someone you barely know in front of all your closest friends and family on one of the most important days of your live!” [we L O V E how he put this – so true!]. He also noted that for larger DJ companies that may have multiple DJ’s, you will want to make sure that you meet the person who will be performing at your wedding, and have their name written into your vendor contract. Also, don’t assume that all companies offer the same things in their regular DJ package. They are usually priced different for a reason, so you will want to understand the difference between what you are looking at between the different companies.

Another great tip that we learned from one of our favorite vendors, Adagio DJ Entertainment, is to make your expectations known at the beginning of your search, and remind the DJ of these expectations closer to your wedding date. Take into account the way you see your day happening – do you need a microphone for your ceremony officiant, music in a separate cocktail area, music at the reception, etc.? Making sure that your DJ knows exactly what you want can make less room for mistakes on your S P E C I A L day! Once you’ve selected your DJ, you’ll want to make sure you understand their process for getting your requests and event information. This also leaves small room for error, and allows the DJ to excel and make your night S H I N E! Also, you’ll want to be upfront with your DJ about their involvement on interacting with the guests, and how often you’d like them to engage the audience during the night. Some couples may prefer that the DJ simply play music, while others may prefer that the DJ says a few words here and there to break up the music playlist. You may also want your DJ to initiate or emcee different wedding games, such as the shoe game, dollar dance, married couples dance, bouquet // garter toss, etc. Make sure you P R E P your DJ for these items ahead of time, so they are comfortable with their announcements!Day of Coordinator, Tips + Tricks, Booking Your DJ_0854.jpg

One thing not to forget to talk with your DJ about is the S E T U P on the wedding day! You’ll want to confirm what the DJ is bringing for equipment [T I P: Don’t forget to ask about their back up equipment // what happens if their items don’t function properly on site!]. Does your DJ need a table [or two?!] for all of their gear? Or, does the venue provide or the DJ bring their own table? Once you figure this out, you may also want to consider a linen for these tables so that they match the rest of your tables // decor. Another item to touch base with your DJ about is power – will they need extension cords? If so, how many? Who will provide? For backyard // outdoor weddings, power is A L W A Y S a concern – check with your DJ to see if they offer low power options! For their microphone system – do they have a cordless microphone for the ceremony or a corded microphone with a stand? Does your DJ have clip microphones for your officiant so they won’t have to hold onto a mic? Lastly for set up, you may want to check with your DJ to see if they will bring in speakers // lighting for the reception. Ask to see a picture [or a few] of previous wedding set ups.

The T I P – ask if this is included in their pricing ahead of time so you’re ready the day of with the correct amount. And last, but not least, and our favorite piece of advice from these two G R E A T vendors [who we highly recommend, by the way], is to be O P E N to suggestions from your DJ! They are at weddings A L L – T H E – T I M E and have great insights to the in’s and out’s of wedding DJing. If you’re in the process of booking your vendors now, check out these two companies below who were S O gracious in sharing their tips with us!

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Tips + Tricks – Bathroom Baskets

If you’re having your wedding at a tent, barn, or outdoor venue, you may want to think about providing a “bathroom basket” for your guests. Many of the bathrooms at these types of venues are plain and simple, and these baskets can decorate the space, while serving a functional purpose. This basket can include anything you feel necessary – but we wanted to throw a little TIPS & TRICKS article your way, including details of how to create the P E R F E C T bathroom basket for your guests.

MUST HAVES [& we know from experience]:
-Medicine: Aspirin, Tylenol, Aleve, Advil
-Hair [I] do’s: Get some hair spray, a brush, comb, bobby pins and ponytails to make sure that your hair is staying in place to dance the night A W A Y.
-Smell ya later: Although everyone was smelling great at the beginning of the night, all the dancing can lead to sweating, and sweating may lead to stink! Add some spray deodorant to your basket, [and maybe some body spray] to keep your night smelling fresh. Also, consider adding some good smelling hand soap!
-Y U M: How great was that dinner? We are sure it was amazing, but to be able to sing your heart on the dance floor, [and not smell it] consider adding breath mints or spray in your basket.
-Accidents [can and will] happen: In case of spillage, adding a Tide-to-Go pen can rid of stains immediately. Adding in wet wipes to help with sticky hands [or situations] is always a promising idea as well.
-Safety first: No wedding is complete without someone needing a Band-Aid. To make sure that you’re not running around looking for one, adding them into your basket can make your night stress-free [& hiring Rustic Elegance can help with this too]!
-U H – O H: Mother nature comes when it pleases, so women’s sanitary items are an absolute must. Nobody wants to spend the rest of their evening worrying about dress stains or being uncomfortable.
-Dry skin [go away!]: Adding in some lotion can ensure guest comfort and smooth skin.
-Got the sniffles? Make sure guests have access to some Kleenex in the bathroom for those battling colds or allergies [& to make sure they get back onto the dance floor]!

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NICE ADDITIONS [if you’re feeling extra F A N C Y]:
-In case of a manicure disaster: Who wants chipped nails at a wedding [hint: not us]? Clear nail polish, nail clippers, and file can help with this potential issue.
-Got lint, dust, or animals around your wedding? Think about adding a lint brush to the basket to keep everyone lint/pet hair [& care] free!
-First Aid Kit [don’t forget, safety first!]: Think about purchasing a mini-first aid kit, or making your own! This should include antiseptic wipes, Neosporin, burn cream, eye drops, antacid, antihistamines, Q-tips, cough drops, etc.
-C U T E [mirror] notes: This is a fun idea that we’ve seen a few of our couples do! Add a note to the mirror[s] in the bathroom with funny quotes. One of our favorites? “You look oh so pretty [or handsome for the fellas] – now get out and D A N C E!”

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PROBABLY DON’T NEED [but you never know]:
-Wardrobe malfunctions: Dancing too hard and your dress [or trousers for the gents – Y E S, we have seen this happen] rips? Having a mini-sewing kit in your bathroom basket could be a game changer! Don’t forget about safety pins – it’s always easy to just P I N it back together.
-Other miscellaneous items: Floss, baby powder, tweezers

DON’T FORGET THE DUDES [they need some pampering too]:
-Stay F R E S H: Consider adding cologne spray, breath mints, and men’s deodorant to keep the fresh smell all day [& night]!

While we are on the ever so exciting topic of B A T H R O O M S, we wanted to provide some tips to those couples who choose to have their wedding in their backyard and need to bring bathrooms onsite! Porta-Potties will most likely be used in these types of situations. Typically, we recommend at least one potty for every 60 guests. Handicap ones can be great for the ladies, along with those in need, [it provides a little more room for those big dresses & you can decorate the inside with cute décor, a table for your bathroom basket, or maybe even a full-length mirror!]. Don’t forget most of these do not come with lighting inside, so once the dinner is over and the dancing is underway, you will need too light these up. We recommend adding sticky lights or battery lanterns to the inside. Also, consider using a 10 x 10 pop up tent with a cocktail table underneath for guests to wait under [protects guests in case of rain and provides them a place to set their cocktail]. A handwashing station, with real running water and paper towels, can also be a nice addition [and pretty cheap]. Another option is to consider renting a luxury bathroom trailer from a company such as On-Site [p.s. these trailers can even come with AC – see some of their photos below!].

We hope this blog post can help you decide if you should add a bathroom basket to your list of “things to do” before your special day, and gave you a few ideas about bathroom options for your day.

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Tips + Tricks | Unity Symbols

Throughout our time as wedding coordinators, we have seen a variety of U N I T Y symbols at different weddings. Although they are not necessarily a part of every wedding, they provide something that the couple can take home with them, that signifies the unifying of both individuals. Here are a few I D E A S that we’ve seen throughout our time at Rustic Elegance:

Think about having two different colors of sand in small vases, and a big vase in the center. When ready, you can pour the two different colors of sand into the larger vase, each taking turns on layering the sand. This exemplifies balance and patience in day to day life, and can serve as a constant reminder to communicate. Tiffany + Derek used this unity symbol for their wedding + it turned out A M A Z I N G!

Day of Coordinator, Tips + Tricks, Unity Symbols_0569.jpgPhoto by: Sophisticated Grace Photography

Day of Coordinator, Tips + Tricks, Unity Symbols_0570.jpgPhoto by: Sophisticated Grace Photography

As a symbol of new journeys and new life, we have had two couples [Kailee + Derek and Kelsey + Issac] plant a tree in a pot at their ceremony. We absolutely L O V E D that this tree would grow along with the couple as they begin this new journey of married life together.

Day of Coordinator, Tips + Tricks, Unity Symbols_0568.jpgPhoto by: Midwest LifeShots Photography

If you and your partner are lovers of W I N E, a fun unity idea is to box up a bottle of wine for an anniversary to come! You could also add notes into the box, or get a bottle of wine that was bottled the same year as your wedding. On that anniversary down the road, you can open the box of wine, and reminisce on your W E D D I N G day. Abby + Casey opted for this unity symbol, and it was A D O R A B L E!

A very unique unity symbol that we came across at Lisa + Robin’s wedding was a F I R E W O R K! Yes – that’s right – a big loud B O O M to celebrate the unity of these two lovebirds! Guests were definitely surprised + loved it!

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A balloon release can be so B E A U T I F U L + simple! Chastity + Jake did a balloon release with their [A D O R A B L E] kids. Emily + Nick had their flower girls carry the balloons up the aisle while they were walking down. Upon the release, it was such a F U N way to celebrate the unity of these two couples.

Day of Coordinator, Tips + Tricks, Unity Symbols_0566.jpgPhoto by: Kate Becker Photography

Another simple + E L E G A N T unity symbol is lighting a candle together. Melanie + Dan and Emily + Kyle did this at their wedding, and the presentation was so S W E E T. A note for those planning – if you are having an outdoor wedding, you’ll want to make sure to have your candle inside of a lantern or glass container to control the flame from blowing out. Also don’t forget a L I G H T E R.

Day of Coordinator, Tips + Tricks, Unity Symbols_0565.jpgPhoto by: Shelley Kay Photography

Day of Coordinator, Tips + Tricks, Unity Symbols_0564.jpgPhoto by: Shelley Kay Photography

Mel + Chris had the C U T E S T idea of a unity symbol – they brought sand + soil from their cabins and combined them into a beautiful jar to display in their home. Such a fun way to incorporate a little piece of their H O M E away from H O M E on their special day!

One of the more popular unity symbols that we have seen in three weddings [Rachel + Brad, Meghan + Kolten and Amy + Kevin] is the tying of strands or braiding of cords. We L O V E that this can be so symbolic for couples + also ties them in a spiritual way as well [P R O – T I P: make sure you practice this together before your big day, so you have a game plan of how to do].

Day of Coordinator, Tips + Tricks, Unity Symbols_0563.jpgPhoto by: Narvold Photography

Don’t forget to have a small table ordered/provided by your rental company or venue in order to place your unity symbol on if applicable [psst… you can rent these from Rustic Elegance!].

In conclusion, a unity symbol can truly be A N Y T H I N G that is meaningful to the couple. Anything that symbolizes two individuals, coming together as one in a new journey as a married couple. If nothing speaks to you as a couple to use as a unity symbol, you might not need one! There are plenty of weddings that we have helped coordinate that opt out of having a unity symbol at all. As you continue to plan + prep for your day, we wanted to provide you with some fun + unique options for unity symbols, and we hope that this B L O G helps you decide!

Tips + Tricks | Planning a Barn Wedding

Planning a wedding can be S T R E S S F U L. There are SO many things to think about – your wedding party, budget, food/beverage, etc. After enjoying some time engaged to your future life partner, one of the first orders of business that every couple will have to decide on is the venue. From hotels, golf courses, event centers, etc., every couple has a venue style that they can envision themselves tying the knot in. One of the latest crazes in the wedding world is getting married in a barn, one that has been transformed into a beautiful wedding venue. At Rustic Elegance, we are fortunate to specialize in backyard, tent, barn, vineyard, and orchard wedding coordination. We love working with these types of venues – which start as a blank canvas but may require more planning then if you held your event at a full-service hotel or restaurant. Being in business for over 5 years, we have come up with our top 10 tips for planning a barn wedding, and we would L O V E to share with you all!

You might not think about this right away, but many barn wedding venues will face the outdoor elements because of the different seasons throughout the year. If you’re planning on getting married in the scorching summer months, you might want to think about adding some fans or renting an AC unit to ensure guests are comfortable. Also confirm with the venue if they have air conditioning as an option – there are a few out there. If you’re planning a fall/winter wedding at a barn, consider having space heaters or renting a blow-in-heating unit, so nobody will have to endure the harsh MN/WI winter during such a heart-warming day!

Many barn venues have B E A U T I F U L outdoor options for ceremony sites, or a barn that can start as a ceremony site, where your guests are then invited outside for a cocktail hour, and the barn is then transformed into your beautiful reception venue. While outdoor options for ceremonies and cocktails hours are fantastic – there is always the chance of weather getting in the way. When planning a barn wedding, have a back-up plan if utilizing outdoor space. Also, think about who is going to help initiate a back-up plan once you have one, including ensuring guests are dry and safe, and moving any previously set up décor from your outside space indoors.

Day of Coordinator, Tips + Tricks, Planning a Barn Wedding_0400.jpgPhoto by: Emily Isakson Photographic Services

Day of Coordinator, Tips + Tricks, Planning a Barn Wedding_0403.jpgPhoto by: Nicole Spangler Photography

Many barn wedding venues are repurposed older barns, that were decorated and transformed to create a place to make lifelong memories from your special day. With the older barns, there may not be as many sources of power or outlets that you will need. Consider bringing a few extension cords or power strips to ensure that your vendors will have enough power to work.

Layouts of barn venues/the farmland are very different throughout MN/WI. Some have one barn, some have two, some have bridal suites, some do not. When visiting venues, consider the space and spending your entire day there. If you do decide to use the barn space for both the ceremony and reception, there will have to be a “flip” period, or a time when the venue changes from ceremony layout to reception layout. Also when thinking about utilizing this space, also question who will be flipping it for you – the venue workers, family members, or you could hire a day of coordinator [like us] to take all of it off your hands.

If you are centrally located in the Twin Cities, chances are you will have to travel a little bit into the countryside for your wedding if you choose a barn venue. Also keep in mind that this means your guests will also have to travel, and some may opt to stay in a hotel. Consider booking a block of rooms at a hotel nearby for your guests, and providing a shuttle to and from, to encourage safe travels and further encourage dancing the night away.

Barn venues have their own elegance throughout, created by the wooden beams, posts, and rustic décor that the venue has. With the venues permission, you will have the chance to dress up the barn to your D R E A M! A few things to think about when decorating inside the barn:

Centerpieces – If there are going to be doors open at the venue, wind may try to blow away your décor. Think about heavier centerpieces, such as wood logs, heavier flower vases, etc., so that the decorations stay in place! Also, consider who is setting out the centerpieces [florist, family, you, planner, etc.] and who is gathering them at the end of the night.

Day of Coordinator, Tips + Tricks, Planning a Barn Wedding_0398.jpgPhoto by: Kate Becker Photography

Day of Coordinator, Tips + Tricks, Planning a Barn Wedding_0397.jpgPhoto by: Kate Becker Photography

Lighting – Barns are typically only lit by a few overhead lights and may be seemingly dim on your initial visit to the space. To brighten the room [as well as everyone’s day], think about adding string lights across the ceiling or a chandelier over the head table, for a dramatic effect.

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Day of Coordinator, Tips + Tricks, Planning a Barn Wedding_0395.jpgPhoto by: Whitnei Able Photography

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Keep it simple – The barns that we have been so fortunate to work with are beautiful on their own with no decorations. Try to concentrate on the true beauty of the barn with light décor, or choose to focus on a focal point in the room.

Day of Coordinator, Tips + Tricks, Planning a Barn Wedding_0411.jpgPhoto by: Midwest LifeShots Photography

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Photo by: Midwest LifeShots Photography

All barns have different surroundings. Some may be surrounded by grass and fields, others by dirt paths/roads, etc. Ceremony sites may be all grass, rock, or they may be in the barn itself. Either way, remind yourself and your guests to wear farm or grass friendly attire, especially footwear, for your special day.

Some barn venues require extra “event insurance coverage” to host your event at their venue. This is extra event insurance, in case there were anything to go wrong. This may be an added fee to your budget, so it’s something to keep in mind. Check with your venue or planner to verify.

Day of Coordinator, Tips + Tricks, Planning a Barn Wedding_0410.jpgPhoto by: Asher Marie Photography

Day of Coordinator, Tips + Tricks, Planning a Barn Wedding_0404.jpgPhoto by: Nicole Spangler Photography

Unlike hotels, event centers, or golf courses, most barn venues do not have an in-house caterer, bartender, or coordinator, which means that you will have to outsource for these vendors. When deciding on vendors to help with you day, it is important to choose vendors that have experience with the outdoor/barn type venues. Some caterers will bring a grill/tent set-up and cook right on site – how A M A Z I N G is this? This set-up ensures food will be freshly made for your guests. Other vendors will bring food already made at their facility and transport it to the barn [not as fresh – but still yummy!] Barn venues may have restrictions on how loud a DJ or band may play, therefore, hire a DJ who has had experience with this type of venue. Also, look for a DJ who has experience with outdoor ceremonies and equipment that can withstand the “wind” noise. When considering your make-up/hair artists, hire someone who can keep your make-up and hair in place despite the weather elements. Last, but not least, hiring someone who is going to capture the magical moments from your day! When hiring a photographer, it is important to hire someone who has had experience with the barn type venue. Lighting can be a challenge and photographing with the elements [heat and rain], can be a tricky. Consider asking your photographer if you can view an entire album from a wedding they have photographed at a barn venue [this way, you know they aren’t showing you just their very best photos]. Hiring vendors with outdoor/barn experience is a must, and will ensure every element of your day will flow smoothly and you won’t have to worry about a thing. Many barn venues will have a list of preferred vendors that they enjoy working with. Think ahead about all the tasks that will need to be completed from start to finish throughout your day, from set-up, greeting vendors and guiding them where to set up, to giving last minute payment to vendors, greeting guests, directing guest traffic etc.

Day of Coordinator, Tips + Tricks, Planning a Barn Wedding_0401.jpgPhoto by: Emily Isakson Photographic Services

Day of Coordinator, Tips + Tricks, Planning a Barn Wedding_0402.jpgPhoto by: Ester Knowlen Photography

Depending on your venue choice, you may have to clean-up the venue the night of your wedding, and remove all items that you had brought in, including décor, presents/cards, floral, food, etc. Plan for someone to help designate the clean-up effort, so that you aren’t tacked on with any extra clean up fees, or make sure your wedding planning team can take care of it.

One more bonus tip because we just have so much to share! When putting together your seating chart, we always recommend assigned seating for your guests, to make their dining experience a G R E A T one! One common mistake we see is that guest names are listed by table number vs. alphabetical order. This layout forces guests to have to look at all the tables/names to find their own. Instead, consider putting guest names in alphabetical order by their last name, to ensure guests can find their tables/names with ease. Also, we recommend using a list/frame type style vs. place cards. At barn venues, the barn doors are usually wide open to let the natural breeze in and this provides the perfect opportunity for fly-away place cards. When deciding on what will be used for your actual table numbers, consider something large enough to be seen from a distance, and something that is stable against the elements as well [have these placed on the table facing the door that guests will be entering from].

We’ve seen some extremely remarkable weddings at stunning barn venues across MN/WI, and have had the chance to work with some pretty amazing couples! We feel so grateful every day to be doing something that we love and feel so passionate about. We hope that our barn wedding tips have helped you consider how great it is to have a wedding at a barn venue, and that you also consider Rustic Elegance to help coordinate your special day! Day of Coordinator, Tips + Tricks, Planning a Barn Wedding_0409.jpgPhoto by: Asher Marie Photography

Day of Coordinator, Tips + Tricks, Planning a Barn Wedding_0399.jpgPhoto by: Emily Isakson Photographic Services

Day of Coordinator, Tips + Tricks, Planning a Barn Wedding_0406.jpgPhoto by: Shelley Kay Photography

Day of Coordinator, Tips + Tricks, Planning a Barn Wedding_0408.jpgPhoto by: Marc Andreo Photography

Day of Coordinator, Tips + Tricks, Planning a Barn Wedding_0407.jpgPhoto by: Marc Andreo Photography

Carina Photographics Guest Blog | First Looks

As wedding coordinators, we get asked quite frequently about photographers – how long to hire them for, what types of photos to ask for, timeline etc. One of the M A I N questions we are asked about is whether or not to do a First Look.  So we turned to one of our favorite photographers, Joanna Carina from Carina Photographics for her thoughts about including this in your day and decided we would share her advice with our favorite people!

To Look or Not to Look? Having a First Look on Your Wedding Day

One issue I see a lot of couples struggle with is if they should do a First Look, or if they should wait to see each other when they first walk down the aisle. As a wedding photographer, I have worked with couples in both scenarios. While both ways can work well, there are a few distinct advantages to going with a First Look prior to your wedding ceremony.

The First Look begins with some private time for just the two of you…alone. Unlike your walk down the aisle in a public arena where all eyes are focused on you, these private moments, where you see each other separately from the more formal portraits, are often extremely special for you both. You are able to exchange meaningful gifts, relax, and think about the moments to come. This quiet, contemplative time also serves as a break to calm your nerves. This pre-ceremony atmosphere creates a smooth, steady flow through the day’s events.

Not only are you in top form, but hair and makeup are still fresh and you are still comfortable in your wedding attire. Often times, wedding days and wedding wardrobes can be hot, so people look less and less fresh as the day moves on. Seeing each other in top form will happen if you choose to do your First Look right away.

After the First Look time has finished, we take some posed photos of the two of you. While we still refer to these photos as “posed”, rest-assured that we use our expertise to create images of you that look relaxed, natural and intimate. These photos are the ones that most often end up on walls and in prints or albums. We also take these photos privately, away from bridal party and family members, if possible, to continue to capture candid emotions and moments together.

Once your portrait time is finished, you are able to regroup with bridal party and family members and complete as much of your posed, formal group portraits as possible prior to your wedding ceremony. Once your ceremony is complete, you are then able to spend as much time as possible mingling with your guests and not forced to break into posed photos afterward while wishing you could be somewhere else.

All-in-all, including a First Look into your wedding day is an amazing experience, and one I highly recommend!

Special shout out to Joanna Carina for her insight on to look or not to look, letting us feature her on our blog + showcasing some of her A M A Z I N G photos! To learn more about Carina Photographics, check out her website:

Tips + Tricks | Guest Book Ideas

The day of your wedding can F L Y by. There is so much to do, so many people to talk to, and so much to enjoy, all wrapped up into a small amount of time. One way to ensure that you remember your special day forever [even though we already know you will never forget marrying your B E S T friend], as well as involve your guests in your day, is by having a guest book to capture the “day of” memories. Historically, wedding guest books were simple books with blank pages for guests to sign a note of well wishes for the newlyweds. Throughout our time as wedding coordinators, we have seen lots of C R E A T I V E guest book options that stray away from this tradition, and make it a little more E X C I T I N G. We thought we could put this all into a TIPS & TRICKS article for our favorite people!

Jumbo J E N G A: First of all, who doesn’t love Jenga? With the latest craze of “jumbo” size yard games, we’ve had a few previous couples [Anne + John & Amy + Sas] who had their guests sign a note to the bride & groom on each piece of their game. Now, whenever they play Jumbo Jenga, they are reminded of their special day, and the people that celebrated with them!

Day of Coordinator, Tips & Tricks, Guest Book_0290.jpgPhoto by: Marc Andreo Photography
Day of Coordinator, Tips & Tricks, Guest Book_0292.jpgPhoto by: Emily Theisen Photography

Shadow box [with wooden pieces]: Shadow boxes are another C U T E way to get your guests involved. A few of our couples have used a shadow box with a small hole in the top, and little wooden circles [Emily + Kyle], or hearts [Amy + Kevin], for guests to sign, and then place in the shadow box. This keepsake would look G R E A T anywhere in your home.

Day of Coordinator, Tips & Tricks, Guest Book_0293.jpg Day of Coordinator, Tips & Tricks, Guest Book_0295.jpg

Day of Coordinator, Tips & Tricks, Guest Book_0288.jpg Photo by: Narvold Photography

Letter at Last: Now that you & your partner [most likely] share the same last name, another F U N idea is to purchase or create a wooden letter with the first letter of your new last name, and have your guests sign it. That way, you can use it as a decoration in your home, and always know that you are surrounded by the L O V E of all your wedding guests for years to come.

S P E C I A L State: Whether it’s the state you are married in, or the state you’re living in, another idea for a guest book is to have a wooden cutout of the state of your choice. We had a couple do this [Rachel + Brad], and it turned out B E A U T I F U L L Y.

Day of Coordinator, Tips & Tricks, Guest Book_0304.jpgPhoto by: Eileen K Photography

Decorative wooden sign: Purchase or craft a wooden sign with your favorite custom quote, and have your guests sign a note on your it. Maggie + Corey decided to do this, and the finished product was nothing short of A M A Z I N G.

Day of Coordinator, Tips & Tricks, Guest Book_0301.jpgPhoto by: Justin Mark Photography

Let’s W I N E about it: Do you and your partner love wine? If you answered yes, this guest book idea is P E R F E C T for you! Purchase some wine bottles, and update with cute labels for your 1 year, 5 year, 10 year, etc., anniversaries [you can find A D O R A B L E ones on Etsy] that guests can sign. We had a couple do this [Kristina + Derek] and guests could not stop commenting on what a fun way it was to celebrate the anniversaries to come!

Day of Coordinator, Tips & Tricks, Guest Book_0306.jpgPhoto by: Whitnei Abel Photography

S I M P L E, but perfect: Add a mason jar with popsicle sticks for guests to sign a note on. Have a sign next to the mason jar explaining to guests that you and your new partner plan to read these sticks on your first anniversary, and cherish them for years beyond.


Photobooth B O O K [of memories]: If you have a photobooth at your wedding, opt to have the machine print out T W O copies, and have a blank guest book where guests can paste in their photobooth memories and sign a fun note to the happy couple.

Day of Coordinator, Tips & Tricks, Guest Book_0303.jpgPhoto by: Asher Marie Photography

Oh S N A P! [Polaroid Cameras] – Have a few Polaroid cameras on a table, along with a blank guest book. You can have guests paste their snaps into the guest book, along with a note that you will cherish forever. If you wanted to enhance this photo station, consider adding a rustic frame with string and clothespins [hey – Rustic Elegance has one to rent!]. We had a couple [Andy + Stephanie] use polaroid cameras, and we are sure that those memories are still F U N to look at!

Day of Coordinator, Tips & Tricks, Guest Book_0291.jpgPhoto by: Agape Moments Photography

Hobby Decor: If there’s something love to do as a couple, try to incorporate that into a fun guest book idea. For example, we had an A M A Z I N G couple [Kate + Nick] who love to kayak, so they decided to find small paddles and have their guests sign the paddles [what a F U N keepsake!].

Day of Coordinator, Tips & Tricks, Guest Book_0305.jpgPhoto by: Ryan A Stadler Photography

W A N D E R L U S T: If you love to travel, think about having your guests sign a globe. We haven’t seen a couple do this, but thought it would be a U N I Q U E idea for anyone with the itch to explore the world. You could even pair it with a cute sign saying “You mean the W O R L D to us!” [punny, we know!].

Quit H O R S I N’ Around: Do you have a love for animals like Christine + Jeremy? This C R E A T I V E couple decided to have guests sign a saddle, to further embellish their love for horses [& we loved how special it was to them].

Day of Coordinator, Tips & Tricks, Guest Book_0299.jpgPhoto by: Kolorblind Photography

F A M I L Y First: Another idea that we have seen from a few couples [Kailee + Derek & Katie + Danial] is having guests stamp their thumbprint on a family/friend tree! This is another keepsake that would make for G R E A T home decor, and memories for a lifetime.

Day of Coordinator, Tips & Tricks, Guest Book_0296.jpgPhoto by: Melissa Jopp Photography

Day of Coordinator, Tips & Tricks, Guest Book_0297.jpgPhoto by: Tim Larsen Photography

Day of Coordinator, Tips & Tricks, Guest Book_0298.jpgPhoto by: Tim Larsen Photography

P I C T U R E S Q U E paintings: If you and your partner love art, or are looking for something different from the rest, consider providing a painting of something special to you, and having your guests sign it. Amy + Sas did this with a picture of the barn they were married in, so they won’t ever forget the place where two became O N E. Mel + Chris also opted to have guests sign a cartoon picture of them [& their adorable pup] that will look G R E A T in their home.

Day of Coordinator, Tips & Tricks, Guest Book_0289.jpgPhoto by: Marc Andreo Photography

Day of Coordinator, Tips & Tricks, Guest Book_0302.jpgPhoto by: Asher Marie Photography

Staying C O Z Y [& warm]: As we work with couples in MN/WI with G R U E L I N G winters, Lauren + Drew opted to have guests sign quilt squares that would be made into a wedding quilt for them to use [how adorable is this?!]. We are sure that it still keeps them warm in their hearts too!

Day of Coordinator, Tips & Tricks, Guest Book_0300.jpgPhoto by: Levi Tijerina Photography

Guest books are a F U N + M E M O R A B L E keepsake to revisit the details from your special day for the rest of your lives. As a couple planning your wedding, choose something that shows your personality, and have your guests add their special touch. We absolutely adore all of the creative ideas that we have seen throughout the years at Rustic Elegance, and continue to be A M A Z E D by our couples and what they come up with each time.

The Great Dessert Debate

One of our favorite parts of weddings [& probably all of the guests’ too] is D E S S E R T! We absolutely adore the creative ways that couples choose to satisfy the sweet cravings of their guests. Whether you decide on small mini cupcakes or an ice cream truck vendor, the varieties seem limitless. When considering options for the dessert of choice on your special day, we have a few TIPS & TRICKS that we would love to share with you! Which [yummy] dessert[s] will win you over?

TRADITIONAL [ask your parents, they’ll agree]

C A K E: If you like chocolate, vanilla, or a mix of both – traditional wedding cake is always a great option. You can dress it up with a cute cake topper [check out Etsy stores], sprinkles, shimmer, etc. Also, if you opt to go the cupcake route, it’s always fun to have a small cake for the “cake cutting” traditional ceremony [this way, you have some frosting to put on your significant other’s face].
Day of Coordinator, Tips + Tricks, The Great Dessert Debate_0065.jpgPhoto by: Kate Becker Photography; Cake: Miss Sara’s Cakery

Day of Coordinator, Tips + Tricks, The Great Dessert Debate_0074.jpgPhoto (top) by: Emily Theisen Photography; Cake (top): Absolute Catering; Photo (bottom) by: Sophisticated Grace Photography; Cake (bottom): Top Tier Delights

Day of Coordinator, Tips + Tricks, The Great Dessert Debate_0083.jpgPhoto by: Tim Larson Photography; Cake: Buttercream Bakery

Cupcakes [of A L L sizes]: The best thing about cupcakes is you can have them in assorted sizes. Have the traditional size, giant variety, mini cupcakes or, a combination! Cupcakes also come in unlimited flavor combinations, depending on the bakery you decide to go with. One of our favorite vendors, Nadia Cakes, was featured on Season 1 and 2 of TLC’s show Fabulous Cakes. They have a wide range of fun cupcake flavors and options, including Cookies & Cream, Lemon Drop, Peanut Butter Cup, Salted Caramel, and Vanilla Vanilla [Kellie’s absolute F A V].
Day of Coordinator, Tips + Tricks, The Great Dessert Debate_0066.jpgPhoto by: Kate Becker Photography; Cupcakes: Miss Sara’s Cakery

Day of Coordinator, Tips + Tricks, The Great Dessert Debate_0089.jpgPhoto by: Asher Marie Photography; Cupcakes: The Thirsty Whale Bakery

Cookies [& milk]: Cookies are fun, easy, and a wonderful way to share your style. One wedding we helped with had the bakery make each family member’s favorite cookie, and these were noted at the wedding with a sign. We have also had the aunts of the couple make and bring their favorite dessert bars to share. These are such G R E A T ways to get family involved on your special day. Also, consider adding some milk to the end of your cookie selection [because what’s a cookie without milk to go with it?].
Day of Coordinator, Tips + Tricks, The Great Dessert Debate_0067.jpgPhoto by: Lisa Jaster; Cookies: Cold Spring Bakery

Day of Coordinator, Tips + Tricks, The Great Dessert Debate_0068.jpgPhoto by: Lisa Jaster; Cookies: Cold Spring Bakery

Day of Coordinator, Tips + Tricks, The Great Dessert Debate_0079.jpgPhoto by: Lisa Jaster; Cookies: Cold Spring Bakery

Day of Coordinator, Tips + Tricks, The Great Dessert Debate_0077.jpgPhoto by: Kate Becker Photography; Cookies: Miss Sara’s Cakery

Day of Coordinator, Tips + Tricks, The Great Dessert Debate_0070.jpgPhoto by: Lisa Jaster; Cookies: Cold Spring Bakery

MOST CREATIVE [trust us, you’ll be happy you read this!]

P I E: This is such a fun idea – pies of all kinds! We’ve seen regular pies baked by family members, or pies by one of our favorite vendors Sara’s Tipsy Pies. She can even provide mini pies, which can be placed on a stick, or pies in mason jars [how fun!]! Sara has partnered with local wine, whiskey, and beer vendors such as 2 Gingers, Liftbridge, Saint Croix Vineyards, Finnegans, Third Street Brewhouse, Winehaven, etc., to add a little twist to her desserts.
Day of Coordinator, Tips + Tricks, The Great Dessert Debate_0075.jpgPhoto by: Agape Moments Photography; Pies: Sara’s Tipsy Pies

Day of Coordinator, Tips + Tricks, The Great Dessert Debate_0076.jpgPhoto by: Agape Moments Photography; Pies: Sara’s Tipsy Pies

Cheesecakes: You can’t really go wrong with a good cheesecake! The F U N thing about cheesecakes is that you can also get mini cheesecake bites to satisfy the sweet tooth. This is a fun option to upgrade from regular cake that we [absolutely] adore. Check out Muddy Paws Cheesecake for some G R E A T options!

Cake Pops [little rounds of deliciousness]: Cake pops are another creative alternative to cake or cupcakes. You can display cake pops in mason jars, on cake pop stands, etc. They are also super easy to make if you are a D I Y queen and have all of the right equipment.
Day of Coordinator, Tips + Tricks, The Great Dessert Debate_0085.jpgPhoto by: Asher Marie Photography; Cake pops: The Thirsty Whale Bakery

Want s’more? [the answer is Y E S]: North Mallow offers a traveling S’mores Bar which includes 9 different flavored artisan marshmallows, a variety of different graham crackers, chocolates, and candy bars! They also bring along a “Roast Counselor” to give suggestions on how to make the perfect s’more [graham cracker + marshmallow + R E E S E S = yes please!].

NEW & NOTEWORTHY [because why not?]

D E S S E R T trucks [how cool is this?]: One of the C O O L E S T new ideas that we have seen is catering in a dessert food truck. We’ve seen an ice cream truck [Minnesota Nice Cream], and are waiting for this to catch on to more weddings [we are aware that there is a cookie dough truck – N E E D to try this!].

[Mini] Dessert Shooters: Not a huge dessert fan? One idea for those wanting a L I G H T but sweet treat is adding mini dessert shooters as your dessert. These can come in different types of pudding, mousses, etc., and can contain all sorts of flavors.

D E S S E R T bars [of all types]: Another noteworthy idea for desserts is to consider adding a D I Y serve yourself bar of desserts! It could be a pie bar, cookies & milk bar, caramel apple bar, crepe making station, or even an ice cream sundae bar! A great friend of ours This Little Piggy Catering can help provide an ice cream bar or crepe making station. Their ice cream bar includes – delicious Bridgeman’s Ice Cream, peanuts, strawberries, cherries, M&M’S, Reeses, Oreos, sprinkles, warm hot fudge, and warm caramel. They also offer a 1919 keg of Root Beer for floats as well [ok this is S O fun]. Their crepe making station features Nutella, Caramel, Banana, Cinnamon twist, Lemon Supreme, Strawberry, Banana Strawberry Supreme, and Chocolate. It allows your guest to order just what they like [& you too]!

Cotton C A N D Y: We haven’t seen a couple do this yet, but think it would be S O fun to add a cotton candy machine to your dessert options, especially if you’re getting married on the fairgrounds. Think about this fun [& not overused] dessert idea.

AN ASSORTMENT OF YOUR FAVS [& we are sure we’ll agree]

Mix & Match: There are S O many different desserts you can mix & match. It could be all cupcakes, but some mini sized and some regular sized, to cake pops and a traditional cake, or maybe cookies & an ice cream sundae bar [we could go on for D A Y S with options]. There is no “wrong” when it comes to your desserts & pairing a few great tastes together.

F L A V O R S: Most desserts come in multiple flavors [unless you’re sticking to one G I A N T cake]. Don’t forget to have a variety of flavors for your guests to choose from [& also watch for food allergies that you’re aware of for your guests], but they are going to be so grateful either way!
Day of Coordinator, Tips + Tricks, The Great Dessert Debate_0069.jpgPhoto by: Nicole Spangler Photography; Donuts: Angel Food Bakery

Day of Coordinator, Tips + Tricks, The Great Dessert Debate_0090.jpgPhoto by: Eileen K Photography ; Cakes: Nothing Bundt Cakes

Day of Coordinator, Tips + Tricks, The Great Dessert Debate_0081.jpgPhoto by: 99 Perspectives Photography
Day of Coordinator, Tips + Tricks, The Great Dessert Debate_0072.jpgPhoto by: Nicole Spangler Photography; Dessert bites: Angel Food Bakery

DISPLAYS [we can help!]
Hey – let’s D I S P L A Y: The way that you choose to display your desserts can also dress up your reception space. Rustic Elegance provides a variety of display options to rent for your special day. We have plenty of cake stands, cupcake stands, wine barrel table, a vintage hutch, etc., that we would L O V E for you to use. When thinking about where you’re going to put your desserts, think about where your guests will be post dinner [hopefully on the D A N C E floor] and consider placing the desserts in an area close. Also, consider who is going to place your desserts on the display [& keep it full]. Will it be the dessert vendor, family, friends, or your day of coordinator [we can do that!]? Plan for this ahead of time so you aren’t stuck with a ton of extra sweets post-wedding [unless you want that – we wouldn’t mind it].
Day of Coordinator, Tips + Tricks, The Great Dessert Debate_0071.jpgPhoto by: Kate Becker Photography

Day of Coordinator, Tips + Tricks, The Great Dessert Debate_0073.jpgPhoto by: Asher Marie Photography ; Cake: The Thirsty Whale Bakery

Day of Coordinator, Tips + Tricks, The Great Dessert Debate_0084.jpgPhoto by: Jeannine Marie Photography 

Day of Coordinator, Tips + Tricks, The Great Dessert Debate_0082.jpgPicture by: Jennifer Togal Photography; Cake: Nothing Bundt Cakes

Day of Coordinator, Tips + Tricks, The Great Dessert Debate_0088.jpgPhoto by: Kelly Birch Photography 

As you can see, there is a ton of V A R I E T Y when it comes to desserts at weddings. You can go from traditional to something new, or a little of both, and you & your guests will be extremely happy. If you’re planning your wedding now and are looking for a vendor, check out our Vendor page for some [fun & amazing] ideas!

Day of Coordinator, Tips + Tricks, The Great Dessert Debate_0078.jpgPhoto by: Shelly Paulson Photography

Day of Coordinator, Tips + Tricks, The Great Dessert Debate_0080.jpgPhoto by: Emily Theisen Photography 

Day of Coordinator, Tips + Tricks, The Great Dessert Debate_0086.jpgPhoto by: Eileen K Photography

Day of Coordinator, Tips + Tricks, The Great Dessert Debate_0087.jpgPhoto by: Asher Marie Photography

Rustic Elegance, Donate your Wedding Flowers

We had the opportunity to be apart of something amazing this past summer!! We at Rustic Elegance  take pride in being good people, surrounding ourselves with good people and being able to spread happiness and joy! This summer we got to do a lot of the above! We offered the service to collect our couples flower arrangements at the end of the night, bring them home and then donate the arrangements the following day to a nursing home. We had the opportunity to do this 4 different times and WOW, it was amazing! It was amazing to see how giving the couples we got to work with were, and how excited they were to partake in their first good deed as a married couple. It was amazing to see the faces of those that received the arrangements and how they were touched that someone would be so giving to share with them. We had the opportunity to make over 100 people smile and in turn that makes our hearts smile!! Thank you to all our couples that decided to be so giving and to donate their flowers this season! If you are reading this and getting married, please considering spreading the love by donating your flowers at the end of your night-the gift to make those that are in not such a good place, smile, truly can’t be matched!

Day of Coordinator, Donate your wedding flowers_0772.jpg


We made a tag for each arrangement with the couples name, so the residents/family would know where they came fromDay of Coordinator, Donate your wedding flowers_0773.jpg


Day of Coordinator, Donate your wedding flowers_0774.jpg


Lots of thank you’s and smiles!
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Day of Coordinator, Donate your wedding flowers_0776.jpg
Day of Coordinator, Donate your wedding flowers_0777.jpg

Wedding Planner, How to Tie a Bow Tie

MN Wedding Planner, How to tie a bow Tie_0395.jpg
Tying a bow tie can be a bit tricky, so we asked Gus from Heimie’s Haberdashery-A men’s clothing store in St. Paul, to give us a little lesson. Follow these simple steps to get the perfect bow tie! Thank you Jeannine Marie Photography for these great photos!

MN Wedding Planner, How to tie a bow Tie_0405.jpg
1) Place the tie around the neck. Fold the right end of the bow band back on itself.

MN Wedding Planner, How to tie a bow Tie_0398.jpg
2) Hold the loop in one hand and place it centered at the base of the neck.
With your other hand, grab the left side of the bow band.

MN Wedding Planner, How to tie a bow Tie_0399.jpg
3) Wrap it under, and straight up the center of the part you are holding in your right hand. Make sure the narrow piece of the band is crossing in the middle.

MN Wedding Planner, How to tie a bow Tie_0404.jpg
4) Bring the left end all the way down, behind the neck loop.

MN Wedding Planner, How to tie a bow Tie_0406.jpg
5) Tuck this end through the front loop, pulling it from left to right.

MN Wedding Planner, How to tie a bow Tie_0402.jpg
6) Pull the bow tie tight and tug it into shape.

MN Wedding Planner, How to tie a bow Tie_0403.jpg
Thanks Gus!! You were a great teacher/model!!

Here is a U-Tube Link: