Cake, Food & Venue

September 11, 2011  |  Wedding Tips  |  No Comments

This past week we’ve been talking about the value you should be getting from each vendor and what you can expect to pay for. Today, we’ll discuss cake, food & venue.


I’ve heard people ask, what makes pricing so different from birthday cakes to wedding cakes? There are a few factors.

1. Stability  – Wedding cakes are normally several tiers. I see the cake bakers carry in each layer of cake on the wedding day and set it up on site. Even one layer of cake is significantly heavy. A lot of attention and knowledge is needed in knowing how to not only create a beautiful cake, but also make sure it’s not slanted or doesn’t topple or cave under the weight. For the most part birthday cakes are one layer and require less concern in this area.

2. Design – You’re grandmother may make the best tasting cake around but if you are looking for a precisely designed cake, it’s best to go with the professionals. I’ve seen brides disappointed with the look of a cake because they chose to go with someone who didn’t have the same design skills. They showed them a picture from a magazine and were told they could make it. There was simply a miscommunication on HOW WELL they could make it to look like the picture.

3. Accessories – Besides the actually cost of cake and labor are brooches, ribbon, sugar flowers. A band of rhinestone beading around the base of the cake layers can be more than $100. And the labor involved in creating one sugar flower can be quite a lot.

NOTE: For a professional wedding cake baker in Acadiana, prices normally start at $3.75 a slice and go up from there, depending on complexity of design.


One of the biggest ticket items of the big day is food and beverage. Here is what’s included (for the most part) in that cost.

1. Food and Beverage – The obvious right? Venues must prepare for the estimated guest count as well as any overages. Ask them their policies. Do they let food run out? Most do not like to run out of much, if anything, as this reflects on their reputation. This means they are not simply getting the exact amount of food. They’re making sure to have a surplus. For the buffet style weddings in South Louisiana, this can be tricky. You may have more people than expected. For a recent wedding, the bride had 100 EXTRA guest show up in attendance. The venue was prepared to handle and had to put in a ton of extra work to make sure guests didn’t even notice.

2. Waitstaff – This is a big one. They go unnoticed a lot but I’ve worked with good ones and bad ones and the difference is remarkable. They refill chafing dishes with food and low stacks of plates. They wait on the bride and groom. They clear dirty dishes from tables and clean up afterward. A staff that is continually bussing tables throughout the event ensures that your stunning room doesn’t look like a dirty kitchen. When glasses start piling up, no one is noticing the centerpieces anymore.

3. Silverware & Dinnerware – Caterers normally have one of three options for silverware and dinnerware 1.) Glass and ceramic dishes, 2.) Plastic or 3.) Nothing, you must rent from a rental company. If you’re caterer has included in their price REAL dishes, you’ve scored. Because this also includes a lovely presentation for guest but also them cleaning the dishes. If you must rent, some caterers don’t assume the roll of busboy and other crews must be hired to do so. Ask before booking what their standard process is and if there are any upgrades. If plastic is included, this can actually be an expensive cost you can be glad not to pay. Plastic plates and silverware can get expensive for large groups.


Some venues have a standard fee just to use the building. In this case, what are you paying for?

1. Labor – Besides meeting with brides before the wedding day, venues must pay to have someone onsite on the wedding day far before the actual event starts. This could be as much as 12+ hours. You’re paying to have that person available if you have any questions or need anything that day. Ask venues if there is a such a person that will be available on your wedding day.

2. Liquor License – Unless you are required to pay for a liquor license, your venue pays hefty fees for the ability for alcohol to be served at their venue.

3. Equipment – From tables and chairs, having these available for no additional fee can add great value to a venue. Your overall venue fee will also ensure that even if chairs, tables, linens are damaged, they will pay to replace it so that you have what you need.

In many cases, venues handle catering and alcohol and in few cases among those, there is no fee at all for the site, just food and beverage costs. Factor this in when looking at prices for venues and caterers. It can make quite a difference. Some venues may have higher food prices but no venue fees and average out cheaper than lower catering cost and a $2,000 rental fee.

Paper & Florals

September 8, 2011  |  Wedding Tips  |  No Comments

To continue our series “Are They Worth It?” today we’re talking about paper and florals. If you missed yesterday’s post on Pictures & Video, check it out here.


When I first started out as a wedding planner, I would take brides to look at invitations and there was always sticker shock when seeing the prices. I’ve learned since, what makes up these prices and ways to keep them down as much as possible. There are two options when ordering paper products.

1. STATIONERY SHOP – What you are paying for when picking a design from a local stationery shop with lots of books is the variety. If you’ve ever been shopping for stationery, you know these shops can have 30+ books each with 30 or more designs. The options are endless. Because the shop is not limited to an in house designer, they can carry tons of different lines. The price paid for this is usually double the wholesale price. But without them purchasing the books and making them available to brides, you wouldn’t have access to them. How to get the most? Utilize their resources to find exactly what you want. If you are picky but not hands on, this is a great option. It is a little less involved. Once the information is provided to the stationery shop, there is little left to do but pick them up when they come in.

2. STATIONERY DESIGNER – What you are paying for when working with a stationery designer is customization and direct communication and time with the designer. The process can be a bit more involved. This is a great option for those who may be more visual. Sometimes seeing what you thought you wanted is needed to decide on it. Being able to change your mind after beginning the process is possible when working directly with a designer. Most offer several rounds of revisions available to do any tweaking as you see proofs. How to get the most? If you’ve looked for the perfect invitation and can’t seem to find it, a designer and combine elements you may have seen or create a completely custom design for you. Along with these custom options, usually is a font library of tons of options. I can’t even tell you how much I’ve spent on fonts in the past few years BUT it adds value to the products I offer.

3. For both options, a big factor in price will be paper and print quality. The process of letterpress is extremely time consuming and is done by hand. You can expect to pay between $3-$10+ per invite for a letterpress invitation. The quality is top of the line. Flat printing is the least expensive because it is done by a machine instead of by hand. Ask to see options for the type of printing and paper you will be using to make sure it meets your expectations.

Questions to Ask:

What are customization options?

What does the process look like?

How many invitation designs do you offer?

What is the paper or print quality?


I’ve learned so much watching some of my favorites in the local industry. I dabble in florals but there is SO much more that goes into even a simple bouquet then I realize.

1. Before the wedding day, florists meet with the bride to discuss their vision. Many times, it doesn’t end when the meeting ends. They’ll search for the perfect vases or come up with custom designs. They spend a good deal of time finding the perfect flowers or products to incorporate. A week or two before the wedding, orders are placed for the flowers and when they come in the real work begins. Flowers are removed from the boxes, stems cut, petals opened. Sometimes this process even involves dying. Then they begin assembling. Flowers are so fragile. For many florists, ensuring a bouquet stays perfect for hours of heat and holding means wiring each flower in the bride’s bouquet. Along with the cost of the actual cost of the flowers is the obvious cost of labor as well as supplies, like ribbon, floral tape, etc.

2. On the wedding day, deliveries are made before the wedding. Depending on the ceremony site, there is very limited time for the florist to set up. They’ve got to have prepped everything to ensure they can get in and get out in a very short timeframe. For many florists, their day does not end once items are dropped off. They may need to wait through the ceremony to  transport flowers to the reception as well as come at the very end of the night to get vases. And once again, florists normally work every single Saturday. I have so much respect for that!

IN MY OPINION – Over the last few years I have seen all vendors raise prices, some very drastically, along with their cost of goods, etc. Florist seem to be the only ones that have not raised their price much, if at all. Part of this I’ve heard comes from everyone’s assumption that flowers are already seen as higher than normally expected by clients. Some florists may be afraid to further alienate clients. BUT the fact is, their cost of good, especially flowers are raising. Brides, remember if you are booking a traditional flowershop, instead of ordering flowers online, their products are top of the line as well. In your head, you may do the math. 10 packs of a dozen roses from Albertson’s is $100.

Questions to Ask:

What flowers fit your budget based on a color scheme not type of flower? (Orchids & peonies are pricy. $35+ a stem sometimes. )

What size are bouquets? Centerpieces? Etc. Slimming down the same version can save.

Find photo credits from some of my recent favorites from Pinterest.

Pictures & Video

September 7, 2011  |  Wedding Tips  |  1 Comment

Like I mentioned yesterday, I’ve heard countless times brides say photographers get paid WAAY to much for one day of work. Let’s look at what actually goes into that pricing. Likewise, many of these aspects apply to videographers as well.


1. This is pretty self-explanatory, but besides the hours actually spent with you on the wedding day, photographers have two big jobs before and after. First, they must get all their gear together, making sure everything is in tiptop shape. Then at the end of the night, they must back up their images. Many photographers take this very seriously. They understand that your trusting them to have not only take great images, but to protect them. Anything can happen. Memory cards can be erased, lost or stolen. A good photographer has a plan for this.

2. Most photographers charge extra if you would like them to stay longer, on average ($250 an additional hour).  Keep in mind, if they are shooting every Saturday and many Fridays, they could potentially have each couple ask them to stay later than planned. At some point, it became important to them to protect that time so they had to charge for that.  As a wedding planner who works up to half the Saturdays of my year, I have utmost respect for those photographers who give up EVERY Saturday. Part of what goes into the price is factoring in what makes it worth it to these photographers to be away from their husbands or wives or kids every Saturday.


1. After your photos have backed up, they cull through on average of 1,000 images to select, on average 600 final images. Through this process, they delete any photos that are blurry, unfocused or awkward. With the final images, they then edit them. This process is different for all photographers but for the most part involves color correcting. EACH image is individually looked at. These are normally not heavy edits, like removing tan lines or wrinkles.

2. So what about the actual products?

– Prints – When they sale prints, the price for one 8X10 may be $50. What are you paying for? For a photographer, this is their art. If you are purchasing a print from the photographer, the quality paper and ink used is top of the line. They didn’t print your photo for $2 at Wal-Mart. They sent it off to a lab that specializes in it. We’ve got a print from our wedding that Jason printed. The quality is AMAZING and far outweighs my Wal-Mart pics. It’s not always feasible to print every image with your photographer but I do recommend getting a handful for keepsakes of this higher quality.

– Hi-Res Disc – This is a disc with all the final images from your wedding. The price for this disc seems pretty steep considering blank discs cost about $.10 these days. What are you paying for? For the most part, you are paying for the actual value it holds for the client AND the photographer. The client knows with this disc, they are able to print as many copies as they like on their own. And the photographer knows offering this disc means a much smaller print order, if any, cutting out part of their profit.

– Albums – Albums can easily cost as much as $1,000. What are you paying for? It seems like a lot, right? You’re paying for a product that has some sort of longevity. Photographers understand this is what you will pass down to you kids. No, it won’t be the images on facebook. That means it has to be high quality to keep its condition for years to come. Also, we’re not talking a generic coffee table book. Your wedding album is custom designed by your photographer and can take months to create. Depending on rounds of revisions, this process normally takes many hours.

– Video – The editing process can be a lengthy one. If you are getting a highlight reel, the best moments of the day are literally put together for you. To get these moments all in one nice place, the videographer must look through the full hours of film. If their coverage is 7 hours, that means a minimum of 20 hours editing.


1. Of course, on top of all this, is being available to answer all your questions! They can give tips on what outfits to wear for your engagements or great location spots for your bridals. If a photographer has booked 30-40 weddings a year, they are potentially emailing with that many brides at any one time. As well as shooting as many as three shoots (engagements, bridals, newlyweds) for each couple.

2. What about those fancy cameras? Depending on the number of lenses, lighting mechanisms and gadgets, many photographers have a minimum of $10,000 dollars worth of equipment they have invested in to capture your moments.


Brides, there is normally a sliding scale to keep in mind. I can’t speak for everyone BUT from what I have seen, the more you pay for a vendor correlates with the attention you can expect from them. Vendors in general have two options: charge very little, but book a mass of weddings or charge higher fees and limit their number of bookings. You may score on the price but in order for a vendor to make a living, the trade off may be the time, efficiency or quickness given. Likewise, paying more for some of these photographers that limit their bookings could mean easier access and attention to your wedding.


Brides, don’t be afraid to ask questions to make sure you ARE getting your money’s worth. A few questions to ask:

How do you back up you photos?

What type of equipment do you use?

What is your fee for extra hours? Is it more if decided the day of the wedding?

And look at their album options! These can vary greatly and you want to make sure if the price is high, the quality is too!

Check out Pinterest for the sources of some of my favorite recent images.

Are They Worth It?

September 6, 2011  |  Wedding Tips  |  No Comments

I get inquiries a lot for girls who want to be wedding planners. Some understand AND even love the high stress of the job. While others think its looks like the movie The Wedding Planner.

It got me thinking about peoples perceptions of what vendors actually do. I’ve heard brides say “photographers sure get paid a lot for one day of work.”  Or that people charge more in the wedding industry just because they can. While the latter could be true, (if so, stay away from these vendors!), I think this image is what causes a bit of stress for brides. I’d be stressed too if I thought I was overpaying or being taken advantage of by my vendors. Which can be the case if you don’t do multiple weddings a year with them like I do.

But for the most part, more work goes into weddings than what is usually seen. This week I hope to share about all the work that vendors put into your wedding day and bring a little peace of mind to signing off on that big check!

Brides, don’t be afraid to ask questions to make sure prospective vendors ARE worth it! : )

First up, photographers and videographers!

What’s Next for Southern Fete?

September 2, 2011  |  Southern Fete News  |  No Comments

What’s Southern Fete got planned this next year?


A new everyday collection will debut this fall full of calendars, memo pads, post-its and notecards! My main inspiration was the Pomegranate by William Morris and the inspiration board below. I can’t wait to share it with you!


A new set of wedding suites will debut in June again.


We’ve got 17 weddings on the books so far for the next year and will be heading outside of Acadiana to places like Jennings, Shreveport and New Orleans. How lucky am I to get to work with so many amazing brides!?! They are truly great and a perfect fit for Southern Fete. We are very near our cap for weddings in 2012. Contact me soon if you are considering booking!


This project is so close to my heart. I truly want to reach every bride in Acadiana and be able to offer advice to them that can help them make invaluable decisions to get great vendors and save them money. It hurts to hear some of the mistakes that can be costly or even ruin the big day especially when I know how to avoid them. Our format will likely  be changing to better serve brides in the best way possible. Brides I’d love to hear from you on how to make this most accessible to you.


Why no new bells and whistles? This year for me is going to be about growing the parts of my business and projects that I’ve created over the past three years. I’m finding an incredible balance with my work and personal life. The results? I’m infused and inspired to keep creating designs I’m proud of and instead of getting burnt out. This new stage will be a time of perfecting my processes instead of adding a bunch of components. I’m so excited to see what the future holds!

Southern Fete Turns Three!

September 1, 2011  |  Southern Fete News  |  No Comments

How do you even begin to sum up a whole year in one post?? There have been a few big milestones this year so I’ll just hit the high notes.


To my best friend! I can’t believe it’s already been almost a year. How did that happen? There is life after planning your wedding. A really really great one! Don’t ever forget that, brides. You’ve got an incredible journey ahead. And the reason I do what I do is to get you to that beginning of the journey.

Photo by Jason Cohen Photo


And from that notion, was born the Southern Life Collection. Paper products for everyday life for the new wife. I get eyesores from bad type and design. It was inevitable that I’d be creating my own memo pads, calendars, recipe boxes, etc. I’m just so glad I got to share them with y’all too!

Photo by Trent Bailey


This past 12 months I’ve been able to be a part of one of the best day’s of 16 couples lives(so many weddings to blog about still). It’s truly overwhelming when I actually think about how special that is. I get to be the last one who pumps you up before you go down the aisle, bustle your dress, fix your fallen hair, bring you drinks, intercept problems, and even hold your dress for you in the bathroom. ; )

You may have heard me say it before, but when I started Southern Fete, I saw a big opportunity to leave my mark in Lafayette weddings. The wedding planning field was small. To be honest, most brides here had never considered using a wedding planner. That role seemed to belong to aunts. In the past three years, and last year in particular, I’ve see so much change in that thought. Many of you have said you can’t imagine going through this process without me as your wedding planner. That has meant so much to me to know you’ve found the value in what I do.

I got this sweet note last week and just had to share. It’s from one of the brides I’m working with, Megan Murphy. Vendors should seriously pay to work with her. She’s that amazing! ; )

Hey Val! I wanted to share a little story with you…I met with Kim at the Opera House last week. and of course I brought my invite along with me to show off! She instantly knew it was the work of the “Amazing Valerie” (Southern Fete)…this led her to tell us your AMAZING proposal story! We were all teary eyed and had goosebumps! After the story, mom, Kim and I went on and on about you and what a blessing you’ve been!

Every vendor I have met has had nothing but great things to say about you! You have truly touched my life – you inspired me! You will continue to do amazing things! Thank you for being you and for doing what you do! God has truly blessed you with so many beautiful talents and I am so lucky to have had you share some of those talents with me!


Megan Murphy

I get teary-eyed even reading this all over again. It’s human nature to want to make a difference. When I get emails or letters like this, HEARING that you have been affected by what I’ve worked so hard on for three years is incredibly gratifying and inspiring. I COULD NOT do what I do without that encouragement and support. I’m forever grateful, ladies.

Photo by Catherine Guidry


20 new suites. TWENTY! Once again, I don’t know how that happened. But it did and y’all have been wonderfully receptive to it. When I designed it, I truly hoped to create designs that you look at and just know, this is the one! Just like your fiance, right? I didn’t want a bunch of safe designs that you “kinda liked.” Who gets excited about that?? Thank you for every kind word you’ve ever shared with me about this collection. It only inspires me to make the next even better for you!

Photos by Courtney Dellafiora


Oh Philly! Such an adventure. At some point every single day we were away, I thought, “We are so incredibly lucky for this opportunity.” I know what you’re thinking. I could never do that. You can! It just takes lots of extra work but it’s so worth it. Check out what the last month was like here.

Photo by me


What’s in store for this next year.


For the next month (fingers crossed!), I will be posting each weekday to celebrate our big milestone. Each week we’ll have different series: Are They Worth It? (Getting Quality Vendors), Inspiration Boards (Comment with any palettes you’d like to see), Southern Traditions (To Break, Keep and Tweak), and New Trends (Based on my humble opinion ; )

And then we’ve got some surprises in store for October!! Can’t wait to share.

Thanks everyone for an amazing three years. Can’t wait to see what God has in store for the next three years!