Winter Wedding Wonderland

Clearly, I’ve been slacking on blog posts, and right now I’m going to blame it on a plethora of Winter Weddings!!! It’s no secret that winter weddings are all the rage lately! For those that aren’t completely onboard with the idea, let me give you a few reasons why winter weddings have the potential to be one of the most magical times to say “I Do!”

1. Singular Location
I’ll start with the obvious, having one, singular location for ceremony and reception is really important for winter weddings. No worrying if guests will be able to make it to two different locations and no crazy long gaps in-between ceremony & reception. You want all your guests to be able to relax and have fun, so why not have everything in one space to make it easy on them?

2. Weather
Yes, the weather may be a big question mark, but that is what makes it so magical! If you’re having a winter wedding, plan for snow, but if it happens to be one of those really odd days that turn out warm and sunny, enjoy it! Your wedding will go exactly as planned, but the weather is one thing you can’t stress about—whatever it does, you’re still going to be married and have an amazing day!

3. Fight the Winter Blues
It’s no secret that living in Upstate NY the winter blues are REAL. Giving your guests a winter wedding to look forward to can make the cold days go by a little faster since they’ll have the wedding of the century to look forward to ;)! And if you’re planning a winter wedding, it will literally make the season FLY by!

4. Better Deal$
Most venues and vendors offer discounts during the “off-season” so make sure to inquire if your big day falls during that time!

5. Less Competition
Have a very popular vendor that you’ve set your sights on? Well, chances are that in the winter they are more likely to be available than any other season. Also, your guests will be less likely to have another wedding to contend with when finalizing their RSVP.

6. Literally the BEST pictures
Snow + faux fur + love = heart eye emoji! Some of the greatest pictures are from winter weddings and man, they are gorgeous!

What are you waiting for—start planning your winter wedding wonderland today :)!

What Should I Expect From My Event Coordinator?

There are many, many venues out there, but something that can make or break your wedding is the Event Coordinator! You'd think it's pretty self explanatory what they should do: coordinate a successful event, but what exactly does that look like? And how can you tell from your initial meeting if they're going to be an asset or completely awful? The best advice I can give is to ask a lot of questions, carefully read the contract and read every single review available. Here are a few things to touch on with the venue's Event Coordinator in an initial meeting:

Set Up/Tear Down
In my personal opinion, I do not believe that any bride/groom/mother/father/aunt/cousin/etc. should have to set up or tear down for their wedding. That is a LOT of work, especially if this isn't something you do every day! Yes, DIY venues are sometimes necessary to stick within budgets, but think about it, do you really want to have to worry about that? Do you want to be dripping sweat the night before or maybe even the morning of your wedding? And then the day after when you're most likely slightly hungover and still on cloud 9 from an amazing wedding? This is something your Event Coordinator should do so you shouldn't have to lift a finger and can just enjoy every minute of your special day!  

Vendor Recommendations
Let's be honest, there is a LOT that goes into wedding planning! There's so many vendors out there to look into and it can be completely overwhelming! A great Event Coordinator will sit down with you to discuss what you're looking for in vendors and what price point you want to stay within, not just give you a laundry list of options. I like to give 3 recommendations per vendor at a time. This way it's not completely overwhelming and causing you to feel stressed out right from the get-go. 

Contact Vendors About Delivery Times
This seems like a no brainer, it's their "house" so they should be responsible for contacting vendors and giving them a window of time to deliver within, but there are many places that do not do this and it's put on the couple to contact vendors about delivery times. The best Event Coordinators not only contact vendors who are delivering/setting up, but also the photographer, videographer, etc. to give them the timeline early on in the week. This will help them plan and get everyone on the same page before they arrive at the venue. 

Coordinate the Ceremony and Rehearsal
Again another no brainer, but you'd be surprised how many venues out there do not do this for you! Yes, you might have a bridesmaid/MOH/friend who got married last year and is offering to help, but they don't do this every day and a ceremony rehearsal can quickly turn into an all night event if you don't have a professional. Not only does an Event Coordinator help with getting everyone in order, cueing them and making sure it's moving along, but they have tips and tricks that will help ensure your photographer gets the best pictures! 

Be At Your Event From Start To Finish
This might not be extremely important to you, but there aren't many places where the Event Coordinator is there the ENTIRE time. Most tend to leave after formalities/dinner service is done and that's ok, but don't you want one point of contact on one of the most special days of your life? Yes, there might be a banquet captain or staff member in charge after your Event Coordinator leaves, but you most likely just met them the day of your wedding and you might not feel as comfortable with this new person who is in control of the rest of your night. 

Stick to the Timeline
Without an Event Coordinator, your timeline can really take a turn for the worst! If no one is in charge of moving everything along, it'll fall on the couple to make sure everything is going according to schedule. A great Event Coordinator will continuously check in with all vendors, especially photographer, to ensure everything is staying right on schedule. I tell my couples to approve the timeline and then they never have to worry about it again! 

Be your Scapegoat/Sounding Board
In another blog post, you'll read all about how everyone will have an opinion or some "great idea" that they'll want you to incorporate in your wedding and you might not love it. A great Event Coordinator will let you use them as a scapegoat! Not only that, but your Event Coordinator should be the person you call when you're stressed out from wedding planning--let them talk you off the ledge! Stress happens, but talking to someone in the industry can really help! 

Answer Your Emails Timely
You shouldn't have to wait 3-5 days to receive a reply from your Event Coordinator. Yes, everyone is busy and wedding season is crazy, but your email does deserve timely responses. A good rule of thumb is to inquire and look at how long it took them to respond to that. Generally, that should be one of the quickest replies, so if that already took a week, you can see a pattern of what to expect going forward.


Wedding Picture Spots Outside Westminster

A common misconception about Westminster is that we have no outdoor space, but that is completely false! Yes, the Chapel is gorgeous for formal pictures, but we totally understand you want some outdoor shots as well! We have a beautiful park right behind our building called Mendon Station Park and there is so much lush greenery that it will be difficult to pick your favorite spot! Maggie (dog pictured below) jumped at the opportunity to do a photoshoot to show just a few great options! These are all a quick 3-5 second walk and perfect for any formal pictures you want taken outside! 

Professional pictures taken outside our building:

What's Something Different I Can Do At My Wedding?

I love when a couple wants to go rogue and throw in something different than what you see at your average wedding! Here are a few 'different' ideas that you may be able to incorporate:

1. Balloons 

2. Popcorn bar

3. Have your dog in your ceremony

4. Have a lounge area or rent vintage furniture

5. Set up a babysitter

6. Bubbly bar

7. Late night station

8. Plan surprise entertainment

9. Hire a live wedding painter

10. Hire a caricature artist

11. Hire a henna artist

12. Mad-lib RSVP card

13. On your RSVP card, make a spot for guests to request a song

14. Change up the traditional guest book

15. Change up the traditional wedding cake

16. Polaroid DIY photobooth

17. Have a wedding brunch

18. Have lawn games for guests

19. Wedding bounce house (yes, this is a thing!)

20. Late night food truck

21. Piñata

22. Paper flowers

23. Magician

24. Set up a board game station

25. Create fun signature drinks

The list can go on and on, but whatever you end up doing guests will love! Especially if it's something you don't see at every wedding!

Our Very Own Royal Wedding

I LOVED watching the royal wedding, but I'll be honest, it did not hold a candle to our very own royal wedding that we hosted at Westminster! Not only was this one of the sweetest couples, but the bride had a vision and it was spectacular! The bride, Diana, had roughly two years to plan every detail of her wedding and she started her DIYing nice and early, which really paid off! She brought in the beautiful black and white stripped table runners and they looked great with her centerpieces from Genesee Valley Florist. There were two different types of centerpieces, one was a gold candelabra adorned with gorgeous small bouquets of flowers and the other was a box covered in beautiful fresh flowers with vases that had floating candles (pictures below). The dessert display was a real crowd pleaser! There were mini cupcakes, truffles, cannolis and a gorgeous cutting cake all made by Sinful Sweets. The weather held up great so we could do Westminster's Grand Exit after the ceremony and then they were able to get some outdoor pictures done! Mickey from Encore Events kept the dance floor packed all night long and guests loved their photobooth! It turned out to be a magical evening that really gave Meghan and Harry some stiff competition!!

Powerhouse of vendors:
Caterer--Madeline's Catering
Florals--Genesee Valley Florist
Cake/Desserts--Sinful Sweets
Photographer--James Kenneth Studios
Videographer--Patrick Howell Films
Officiant--Rev. Eric Kelly
Wedding dress--Heart to Heart
Hair--Leanne Piscula (Razor's Edge)
Makeup--Rachel Warsaw
Transportation--S&S Limo
Spray Tan--Glow Sunless Tanning

How do I Decorate the Chapel for my Wedding?

The great thing about the chapel is that the stained glass windows provide a wow factor for guests so you don't need to go crazy with decor in the chapel (unless you want to).  If you're on a tight budget, don't feel like you need spend hundreds of dollars on florals for the altar. Many couples have purchased inexpensive mums and they look great! The wonderful thing about Westminster is we have wood or white columns that you can use for any arrangement you purchase or rent (shown below). We also move any decor in the chapel to the reception room. Here are some examples of different decor that has been in the chapel:

If you're going to do any decor in the chapel, I recommend having something on the altar. My personal favorite are arrangements that frame the couple, just because they usually get the most pictures and it compliments the stained glass windows. Arches, pipe and drape, free standing frames are all allowed, but most couples don't use them just because it can take away from the stained glass back drop. 

If there's room in the budget, you can absolutely fancy up the aisle! We've seen lanterns, silk flower pedals, LED candles, moss, pumpkins, signs, small arrangements and the list goes on and on. We do allow aisle runners, but since nothing can be taped/tacked to the floor I don't recommend it as I worry for any lady in heels who is already afraid she might trip.

Aisle Chairs
You are more than welcome to bring in anything that can be hung from the chairs that line the aisle. We've seen signs, small lanterns, pomander balls, pew markers, tulle, small arrangements, etc. Definitely not a necessity, but depending on your colors/theme/style it can tie everything in nicely before guests see the reception. 

House rules: We do not allow anything taped, tacked, glued, etc. to any floors, walls or ceilings. We also do not allow any real flower petals on the floor of the chapel--silk only. If you want to line the aisle with any candles, they must be LED. Real candles are allowed on the altar table only. 

Stop, Take a Breath and Look Around


I’ll be honest, this piece of advice comes from my event planning mentor (Yay Events by Jen<3) and it really stuck with me. Make sure to sit down at your reception for dinner (I will make you eat your dinner—blog post coming) and just look around. Look at all the people that are there to witness your love and celebrate your love story. It gives me chills every time I say this to my couples, but this is just the beginning of your happily ever after so take a moment to soak it all in. Think of everything that goes on during a reception and how many ways you’ll be pulled into all day/night—this is your chance to just look around and be grateful of all the support—the family, friends and people who traveled near and far to witness this amazing day. Ok, ok I’m sure the open bar was enticing, too, but they wouldn’t make the trek unless they wanted to be a part of the celebration. All the money, planning, stress, just let it all go (easier said than done, I know) and enjoy the moment. It will be gone in a blink of an eye, but I’m sure you have great vendors to help capture all these amazing memories. 

Sparkler Send Off

Sparkler Send Off.jpg

Sparkler send offs seem to be all the rage lately and we LOVE it (Yes, we do allow them)! There is nothing quite like ending your wedding night with a beautiful send off into married life! 

Here are a few tips/tricks to successfully and safely have a sparkler send off:

1. Purchase the actual wedding sparklers--they're usually longer than normal sparklers, which is necessary to get a few beautiful pictures. Don't go crazy, you do not need 1 for every single guest.
2. Have your DJ make an announcement! We want to make sure everyone knows what's going on. Sometimes it's even helpful to have a pretty sign made and displayed in the reception letting guests know when there will be a sparkler send off. 
3. Set up a "light station" with a bunch of votives to allow more guests to light their sparklers at the same time.
4. Encourage guests to help light each other's sparklers.
5. Make enough room for the newlyweds to walk through comfortably without fearing for their eyebrows. 

The Grand Exit


Westminster's Grand Exit is one of my favorite things, ever! Just because this isn't a memory/photo you can get just anywhere. 

Set the scene: The ceremony just ended with a magical first kiss as newlyweds. Then the couple gets to strut down the aisle in pure wedded bliss. Your Coordinator escorts you two out of sight for a moment to yourselves as all bridal party, parents and guests spread out on each side of the front chapel stairs. When everyone is in place, the newlyweds smooch and walk down in between all of their loved ones, while the church bells ring. No matter the season, this is guaranteed to be a memorable moment that photographs even better than most anticipate. 

Now I know not every single wedding day is filled with bright clear skies, but if rain does happen on your wedding day and you don't want your guests to get soggy, we can always try to coordinate this moment later with just bridal party and parents when there's a break in weather. 

To Tip or Not to Tip?

Probably the most asked question ever—Who do I tip after my wedding and how much?! Rest assured, gratuity for most businesses is completely discretionary—never expected, but always extremely appreciated, especially for small businesses. The rule of thumb is to tip anyone who went above and beyond to help make your wedding exceptional because without them, it wouldn’t be as great as it was! If you don't want to deal with passing out tips or having to remember, just give labeled envelops to your Coordinator to hand out on your behalf! Here is a breakdown of typical vendors involved in your big day and only suggested tipping protocols.

Hairstylist and Makeup Artist
Tipping is usually expected and at the end of the service
Amount: 15-25% depending on service satisfaction

Tipping is usually expected and can be given to them at the rehearsal or after the ceremony
Amount: $50-$200

Wedding Ceremony Musicians
Tipping is optional and usually given after the ceremony
Amount: $20-$50 per musician

Wedding Photographer and Videographer
Tipping is optional and usually given at the end of the reception
Amount: $50-$200 per vendor

Wedding Reception DJ
Tipping is usually expected and given at the end of the reception
Amount: $50-$200 for DJ & $20-$50 per band member

Tipping is optional and can be given after the event
Amount: 10-15%

Wedding Transportation
Gratuity is usually required and can be included in an invoice OR requested to be given in cash so make sure to read thoroughly! Must be given by the end of the night or at the last ride.
Amount: 15-20% of the bill

Catering Staff
Tipping is optional and can be given at the end of the reception
Amount: $30-$50 per server

Tipping is optional and can be given at the end of the reception
Amount: $20-$100 each

Event Planner/Event Coordinator
Tipping is optional and can be given at the end of the reception
Amount: $100-$500 or a small gift

Many people wonder what the 20-22% labor/service fee is for and believe that is gratuity, but it is not. That fee covers the hourly wages for all the catering staff members as the cost of food is not sufficient to cover the wages of the personnel involved in making a wedding run smoothly.

Again, most tipping is completely discretionary and If you don’t have the money to tip, then nice gestures and reviews definitely go a long way! What’s even better than a review is a referral—so if you have a great experience make sure to tell others!


The Tale of the Original Westminster Bride


Many have asked how a very old, beautiful chapel and hall has since turned into an amazing ceremony and reception site…well the answer is simple: there once was a bride with a dream. When the owner of Westminster, Angela, was looking for a non-denominational chapel, she just could not find exactly what she was looking for! The search went on and on until one day she stumbled upon an old, dated church for sale in the village of Mendon. At the ripe age of 25, and with serious tenacity, she shared her vision for the building with all she hoped to accomplish. There may have been a few scoffs and people who doubted her seriously ambitious dreams, but persistence and perseverance are a woman’s best accessories! The labor of love that Angela took on to make Westminster what it is today certainly came with its trials and tribulations. Renovating an old building is never all sunshine and rainbows, that's for sure! But with the help of a many skilled individuals, she was able to see her vision come to life!

So remember, when you book Westminster (and if you’ve read this far into this post, you just might ;) you’re not giving your business to a hotel backed by a huge corporation with gobs of money or a golf course that has membership dues helping to fund its overhead. You’re supporting a very busy mom of 3 who, like you, once had a vision for the perfect wedding and stopped at nothing to bring it to fruition for future Westminster brides.