Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Wedding Vendor Review - Austin, TX

I promised that I would write up a summary of all my vendors that I used for my wedding which was in Austin, TX, so here you go. I hope you find it useful. If you have used some of these vendors before, feel free to leave your own comments too!

Hair - Jennifer with A'Salon on Jollyville Road - Jennifer is my regular hair stylist, but when I was looking to get my hair done for the wedding I had this weird preconceived notion that I needed to use a "wedding" specialist. I did two trials with different girls, and eventually decided on Bella's Ball. However after she arrived late to my bridal shoot, and my curls fell out an hour into the shoot, I knew I needed someone else. One day Jennifer finished off my hair cut by giving me a curly look using just a straitening iron. It was amazing and it held all day. I immediately booked her to do my hair and my moms and my girls. Oh yea, and because she doesn't bill out just as a "wedding" specialist, her prices are ridiculously reasonable. My dad was shocked when he saw the bill, he said it was too low! Jennifer is amazing and I would highly recommend her to anyone. My curls stayed in all night and my hair usually never holds a curl.

Makeup - Rhea McCarter - Rhea is wonderful. I did a trial makeup session with two girls and Rhea was by far the best. I would highly recommend doing a trial because she really needs to get a feeling for what you want and you need to decide what you like too. We did my trial and we did a trial for my mom. I was really glad because it meant that my bridal shoot makeup and especially my day of makeup was perfect! I was really happy with the natural look that she gave me. And she's so much fun to work with. Really sweet and really talented.

Limo - Cynthia's Manhattan Limo - Clean and on time. What else can you say. The driver was good and picked everyone up either early or on time and when we left something in the limo, he came back to give it to us. I used them to take us from the house to the salon and then to the ceremony/reception.

Getaway Car - Enchanted Antique Limos - My husband didn't want to use a limo as our getaway car, so we rented a Rolls Royce from Enchanted Antique Limos. The car was beautiful and clean and the driver was very nice. He took us from south Austin up to the Driskill and took all back roads to make the drive nicer. He also drove us straight up congress toward the capitol and asked if we wanted to drive up to the capitol to take some more shots. We were too tired at that point, but it was a nice offer.

Venue - The Hummingbird House - Oh my god this place is amazing. I must have looked at 30+ venues before I found this place. The grounds are perfect and in the middle of a drought you would never expect for a place like this to exist. The reason why it is so beautiful is because the owner also owns The Great Outdoors nursery on South Congress. The ceremony is outside and the reception is held under a beautiful white fabric draped tent. All the trees are wrapped in LED lights to make for an enchanted evening. The grooms suite is a little small, but the bridal suite is in the main house and is 3 rooms. They also went out of their way to help my mom out who is handicapped. Guest bathrooms will surprise you.

Day of Coordinator - Lauren & Danny @ The Hummingbird House - I wasn't sure if I should put this above or give it its own section. Lauren and Danny run The Hummingbird House, but if you ask, they will act as your day of coordinator for a small up-charge. I paid this and it was sooooo worth it. First of all, at the time that I got married the fee for their day of services was very very affordable, especially compare to other day-of coordinators. Lauren is amazing. This girl is just as organized as I am, and that's saying something. She truly will go out of her way to make your day exactly as you want it. And she will email you back in a timely fashion, which is so important. I was very grateful to have her and Danny coordinating everything on my big day. If you get married at The Hummingbird House, use them!

Flowers - Trisha from Visual Lyrics Floral Art in Cedar Park, TX - This is a hard one to review. First the end product - The flowers were amazing. Just beautiful. I did a large bouquet of roses for my bouquet (40-50), and I used roses, white calla lilies, and pink bom orchids for the girls and the mothers bracelets, pink bom orchids for the guys, white roses for the dads, a long greenery piece with small spray roses for the front of my moms electric scooter, 4-5 roses for the toss bouquet, 1 orchid and 1 rose floating in tall vases with lights and black beads for the cocktails, and roses, lilies and orchids for the big tables. She also put together a huge red rose display for the center of the food tables. She was on time dropping everything off and she picked up the vases afterward. The reason I say it is hard to review her is because she is terrible at getting back to you. At one point I must have called and left 3 messages and 3 emails for her. I couldn't even get a hold of her to pay my balance until it was like a week late. I guess you could say she is laid back, but as a bride, I would have liked a little more interaction and response. Her prices are reasonable compare to others. In the end I would probably recommend her because the work was flawless, just be prepared to have some communication issues.

Cakes - Heidi at Envy Pastries - These cakes were amazing. Heidi made two cakes for my big day, one traditional and one grooms cake. The traditional cake was covered in white fondant and decorated in white lace icing. It was huge! The 5 layers from top to bottom were: 6" White Godiva Chocolate with strawberries and cream filling, 9" Carrot Cake, 12" Vanilla Bean with lemon mascarpone filling, 15" Chocolate with peanut butter moose filling and mini Reeses peanut butter cups, 18" White Godiva Chocolate with strawberries and cream filling. The cake was gorgeous! The grooms cake was a 1:1 replica of my husbands guitar and it was chocolate cake with raspberry filling. Again, just amazing. Each layer was 4 layers of cake an 3 layers of filling. While the vanilla cake was a bit dry, I loved the chocolate and I highly recommend working with Heidi. But get on her schedule early, because she only does one cake a day.

String Quartet - Musical Discovery Chamber Players - These four musicians are wonderful. They played from 30 minutes before the wedding through the cocktail hour. You can find many of their pieces on you tube and I highly highly recommend them if you are looking for a quartet to play during your ceremony. The only thing I wish was that we would have put them closer to the ceremony site or hooked them up with a microphone. Probably just putting them 5-8 feet closer would have been nice. They did a very nice job with Canon in D as well as our exit song, The Wedding March. Jill, the coordinator of the group, is very nice and so easy to work with. The first time she played Canon in D for my parents was when we met them at a bridal show, and I knew right away that we were about to hand them a check to guarantee our spot on their calendar.

Band - The Matchmaker Band - These guys are awesome. They are a 10 piece band and they really made our night excellent. They are so much fun and do a great job getting people onto the dance floor. Two weeks before the wedding we sent them a list of songs that were sorted into tiers: must play, 1st choices, 2nd choices, and a 'do not play' list. This really helped them put together a set list that we would like and that we felt our guests would enjoy. Their sound guy, Alex, is great. He really worked with us and the Hummingbird House to keep the music at a perfect level for dancing while not being too loud. I highly recommend these guys. Also, they tend to play at the Highball in Austin on Monday nights if you want to check them out.

Photographer - Beverly Demafiles - Beverly and her husband, David, are awesome. I've used her three times now, to do my engagement photos, my bridal shots, and my wedding photography. Her style is journalistic, in that she works to tell the story of the day through her shots. I love that her photos are full of color (or some black and white) and aren't overly artistic or styled with Photoshop. They are what I think of as true photos. Both her and David do a really great job of capturing the moment. There were so many great action shots from the wedding that we are having trouble narrowing them down. I love that they both come ready to do whatever is necessary to get the shot. There were several times that I saw Bev on the ground shooting up just to capture the moment. She's not afraid to get right into the action and her eye for great unique shots is unmatched. The other thing that struck me was this. The week before the wedding I sent her a list of my "must have shots." Right after the ceremony when we were taking pictures, I saw David standing there with the list in his hand making sure we got all the shots that I wanted, and they did! It made me feel instantly at ease because I knew nothing would get overlooked. They captured so many details from the day, I love them!

Videographer - Wes Shepard of New Road Productions - We met Wes at a bridal show the January before our October wedding. We hadn't thought much about having a videographer at the wedding, but when I saw his videos, I knew we had to hire him right away. Him and his assistant worked great with Beverly and David to make sure no one was in each others way the day of the wedding. And they both came out to the Hummingbird House the weekend before to plan out the day, which was nice. I didn't even notice Wes was around videoing until the last few dances when the night got really dark and the light on his camera started to be ever-so-slightly annoying. But it was so dark he had to have a light on somewhere if he wanted to capture the moment, and it wasn't that bright. For the ceremony he hooked Jeremy up with a lapel mic to record the vows and the pastor, but you could hardly see it as he placed it right behind the flower. He also worked with me to create a video package that was just what I wanted. I highly recommend that you try to get a videographer if you can afford it, and I recommend Wes.

Linens - Premiere Party Central, Manchaca Road. - They have a great selection of linens and other necessities for your day, especially helpful if you need to provide these things for your event. If you go here just make sure you work with Kelly and only Kelly. I found most of the other staff to be less than helpful and often making my life a headache. They have a huge sale in January/February where you can get linens half off if you reserve them during their sale period. (note, my wedding was in October, but I was able to take advantage of this sale)

Caterer - An Affair to Remember Catering (AATR) - This one is also hard for me to review. Let me start with the good. The food is amazing. Hands down better than Pink Avocado or Sterling (of these two I'd pick Sterling for food). The other reason why I initially chose these guys was because they seemed like a smaller operation than Sterling. That is to say, they seemed a bit more local and not quite so much of a large corporation. I worked mainly with Matthew, and this is really where my impression of the company started to go downhill. Matthew likes to talk, a lot. But that also means that he is not listening to you and what you want. He spends more time explaining why he hasn't gotten something done than just doing it, and more likely than not you will have to hound him down the weeks before your wedding. AATR does some of their glass and plate rentals through Premiere (above) and then they send you the inventory list for you to double check, even though you always go through AATR. Matthew kept blaming Premiere for why the order was wrong, but it took me 10 minutes and one phone call to Kelly to get it all straightened out. In my mind, I shouldn't have to do my caterers job. Matthew kept telling me what he wanted to do for the table arrangement on the day of my wedding, and it took me more than 3 occasions to finally explain to him that it was my wedding and we were doing what I wanted. I should have known then to fire him. Oh and two weeks before the wedding I sent him a text message asking why I didn't have my final invoice yet. His response was "which bride is this?" To which I replied "Oh, I see I'm not the only one waiting for you to get back to them." This is consistently Matthew. The day of the wedding the food was great, but there wasn't enough! Not because I didn't order enough, but because they couldn't produce it fast enough. My dad went back to the kitchen when the food ran out and the response he got was "people are eating too fast" Are you kidding me! You know 100 people are going to rush a tent, you need that food ready, or you need to bring more help. At one point the water station was empty and my dad again had to go back and find someone to fill it. Horrible! And then I found out through a guest that they ran out of lime juice. Why? Because the bartenders were making the wrong ratio of lime juice to tequila for the margarita drinks so they ran out of juice. But Matthew didn't come tell me this, so I, the bride, had to go to the kitchen and bitch him out. I *think* they eventually got more. My parents and I are now in the process of trying to get the company to refund the money that we are due because of all these disasters. Oh yea, and the pasta bar was to have 4 burner stations, but one didn't work and they didn't bring any backups, so they only had 3. Why would a reputable caterer not bring backups? Oh and although we went over the wine/margarita glass order about 20 times, they were still wrong. Which means I paid for something I didn't get. Unless this company shapes up and fires Matthew, for all the headaches that I had, I can't recommend them. Yes, their food is the best, but I can't imagine telling any other bride to go through what I went through with Matthew. Oh and their "chef's station" is a joke, avoid that. I'm happy that my guests got food and didn't realize too much what a disaster this caterer was. If you're set on using this company just make sure that you get a different planner than Matthew, and perhaps you'll be okay.

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