Church | St. John Lutheran | Rochester, MI | A
St. John Lutheran is an absolutely stunning church, with no decoration added at all. We had a very difficult time finding a church that would marry us, not being members anywhere, and it was St. John that finally took us in. We had to find our own Pastor to perform the ceremony because none of their Pastors were available. This ended up being a blessing in disguise though because all 3 of their Pastors left just a few months before our wedding!

Pam is the person you want to speak with to set up the date of your wedding and get all the paper work done - she is in their staff contact list. She is helpful, but busy. Don't be surprised if it takes her a while to get back with you - they have had a lot of turnover lately and she is doing the jobs of quite a few people. But she will get back with you! Corey is their wedding coordinator, and it is required that she be there for your rehearsal and the day of your ceremony. She is a bit short and to the point, but she does get the job done. You kind of need that personality there the day of the wedding to make sure everything is running smoothly and on time. She tracked down aisle candles for us and some missing holly berry wreaths, made sure there were plenty of poinsettias on the alter, had large print outs of readings for our readers, and got our unity candle looking good and in place before guests arrived.

Officiant | Pastor Justin | Utica, MI | A
Pastor Justin was truly a Godsend. The church required us to find a Lutheran Pastor of the Missouri Synod. Another Knottie suggested calling Trinity Lutheran in Utica, where she had found help. The pastor that helped her was unavailable, but recommended Pastor Justin. He is very young, energetic, and progressive - all things we could relate to. He sat down with us, one-on-one, on about 5 different occasions to discuss how to be a good husband/wife, how to communicate, and just talk about general fears/wants/beliefs. He had us read a fantastic book together - "Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts", which contained a lot of common sense, but it opened up a whole new window of communication for us. Justin took the time to make our ceremony unique and personal and we received many comments on how wonderful it was.

Harpist | Donna Novak | Ypsilanti, MI | A
Donna being at the wedding is a total blur. :-) I remember hearing beautiful harp music, but I never actually saw her until she was wheeling her harp out of the church. Her "Canon in D" made me tear up, but the first time I really realized she was there was when we lit the unity candle and she began to play John Denver's "Annie's Song" (FI's request). She played about a half hour before the ceremony, while the guests arrived, and about a half hour after, while guests left. Her prices are pretty reasonable, communication is not fabulous, but ok considering you just need to get your music list approved by her a few weeks before. Email is the best form of communication with Donna.

Reception Hall | King's Court Castle | Lake Orion, MI | C- for communication, B+ for execution
King's Court is a stunning hall with a lot of character - you really don't need to do a lot to it, it's beautiful all on it's own. When we signed on with them in August of 2008 a woman named Donna was the head coordinator. I called here and there to clarify things and always spoke with Donna. I was surprised in March of 2009 when Donna was suddenly no longer there - I spoke with her one day, and the next day she was gone. No explanation. From then on, I had a hard time finding one person to talk to. Finally, in August of 2009, I started regularly talking to Angela. I met with her face to face and she was very helpful and accommodating, she never told me no. :-) But it was difficult to get ahold of her on the phone - I would leave messages and never hear back. I would speak with her specifically about something and it would take her weeks, and multiple phone calls on my part, to get answers. In September, I asked about scheduling a tasting and Angela told me they tried to do one a month and schedule all the upcoming brides and grooms at that time. She said she expected one in September, October and November and would contact me with dates/times. September went by and half of October, so I began calling. I could not get ahold of Angela until November. When I finally spoke with her, she said they had never had a tasting in all that time - I found that a little hard to believe. Because of the holidays and things we were not able to schedule a tasting until December 7th. Cutting it close. I told her FI and I were inviting our parents as well and she said there was a charge for anyone other than the bride and groom, we said "no problem". The 7th was a crazy day filled with wedding details and when we finally got ourselves and our parents to Canterbury for our tasting, everything was dark. We went to the adjoining restaurant to let someone know we were there for our tasting and they looked really confused. They went to find Angela. After about 10 minutes, the chef came out and apologized over and over again because she had no idea we were coming, Angela was not there, and they didn't have anything prepared. They offered to reschedule but my parents were in from Lansing, so instead, the chef threw together some of the items on the wedding menu quickly and fed us. The food was excellent - we had two types of chicken and one type of salmon with salads, potatoes and veggies. FI really wanted to try the beef, but they did not have it in-house. They discounted our extra meals and tried to accommodate us as best they could. I told my DOC about everything the next day and he asked if he could call and speak with them. When he called me back, he said they were totally embarrassed, this is not how they do business, and they were ready, willing, and able to do anything to make it up. FI still really wanted to try the beef, because he wanted to know if it was worth paying the extra to have it at the wedding, so we set up a second tasting. Angela called my DOC the day of the second tasting and said she hadn't ordered the beef, it was just too expensive to do for 2 people. Why she waited a week to decide this, I don't know. We were really pissed at this point, but trapped. So we said fine, forget it, and just chose are menu as best we could. They ended up giving us a chicken option, a salmon option, AND the beef option for no extra charge because of their screw up - so that was good.

We showed up on Christmas Eve to drop off my centerpieces and decor. Angela had called me the previous day to tell me they were setting up the tables as I had asked - we had gone over a seating chart/table placement, and everything had been okayed by her. When I arrived, nothing was right. The captain's table was twice the width they had told me it would be, but shorter in length. She assured me she would add more length to it before Saturday. All the guest tables were wrong, so my FSILs and I started shifting tables to match the seating chart. Angela watched for awhile and then disappeared. We got things organized as best we could that day before they closed and I just prayed that everything would go well for my DOC and linens girl the day of.

I never had full confidence in the staff at Canterbury once Donna left, so that was a bummer. The day of the wedding, everything was beautiful, but that was largely in part to my DOC. The food was good, but the fettuccine was cold and pretty bland, and they were cutting the teeniest slices of beef I've ever seen. The cookie and cocoa buffet we paid extra for ended up being hard cookies, brownies that were falling apart, and there was no cocoa, only coffee. (I only heard this, I was too busy to try it or even look at it) They also put the cookies out before the cake, so everyone filled up on those before the cake and a lot of it didn't get eaten. But, I didn't hear a single complaint from a guest about anything - everyone raved about everything. So my final words are: bad communication and mediocore execution, but a stunning environment and good food.

Transportation | Luxury Limousine | Clinton Township, MI | A for the driver, C+ for the company
We booked with Luxury Limousine because they were running a Winter Special. FI and I wanted a party bus because I didn't want to try to climb in and out of a limo with my wedding dress and a coat. We went and looked at the bus, and it was nice, and very large. It had a bathroom and a place to keep food/drinks cold. With the Winter discount, we booked right away. The plan was for the bus to pick up the guys at the Staybridge Suites at 1:30pm and they would head to downtown Rochester for pictures. I had an itinerary worked out. The bus never showed. Someone got a phone call at about 2pm that the bus had broken down. They were sending a replacement as soon as possible. All the guys quickly hopped in their cars and got themselves to the Royal Park for some pictures and then the Royal Park Shuttle took them around town. We did not see our "replacement" until we got to the church - it was a Hummer. Exactly what we didn't want. I blew it off because I had decided not to let anything bother me that day :-) but when I think back on it, it was so annoying to climb in and out of. The step was so far under the hummer that I slipped on multiple occasions and was caught by either DH, my DOC, or the limo driver. The sound system didn't work - we got mostly static. My bridal party made up for it by getting really drunk. :-) The poor driver did everything he could to make up for it. He was very accommodating and stayed with us the whole night, but that was actually unnecessary because we didn't need transportation between 7pm and midnight. At midnight, a town car was supposed to arrive to take DH and I to the Royal Park, but instead the Hummer was still waiting. It was an uncomfortable ride - no good place to cuddle. :-) My DOC is currently working on getting us some money back.

Update: Luxury Limo did give us our deposit back. Since we got such a good deal to begin with, that was more than 10% back, so we are satisfied. And we feel like our driver really busted his butt that day - he took coats, stowed bags and even went on a cigarette run for someone. All-in-all, it worked out fine.

Day of Coordinator | JB&B Event Planning | Rochester, MI | A
I received an email back in January of 2009. I had visited a bridal show, and JB&B had obtained my email through that show. They were offering half off their all day package, with two coordinators. I was very new to everything and hadn't researched DOCs but knew that it was something I wanted to do for myself and my mother so that there were no worries on the wedding day. I met with Jonathan and he was very direct and to the point. I appreciated that - you do not want a wishy-washy DOC. You need someone that can bust some balls if need be. :-) He and his wife Bianca were always prompt at returning emails and I don't think I ever once left them a message because they always pick up their phone right away. They were always there to offer a list of vendors if I needed one. There were plenty of fires for them to put out leading up to, and on, our wedding day. Because of them, everything went smoothly that day for us and our guests, which we really appreciate. I know they worked hard that day, and they are still working hard weeks later. I would highly recommend them both.

Linens | Stephanie's Wedding Creations | Utica, MI | B
Stephanie has great prices on her linens and chargers. I checked around with a lot of places, and she was the cheapest by far. I met with her and she was very nice, accommodating, and wanted to make sure I had everything I wanted. I signed on to have her do red pintuck linens on the captain's, gift, and cake table, as well as the high tops. She also did ivory linens on my guest tables for a discount because my hall would only do white. She did gold charger plates at each place setting, red napkins at the guest seats and ivory napkins at the captain's table. There were supposed to be red runners on each of the guest tables, but she said when she set up that it all looked too busy, so she didn't use the runners and said she would refund me for those. 

My DOC was not happy with the job Stephanie did - he said she arrived over 2 hours late and instead of having 3 helpers with her, she had one 14 year old girl. The linens, he says, were wrinkled and some even stained. When Stephanie found out I was going to set up my own centerpieces that day she insisted that I let her do it so I didn't have to worry about it. I finally agreed. She didn't charge me for that, but I had it set in my mind that I would tip her well for doing this. Most everything was set up correctly, some things were not. My DOC says, when he arrived at the room again, one hour before guests were to arrive, there were bags and boxes everywhere and Stephanie was gone. He had to quickly throw everything in the coat closet and make the room presentable.

Because a lot of this is based on what was told to me and not what I witnessed, it's hard to grade Stephanie. I think her heart is in the right place, and she really wants to help you, but she promises more than she can deliver. After reading other reviews of her, this all sounds familiar. I, however, never had a communication problem with her. She always got right back to me. So, the B is because she didn't really finish what she started and left a lot on my DOC. But, truthfully, she did what I paid her for - red and ivory linens and gold chargers - everything was there and the room looked amazing.

DJ | Matt Candela of Center Stage Productions | Clinton Township, MI | A
Matt is a Mike Staff DJ but also runs his own company called Center Stage. He has been friends with DH for a long time and is also our Best Man's BIL. Everyone RAVED about Matt. They thought he played the best dinner music (a mix of Christmas tunes, jazz, and Rat Pack music), great dance music, and kept the night moving very smoothly. At the end of the night he told me it was the first time he had been nervous to DJ in about 10 years because so many people he knew were there - I thought that was too cute! We were so glad to have Matt be a part of our night and would recommend him to anyone!

Photographer | Dionne Haglund of The Shooting Gallery | Rochester, MI | A
Can enough be said about Dionne? I don't think so. :-) She is happy, spirited, fun and treats you like her best friend. She is also wicked funny and crazy talented to boot! And expensive. :-) She was our splurge. But worth every penny. One thing to be said though - because of crazy limo mix ups and things, we ran short on time and I don't think we got a lot of shots of me and my BMs. But that wasn't Dionne's fault. Time moved very quickly. If you use her, you will trade some of the more traditional posed shots, but instead you will get some fun, quirky shots of yourself laid out on a pool table. :-) We can't wait to see some pictures! 

May 1st: We received our proofs today in the mail - they are gorgeous! We will never be able to decide! We actually got the digital proofs online in March - there were almost 1,000! It took us hours to go through them all, but it was so wonderful reliving the day.

Videographer | Stephanie & Lee of Days to Remember Media | Rochester, MI | A (Day of and Final Product), C for wait time
I have a lot of knowledge of videography and so this was a tough choice. As soon as I saw Stephanie & Lee's work though, I was sold. It is very minimalistic, which I love. You won't find cheesy wipes and slow-mo running, just beautiful camera work and touching moments. Most of the day, I didn't even notice they were there - they were very unobtrusive. Before we even got back from our honeymoon, there was a preview of our day waiting in our inbox. That was wonderful to come home to! It has most everyone we know in tears. :-) We are so excited to see the final product and relive our day!!!

May 1st... still waiting... not real happy about that. :-(

We received our video just prior to leaving for Europe, which was June 18th. That puts the delivery date about 6 months after the wedding. Not the greatest, but still not the worst I've heard. The product that he HAND DELIVERED was perfect. Gorgeous packaging, great detail, and they gave me 4 copies of the video as well as the raw footage on minidv (that's exciting for me, because I do video editing as well). I would not make a single change to our video - it is EXCELLENT. Stephanie and Lee were awesome to work with the day of and always willing to communicate. Lee is a perfectionist, between that and how many bookings they had, that is what took so long with the video. 

Cake | Bev | Waterford, MI | A
Bev was recommended to me by a past co-worker. She makes cakes out of her home in Waterford. Her prices are very reasonable. I set a huge task in front of her - instead of slices of wedding cake, I wanted to serve mini-cakes that looked like little presents. She delivered. She made 150 tiny cakes with little red ribbons on each one. Half were triple chocolate with Bavarian cream, the other half were French Vanilla with raspberry filling. So good! And the buttercream was fabulous too! Our cake was very small and modest, only two tiers - one 8 inch and one 4 inch - with a ribbon on top so that it looked like a stack of presents. Small, but still delicious! Highly recommended!

Bouquets & Boutonnieres | Joy Ranieri | Warren, MI | A (and my eternal gratitude!)
Joy is a friend of DH's. She has been a floral designer for years. After being told by multiple florists that they would not be open on my wedding day, I decided to forego flowers all together and do feathers. I was going to make the bouquets myself, and so I called Joy to ask for her expertise on where to start. She took me to a wholesaler and we bought everything I needed, but when she saw how clueless I was on where to start, she said she would do it for me! It really took a huge weight off my shoulders. Everything turned out even better than I pictured it in my head!

Hair & Makeup | Kelly, Marcella & Maria from Salon Bliss | Rochester, MI | A-
I had a very difficult time finding hair and makeup people that were A) in town and B) reasonably priced. Knottie whrldtravlr saved me by recommending Kelly. She regularly goes to Kelly for cut, color and updos for special events. I went for my hair trial and absolutely loved what she did and her personality! They happened to have an airbrush makeup artist in the salon too, and so she sat me down and did a makeup trial that day as well. It was perfect! Kelly put together a team to work on all my girls in my hotel room. Maria also came to do my makeup - which was flawless. I was worried that it would be too heavy, but it looks great in all the pictures. And I got compliment after compliment that day, and even now, on my hair. The "minus" is for nit-picky details. I wanted to start at 8am, which should have been plenty of time, but they insisted on 7am. And they started working on me right away. It felt like we were done really early and then just waiting for the photographer to arrive. But it is better to be done early than late! Also, it seemed like everyone, including me, had to re-pin and re-spray our hair multiple times. I know I had a million bobby pins in my hair that day, but the back just never stayed put. It was a "tossled" look though, so even if some fell out, no one noticed.

Bride & Groom Accommodations | Royal Park Hotel | Jill Rickard | Rochester, MI | A+
The Royal Park is an AMAZING hotel! I can not say enough wonderful things about it, my stay there, or Jill herself. She worked some magic to get us an amazing rate on a suite so my BMs and I had enough room to get ready. She also got DH and I a fabulous room for the night of the wedding. We were comfy, pampered, and enjoyed every second. The staff unpacked my car when I arrived on Christmas night. They moved all my stuff to my wedding night room when we were done in the suite. They saved our butts with their shuttle when our limo didn't show up. The atmosphere, the posh rooms, the fabulous and spacious bathroom - all of it was perfect! DH and I ordered room service for the morning after as well, and it was DELICIOUS! High marks all around.

Guest Accommodations | Staybridge Suites | Auburn Hills, MI | C communication, A accommodations
We debated between two local hotels for our guests. The rates at the Staybridge were far better and each room had a kitchen in it - which was good for a lot of my guests who stayed through Christmas. To set things up for a wedding, you need to speak to Christine. She is good about returning phone calls, she even gave me her cell phone number, but she did not communicate things to me about their shuttle. I received shuttle information for my guests, but it basically said that it was an additional service that you booked through the hotel. I told Christine I definitely wanted to use the shuttle and gave her times for everything and she told me she would set it up. The morning of Christmas Eve I had a panic moment and realized I had never received a contract or anything for the shuttle - so I called Staybridge. They had no info for my wedding shuttle. I called Christine and left her a message. I called Staybridge again and begged for the shuttle phone number (it is an independent company) - they finally gave it to me. I called the guy (on CHRISTMAS EVE!) and he was so kind - he quickly set the shuttle up for me and found a driver. He emailed me all the info within an hour of talking to him on the phone. Christine called me back about an hour after that and apologized over and over that we must have had our messages mixed - it was on the bride to set up the shuttle (even though she never gave me any contact info for him and took all the wedding day info and told me she would take care of it) but she realized she had led me to believe that she would do it for me. Crisis averted, but I was embarrassed to bug the guy on the morning of Christmas Eve. A lot of people used the shuttle and were very happy with the driver and the service. The rooms at the Staybridge are very new, clean, and comfy - so it was a very nice place for all of my guests. Just make sure if you want the shuttle, to do it yourself!

Shuttle for Guests | All Class Transportation & Limo | Waterford, MI | A+
See above for the shuttle debacle. :-) They helped us on really short notice, on a holiday weekend. They were clean, reliable, and friendly. For all those, they get an A+ in my book!


Alterations & Custom Coat | Diana's House of Fashion | Shelby Township, MI | A+
I found Diana's number on the dressmaker's list at Haberman Fabrics in Royal Oak. When I first met with her she was doing alterations and custom gowns out of her home. I went to her to have a coat made for the wedding. I gave her a picture and she made for me an exact replica. It was amazing. And warm! I also had her do my alterations on my dress - and she made that dress fit like it was made for me! She also did my bustle - a very simple, 3-point bustle - it was perfect for the style of the dress. I was very pleased with Diana and her work and would highly recommend her to anyone!

Bride's Attire | David's Bridal | Okemos, MI | A
I searched a long time for a wedding dress, and the whole time I refused to go to David's Bridal. I had heard so many horror stories and had experienced a few of my own as a bridesmaid, and so I avoided them. Christmas 2008, I was home visiting my family and my mom wanted to take me dress shopping. The only place with an open appointment was David's. So I went. And, of course, I found my dress. It had just come in that day from their brand new line and it was exactly what I was looking for. I refused to buy it and kept looking for 4 more months :-) but when I finally realized I was comparing all dresses to that one, I went back to Okemos and bought it. I actually had a really good experience with David's, which I attribute to the Okemos store. (If you are in the area, I recommend that store and ONLY that store!) They ordered me a petite at first to see if I could get away without hemline alterations - the hem was perfect, but my torso is apparently not a petite length and so everything else fit funny. They returned it, no charge, for the regular size. I ordered my dress in the ivory and champagne color and it offered the perfect antique color I was looking for. I would wear it again and again if DH would let me! :-)

Bridesmaid's Attire | | A
I took a few of my BMs dress shopping more than once but we didn't find anything any of us loved. I was debating between putting them in ivory with black lace or all red. While looking at Watters online, I found Wtoo style 418 and LOVED it. I found a local store that carried it and had all my BMs try it on. It flattered all of them - even the one that was pregnant at the time! The store wanted over $200 for the dress :-P so I checked Netbride. It had been recommended multiple times by Knotties. Their price was more than $50 less. We had all the girls measured and ordered. The dresses came in 2 months early and were absolutely perfect. I think only one of them needed more than just hemline alterations.

Groom's/Groomsmen's Attire | President Tuxedo | D
I had signed up for one of the many "deals" offered by Men's Warehouse for our tuxes. FI set up an appointment to look at all the different styles they offered and the saleswoman put on an excellent display, changing out vests, shirts and tuxes on multiple mannequins. We weren't 100% sold on anything and so we wandered around the mall and ended up at President Tuxedo. There were two different tuxes there that FI really liked. They don't have any tuxes in store for you to try on, but you can order two different styles for a fee (that goes toward your final purchase). So FI did that. He was deciding between two very different styles. He finally decided on one and we set our order, and then the headache began. President's lost more than one of the guy's measurements and they had to go back in to get remeasured. It took them 5 minutes to measure my dad, but an hour to put his measurements in the computer and charge his credit card. They charged him the wrong price, which was only caught because I was there. Every time I asked them the price, it was a different number. My dad's tux came in HUGE and had to be re-ordered completely. The day of the wedding, everyone looked fantastic, but the headache dealing with President's up until that day, was ridiculous! If you must use them, please DON'T go to the Lakeside Mall store.

Bride's Necklace/Earrings | Etsy Seller HandMadeByDiana | A
How do I love Etsy? Let me count the ways... *sigh* Thanks so much to the Knotties that clued me in on this one! I found so many things, not just for the wedding, that I love. And it also inspires me to create for myself! Diana was wonderful to work with. I bought my necklace and my earrings about 8 months apart from each other, and she still remembered exactly who I was. Everything was perfect and dainty and delicate. My earrings perfectly matched the drop on my necklace. Love, love, LOVE!

Bridesmaid's Necklaces/Earrings | Etsy Seller jeweledblossoms | A
While, again, wandering around on Etsy instead of working - I found the most perfect necklaces to go with my BM's dresses! They had a garnet that perfectly matched their dresses and it had a fantastic drop length on it. I ordered 4 and she even made me matching earrings for each of them too!


Rehearsal Dinner | Rochester Mills Brewing Company | Rochester, MI | A
Rochester Mills was the perfect place for our Rehearsal dinner. It was right down the street from the church. We had our own private room with a bartender/waiter that was on top of EVERYTHING. After a really crazy day, it was the perfect place to relax, have some cocktails and some excellent food. We went with the option to "make our own" menu. You pick 5 favorites and they print up a menu for your event (without prices) so everyone can pick their own meal. They also provide the full kid's menu and dessert. Mmmm.

Engagement & B-Pics | Pure Amour Photography | Oxford, MI | A
I can't say enough about Amy! She was awesome to work with on both occasions. FI is not real found of being in front of the camera, and she made him (and me!) totally comfortable. She came out to our side of town and shot in one of our favorite locations. She accommodated our dogs and got some absolutely fabulous shots! FI even put one of the two of us on his desk at work - that's huge for him! :-)

The B-pics were my surprise gift to him for our wedding - and he absolutely loved them! After the wedding, before we left for the honeymoon, he had to sit me down with the album and show me all his favorites (which was basically all of them!) Amy made the whole experience very comfortable and we spent way more time than we probably should have playing with different outfits and locations! :-) They all came out so great and I'm glad to have this keepsake for the days when I'm old and gray!!!


Grand Mayan Resort | Riviera Maya, Mexico | A-
Our Honeymoon was amazing! The Riviera Maya is a truly beautiful place with a lot to do. We had a small learning curve when we got there - do NOT talk to anyone in the airport. They are trying to sell you trips that you don't want, just ignore them and keep going. We missed our shuttle to our resort because they cornered us for so long and then we had to wait 20 minutes for another shuttle. When we finally got there and got checked in we explored the resort a little, had dinner and then totally crashed out for the night! I think we slept for about 14 hours. :-) Weddings are exhausting!

The Grand Mayan is actually a time share property, not an All Inclusive. We were given a week there as a gift from some of FI's family. I would not recommend staying there under any other circumstances because they will make you sit through time share presentations. :-) Not fun on a honeymoon. Definitely do an All Inclusive in this area though - they are all great. The weather was amazing - all my pictures look like postcards because of the blue sky - and there was so much to do. We had a great time exploring Playa del Carmen, which are resort shuttled us back and forth too. We visited Chichen Itza - a tour set up by our resort - and it was AMAZING! We learned so much about the Mayans and the history and how these amazing pyramids came to be. We had a snorkeling trip set up for the last day, but it was very windy, so it was cancelled. No problem though - even though it was windy, it was sunny and 80 so we just relaxed by the pool for our last day.

All of the food was excellent. Our favorite eateries were the little snack bar by the pool and the Green Break at the turn of the golf course. They also had some higher end restaurants - we tried their Italian place, Tramonto, and it was EXCELLENT! Even when we went into Playa del Carmen, we stopped at the Tequila Barrel for lunch, and it was really good. All-in-all - I would definitely recommend a trip to the Riviera Maya!