- 7 years ago
- Wedding: June 2010
Now that we’re back from our honeymoon, I wanted to give our wedding vendors a shout-out as quickly as possible so that any other brides out there will know who would be great hire in the Durham-Chapel Hill area. A lot of local businesses, I think, suffer from not having the time to invest in an extensive online presence. We had a great time with our vendors – we enjoyed working with all of them. So here it is: a genuine, word-of-mouth, no-financial-interest-at-stake set of reviews of Raleigh Durham Chapel Hill wedding vendors, all of whom I thought were wonderful, and all of whom deserve as many more clients as they can handle! I know that this blog has a WeddingWire connection now, but since I didn’t like using WeddingWire when I was looking for vendors, I wanted to get this out here as well.
Catering: Jasmin Mediterranean Deli. Jasmin was fantastic. Let’s face it, as much as our family loves us and just wants to see us happy, they are also spending a lot of time thinking about what they are going to have to eat. The owner of Jasmin, Nawwaf Said, handled our wedding catering perfectly. His prices were extremely reasonable and he gave clear and comprehensive pricing breakdowns for everything he was providing for us. Although it’s clear he doesn’t have a lot of time to hang around waiting for business on the internet (he’s busy!) he answered all of our emails. He was flexible (we worked together on writing up a contract), accommodating, and responsive. The food (the most important thing!) was incredibly delicious – the Mediterranean buffet Nawwaf put together was perfect for a hot afternoon. My husband and I didn’t get the chance to eat much during the wedding, so he wrapped us up several beautiful silver platters full of delicious food – grilled meat, hummus, baba ghanoush, tabouleh, etc – my husband and I spent the entire evening after our wedding stuffing our faces and groaning with happiness. Ask Nawwaf to get his wife to make the stuffed grape leaves for your wedding! They are to die for! I think he is trying to expand his catering business, so please, consider Jasmin for your wedding or any other special event 🙂
Cake: Sweet Memories, Apex, NC. The cake was extremely tasty and Sweet Memories did a good job of working with the flowers that we brought them to decorate it. (We had two bakers go out of business on us before, and we probably tasted 10 bakers in the Triangle area, so we were extremely happy that things worked out with Sweet Memories). Many people mentioned to us that the taste of the wedding cake seems to be last priority at many weddings these days, but that the cake from Sweet Memories was as delicious as it was beautiful! They use real butter in their buttercream, not shortening (yuck) like a lot of bakers do around here. All real, fresh, ingredients and the cake was genuinely moist and not dry. We had a different flavor for each layer and they were all wonderful.
Day-of Coordinator: Catherine Katz, Cherished Celebrations. I cannot say enough great things about Catherine Katz. She calls her job “Day Of” coordinating but she actually worked on our wedding for weeks – and when it actually happened, she remembered every tiny detail and took care of EVERYTHING. She helped us figure out who needed to get paid when. She carried wedding props around (including fragile props and food items that could easily have melted in the 95 degree heat). She moved wedding guests to and fro. She produced a cake knife when we hadn’t even remembered we needed one. She put bride and groom in the right places at the right times. She quickly won over my mother (this blog’s hostess), who was initially quite suspicious about whether a DOC was worth the money. Most importantly, Catherine gave us the ability to actually ENJOY our own wedding – she managed everything perfectly. She was friendly and relaxed, which helped us enormously – when you and your family are all in heightened states of emotion, you need someone to keep cool. And most importantly, she gave us peace of mind so that we could just relax, FORGET about the logistics and have a good time!
Photographer: Elizabeth Larson. Elizabeth was another awe-inspiring professional. She took our wedding over at the last minute from another photographer who found out she was going to be having a baby right around our wedding date. Elizabeth honored this photographer’s contract to the letter (even though her rates are typically higher) and never made us feel like “second class” customers. Elizabeth was the perfect photographer for us in that she was very laid back and allowed us to be ourselves – when we wanted portraits, she was there, when we wanted suggestions, she offered them, and when we just wanted to party, she did her thing. She showed up thoroughly prepared for the way we asked her to run things, and when we were changing our plans on the fly, she was fine with that too. We only have teasers back from her yet, but we can’t wait for more – they already look fantastic! Most importantly, Elizabeth “got” us – we told her we wanted most of the pictures to be candid pictures of real people experiencing real emotion, and she has already delivered on this. Oh, also, Elizabeth has a great blog, she is active on Facebook, and she is the most on-the-ball, detail-oriented emailer I have ever worked with. Elizabeth misses NOTHING.
Flowers: We did our own flowers for our wedding and were extremely happy with the results. We bought “raw” flowers from Cathy Jones at Perry-Winkle Farms and put them in vases we bought from save-on-crafts.com. Cathy is way out in Chatham County, but she sells her flowers at the Carrboro Farmer’s Market, where you can find her on Saturday mornings throughout the flower season. I would recommend a brief in-person meeting – show up early at the flower market and she’ll have a few minutes to talk shop with you. She will do arrangements for you if you want, but I get the feeling she prefers to just sell the flowers in bulk. Cathy was perfect for us. We trusted her to provide the best of what was in season and she absolutely delivered: she gave us stunning assortments of flowers of all shapes and sizes, and we saved a TON of $$ on by putting them together ourselves. I will say that if you need your wedding vendors to handle you with kid gloves you may be initially taken aback by Cathy. She is very protective of her flowers (she was scandalized that we were taking them home in the back of a pickup truck!) and she will tell you straight up if you are thinking about doing an arrangement she doesn’t think will work (if something is too fragile for a corsage, for example). However, if you can handle this, and if you don’t need everything to be the exact same shade of purple or whatever, there’s no better way to DIY than to buy flowers from Cathy and go to town! The woman knows her business!!!!
Band: Adrian Duke Project. Adrian Duke is a wonderful singer and piano player and his band was fantastic. Adrian played piano while our guests were eating lunch, and then the band got everyone dancing during the long, hot Sunday afternoon (not an easy thing to do, as you will know all too well if you’ve ever been to an afternoon wedding!) The band played a wonderful variety of 70s and soul music that was popular with guests of all ages. They played all our special request songs and they sounded GREAT. Adrian sings, but he also brought a female singer with him for those songs that only women can sing… she was great too. The band was punctual, professional, friendly and easy-going. They said they’d had a late night gig in Virginia the night before, but you’d never have known by watching them. I can’t tell you what a difference it makes to have REAL LIVE musicians playing at your wedding. They can respond to the crowd’s energy and create a mood in a way that a DJ just can’t do. There’s nothing better than dancing to live music at your wedding…unless it’s watching your 11 year old brother figure out that HE likes to dance, or your 6 year old brother perform his new moves for all your family and friends. Or hearing your various aunts tell you that they finally managed to get your reluctant uncles to dance with them! There is no way that this would have happened with canned music. My local family is already busy trying to think up excuses (anniversary parties? birthdays?) to hire this band again. We dealt with their agent and everything was streamlined and taken care of for us.
Hair and Makeup: Claudia Gunn, freelancer. Claudia did hair and makeup for my sister-in-law and me on our wedding morning. She did a fantastic job. As I mentioned, it was 95 degrees and humid at our wedding. The updo Claudia put together for me looked loose and relaxed, but it held together perfectly through hours of running around, dancing and posing for pictures in the heat. She perfectly replicated a photo I brought her of how I wanted my hair to look – when I changed my mind after the first trial, she was fine with that too. The makeup, too, stayed in place all afternoon – though I started bawling the moment I saw my future husband and continued laughing and crying all afternoon in the heat. Most importantly, Claudia was friendly and easy-going. She was also prompt – everthing started on time and finished on time. Makeup artists have been mean to me in the past and I confess that I am a very flinchy subject since I don’t get “done up” very often. (my eyes! Stop poking at my eyes!) Claudia reassured me that many models she’s had to work with (she’s worked as a stylist for a number of modeling shoots) have been equally flinchy if not worse! So I felt totally comfortable. She was also able to adjust colors on the fly – I didn’t love the first lipstick choice she gave me, and in about ten seconds she had gotten it off and found a different color that I loved. In the end, Claudia was able to create a more natural look that was perfect for me since I don’t usually wear any makeup. I have seen so many brides get so done up at their weddings that they look really weird – I can definitely say that I looked like myself at my wedding.
Venue: Duke Gardens, Durham, NC. No question about it, the Doris Duke center is a beautiful place to have a wedding. Duke has something of a local reputation as a high-maintenance manager of its properties – and our multi-page venue contract did seem intimidating at first, as did the lottery system that we had to go through to rent the venue. But in the end, everything worked out great. This was largely due to their on-site coordinator, Jennifer Copeland, who was friendly, responsive and on-the-ball. She worked with us when we had trouble understanding the contract and walked us through what we actually needed to do. She gave us as much flexibility as she could with our use of the space and her staff helped with setup and takedown. Everything was just where it needed to be, when it needed to be. And the pictures speak for themselves – the site is stunning.
Rehearsal Dinner #1: Torero’s Mexican Restaurant, Durham, NC. Okay, this calls for a little explanation – since our wedding was on a Sunday, we wanted to have a little bit of informal evening fun with all our friends, family, and especially so we could spend more time with the out-of-towners. So the night before the wedding we had a “rehearsal dinner” to which ALL our guests were invited. We decided to have it at an informal Mexican restaurant where we could have a buffet and where guests could come and go as they pleased. This turned out to work great. We didn’t have any complex planning in mind for the evening, but the restaurant’s owner, Ruben, was happy to work with us on whatever we came up with. (I don’t think he does a ton of work by email, the best thing to do is just to call the # on the website and set up a time to meet with him). We blocked off one of his back rooms with “private function” signs and gave all our guests wristbands to keep track of how many showed up. Ruben gave us an extremely reasonable rate for food and drinks. Everyone ate and drank, the kids ran around, and everyone had a great time. If you’re local to the Durham area, you should know that the Durham Torero’s has just this year moved into a new facility and it’s really fun, clean, spacious, colorful and festive. Anyone planning an informal event should consider doing it at Torero’s!!!!
Rehearsal Dinner #2: Two nights before our Sunday afternoon wedding, we had a formal dinner for immediate family only at Bonne Soiree in downtown Chapel Hill. They did a fantastic job – we took over the whole restaurant and had a 5-course tasting menu with wine pairings. There are some serious foodies in our family and even they were impressed. The food was incredibly delicious and the wine was great as well. My family was talking about the food all weekend. Tina (hostess) and Chip (chef) were super friendly and they accommodated all dietary requirements. The only downside is that they don’t do email, so you will have to do all business with them by phone, fax, or in person.
PROCESSIONAL MUSIC: Brian Howard, freelance cellist. Brian is a great cellist and he was extremely easy to work with. People are very passionate about classical music in our family and Brian was very patient with us through several conversations about what pieces we wanted him to play and how to play them. We had a very informal contract with him (just over email) but it worked out great. The music was beautiful and his rate was very reasonable – strongly recommend for anyone looking for a Triangle-area cellist.
WINE: 3 Cups, Chapel Hill. I didn’t have much interaction with these guys, but they were very nice to my husband and my father-in-law. They worked with us to identify some great options for champagne, beer and wine (we didn’t serve hard liquor) at a variety of price points and with a lot of different flavors. They delivered everything at serving temperature, which was very helpful to our caterers. They were very patient with a lot of back and forth and in the end the drinks were great – members of my family took the leftovers home and were very happy with them!