Photos by Lara
Lara Hanlon Welcome to the blog of Lara Hanlon Photography! Enjoy checking out some of my latest work and news, and as always, feel free to contact me if you have any questions!

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Friday, October 10, 2008

wedding vendors

As a recent bride (October!), I know a thing or two about planning weddings. And I know that the vendors you choose to use are hugely important to your day and they truly have the power to make it or break it....not that you'd be any less married with a bad vendor, but they can definitely make your day oh-so-much easier. And I lucked out...I adored my vendors. So to any brides (or grooms!) who are looking for anything, here's who I used! You can see pictures of most of this (my flowers, dress, location, etc) by going here and checking out my fantastic photographer's blog post about our wedding.

(Full disclosure: I didn't get paid or receive any discounts or anything to write this up...they probably don't even know they're listed here!)

: Location - Magnolia Hotel

Mindell is the wedding coordinator here, and she's wonderful. Hilarious and fun and not scared of when I asked if we could bring in a firepit for s'mores (yes!) or when I asked about adding a sauce to the chicken dish (they did, and it was UH-MAZE-ING) or when I considered going from an open bar to beer/wine only at the last minute (we didn't). She also is a lifesaver - when we discovered we'd left (okay, I left) our Polaroid film for the guestbook at home, she offered to have someone run out an buy some more for us! We didn't take her up on it - we used a digital camera instead - but the offer was so generous!

The ceremony site and reception ballroom were picture perfect....I'm still in awe. They set everything up wonderfully. The food was DELICIOUS and I'm getting hungry just thinking about it! The service was great as well. When you book your wedding there, you get the Presidential Suite for free, and it's perfect for getting ready in....great for pictures! And when we went back to our suite after it was all over, we had a surprise cheese platter and chocolate-covered strawberries waiting for us. YUM. The next morning, we discovered that the hotel had carefully boxed and bagged up everything and had it waiting for us to take home...all we had to do was carry it out!

I'm not going to say everything was perfect - there were a couple near misses like programs that went missing until just before the ceremony or cake knives that weren't set out - but anything that went wrong was so minor it barely feels fair to even mention it.

Mindell and the staff were wonderful and accommodating and the location was beautiful and I'd definitely recommend them to anyone. There are tons of pictures of this gorgeous venue in Darbi's blog post.

: Photography - Darbi G and Stacy Reeves

Book them. They're amazing. That is all. :)

Seriously, I can't say enough about them. They're wonderful people and I love my pictures. Darbi was the lead photographer and lead us she did....she had great ideas and I'm so, so grateful for her!

: Flowers - Mulhall's

First, the flowers were one of my FAVORITE details of the day.

Second, this was by FAR the best value of the day.

You might be thinking...Mulhalls??? The landscaping place?? Yes, that very one! Frank Piccolo is in charge of the floral department here (yes, Piccolo as in Piccolo's Flowers...only without the cost!) and he was absolutely wonderful! At our initial meeting, he was able to take all my ripped-out pages and idea and shape them into exactly what I envisioned - even before I was able to do so! I still can't believe HOW much we got for the price we paid, and even more so - the quality was phenomenal. I would not have been surprised if our total had been twice as much as it ended up being, especially with the out-of-season ranunculus and orchids in our bouquets and boutonnieres. They did an absolutely amazing job and I was so impressed! You can see a great picture of my bouquet in Darbi's blog post.

: Cake - Omaha Pastry (Dorothy Thompson)

Our wedding cake was SO good and looked beautiful! Dorothy was great to work with (although she does respond more quickly to calls than email - the opposite of me!) and she definitely knows what she's doing. The cake was my splurge - while we tasted cakes as low as $0.75 a serving, when I had Dorothy's cake at a Quinceanera I photographed, I knew I had to have it for my wedding. It was expensive, but sooooo worth it. She does everything by hand and you can really tell in the taste. I would definitely book her again! In fact....I kind of want to call her just to make a cake for me right now. OH! That just made me remember the top of our cake is in my parent's freezer. That made my day, knowing that fantastic cake is that close. :) Darbi has a picture of the cake in her blog post.

: Wedding and Bridesmaid Dresses - Bridal Traditions

I loved my dress! Bridal Traditions did a fantastic job helping me choose. They were able to direct me right to the dresses that matched my criteria, but didn't blink when I wanted to try on some others "just for fun." Even after I had purchased the dress, they let me go back and try it on again in order to decide on what jewelry to wear and hairstyle. It came well before my promised delivery date, the alterations went perfectly, and it was ready to go - steamed and beautiful! - when I went to pick it up. My bridesmaids also got their dresses there and, other than one dress not quite fitting in the bust when it came in, they loved their experiences as well. You can see my dress and the bridesmaid dresses in Darbi's blog post.

: Tuxes - Bel Air Fashions

Don't let their straight-out-of-1995-website fool you...these guys know their stuff. I've been to dozens of weddings and photographed dozens more, and I can count on one hand the number of weddings I've been to that had no problems with their tuxes. Missing shoes, wrong sizes, wrong tie colors, pants that are a foot too long, jackets that don't even come down to the wrist.....we had none of that. Every single guys' tux looked like it was custom fitted. And we had a WIDE range of builds in our wedding party. And despite initially looking like they might be more expensive than some of the other options we looked at, the groomsmen paid less in the long run at Bel Air than they did for their tuxes for almost every other wedding they were in (we had a lot of weddings in our group of friends last year) - and with none of the headache. The best part was that they had SO MANY OPTIONS you could try on and see right in the store - a few places only had a book for you to look at, and when it came time to see it, you had to order it first! My brother liked them so much he used them for two proms too! Another highly recommended vendor, and as usual...check out Darbi's blog post for pictures.

: Music - Ben Doll (Complete Music)

I actually felt kind of bad - I straight up let Ben know during our phone consultation that I thought DJs were pretty cheesy...and he did a great job minimizing the cheese. :) I was worried that we might not have many dancers, but he kept it going all night (we even kept him an hour later than we had planned!). He always checked with us before moving onto the next event to make sure we were ready for it. Complete Music didn't have our first dance song, so he downloaded it, but he somehow ended up with a different version of the song. However, he was a rock star and played it off my iPhone and you would never have known - the transition was flawless. And to make it even more difficult, I asked him to fade it out before the ending at a specific part...and he nailed it! We also requested a special intro song that he didn't have, which he was able to find (the drum intro to "Shipping Off to Boston" by Dropkick Murphys), and special dinner music (I had heard Irish instrumental music played during the dinner of another wedding by a different Complete Music DJ, and Ben got the music from him so we could use it too). And wow, after writing out all my special requests here, I realize how much of a pain I must have been! But the most important part is that he got it all RIGHT! Definitely recommended.

: Seating Chart and Guest List - Martha Stewart Weddings.

I checked out a ton of online guest managers and seating chart gadgets...and this was by far my favorite. You'll need to create a (free!) account, then go to "Planning Tools". The only two I used were "My Guests" and "My Seating" but they were lifesavers.

: Guest Book - paper lust

I love it. It was customized just for us with our colors and our theme, and it turned out beautifully. If only I hadn't left the Polaroid film at home.....ahhhh well. You can look at a picture of ours here.

: Save the Dates - VistaPrint

I made our Save the Dates in Photoshop and had them printed as a postcard at VistaPrint. It was like $10 for there a better value? They turned out really cute and the printing was great for the price! The design, but not the actual postcard, is here.

: Invitations - Copper Willow Studios

Okay, I lied. Not all our vendors were perfect. This one was horrendous. I was told that the invites would ship before May 16, and they didn't ship until over two weeks later. I finally got them, and they color was off - I was told "soft white" and they were very cream (definite yellow tint), the "extremely subtle deckle edge" looked like someone ripped it by hand, and they were PRINTED CROOKED. In addition, a piece of the invitation suite was missing and I had to dig through all my emails to show that I really had asked for/paid for/proofed that piece. I ended up having to virtually redo them. I would have loved to have just reprinted them through someone else. I'm not even linking to them because they don't deserve it. (I just checked their site, and it hasn't been updated in a loooooong time...maybe for a reason!)

: Favors - WaxWizard

Our favors doubled as our placecards and were pretty darn adorable, in my opinion. We got mini apple candles from here - cheap, shipped fast, and looked exactly like the picture!

: Bridesmaid Gifts - Amazing Wholesale Scarves

One of the gifts in the bridesmaid's totes was a green pashmina - I knew it could get chilly in October and wanted to help them keep warm, plus add a pop of color to their dresses. These were cheap and surprisingly good quality! You can see tons of pictures of the wraps on Darbi's blog post about our wedding (linked at the top).

: Bridesmaid Jewelry - Lindsay (

I kept hearing on people raving about the jewelry that a fellow Knottie had made, and when I needed jewelry for my girls I emailed her right away. It was beautiful, made well, and the girls loved it...I wanted some for myself! :) You can see pictures of the girls wearing the jewelry on Darbi's blog post as well.

: Makeup - Michaela @ MAC Cosmetics (Oakview Mall)

Michaela was awesome - our trial run in the store was a blast, and she didn't blink an eye when I called her later to make some slight changes. She showed up right on time and with everything I needed, and I loved my makeup! It lasted all night, too....very important! :)