Guest Post: Why This Wedding Planner Says ‘Heck yes, and here’s how!’ to Small Weddings with Alex Fisher, Owner/Head Cheerleader of Lucky Penny Creative
Y’all, I’ve gotta be honest, yes...large weddings pay my bills. But if I could share one thing with the world on a universal level it would be this: intimate weddings and elopements are 10,000% allowed and amazing! And if you’re reading this right now, you’re probably in the same boat or looking to get on board.
I get it, giant weddings -- even 100 person weddings -- can be super overwhelming for some folks. Maybe because you’re introverted. Maybe because you’re working on a budget. Maybe because you’re just not a fan of big parties. Whatever the reason, I want you to know, it is completely acceptable to have an intimate wedding or elopement. My only suggestion: know your ‘why’ and know your ‘who’.
I’ve worked with hundreds of couples planning every shade of wedding you can dream up over the last 5 years of running our business and before we ever dive into napkin colors and photographer recommendations I always ask the following two questions:
“What is most important to you on your wedding day?”
“Who do you want to share that with?”
I know it seems funny and like a total no-brainer but the answers are sometimes surprising.
If you were born and raised in the U.S. within the last 50 years, your brain has probably been inundated with a million and one “must-dos” for your big day. The rabbit hole of Pinterest can be totally overwhelming to some. And I’m pretty sure we all have that one well-meaning friend or relative that “knows what they’re talking about” and has ideas for every detail of your wedding and absolutely no issues telling you about them. But let me be the one to reassure you -- none of that shit matters.
What you and your partner want on your wedding day does.
If you’re reading this blog and follow Chelsea’s work then you’re probably already seriously considering a more intimate wedding and my advice to you is the same as any other couple: I encourage you to make a list of ‘Must Haves/Non-Negotiables’ and ‘Would be Nices’ along with a list of things that totally do not matter to you in the slightest. And then I want you to own every single one of those desires while also remaining flexible. Because sometimes, shit just happens.
Once you have those lists, start putting dollar amounts to those Non-Negotiables. Or, at the very least, a percentage of your budget that you want to allot to each item. For example, if you desire the most delicious cuisine with perfect wine pairings and for the day to be beautifully photographed but you could care less about music -- put the majority of your budget into food, drink and photography and hook a spotify playlist up to a speaker system and call it a day!
I know, it’s more involved than that, but approaching your planning with that mindset can truly save you a lot of headaches along the way.
The beautiful thing about intimate weddings and elopements is that your budget has to stretch to far less people so you can really treat those special few to an incredible wedding experience while also staying in tune with your own desires as a couple.
I know what I’m about to say is absolutely easier said than done, especially if some of your budget is being provided by a family member or friend who may have some say in the guest list. BUT the one thing I really desire for every one of our couples is the knowledge that, if you really don’t want someone at your wedding, you don’t have to invite them. Plain and simple.
I am fully aware that this is really tough. Almost every couple we’ve worked with has struggled to make peace with who they’re inviting to the wedding. I completely understand. I was one of those people too. Family dynamics are tough and maneuvering them during wedding planning can be completely overwhelming sometimes. A friend of mine said it best (and so gracefully) when she shared, “I’m gonna have to go to therapy if I don’t invite my mom and I’m gonna have to go to therapy if I do invite my mom.” Either way, it’s going to be a little extra work on your part to attempt to stay sane. But at the end of the day, what matters most, is if you and your partner will be able to be present with each other the day of your wedding.
Which brings me to my final point regarding who you involve in your wedding: KNOW. YOUR. VENDORS!
You’re not just ordering cake and music and photos and a timeline -- you’re hiring all the people that makes those things happen. If you’re not jiving, it’s gonna feel funky. If you feel in any way not cozy with someone you’re looking to work with -- I’m talking gut reaction here, not just “oh my god, we’re paying this person a lot of money” not cozy -- it is completely okay to say “We’re going to keep looking.” and move along.
Ultimately, your wedding day should be a celebration of you, your partner and your coupleship. You deserve every bit of grace, joy and connection that a wedding day brings and your wedding crew should reflect that to you. Cheers to you and the process, my friend! And have a look at our Ultimate Intimate Wedding Checklist to get started on your planning!
It really is quite a treat to be drawn into a photo that seems to tell a full story. I love an invitation to ponder the clues and details of a scene, or imagine the dynamic of a couple. Visual storytelling is enticing, and that’s exactly why lifestyle photography is such an engaging tool to be used in professional settings (like selling your products and services), or personally (for instance, in milestones like your wedding).
Lifestyle photography can be defined as a style of photography that aims to capture real-life events in an artistic way. For business owners, this means that your products, services, and brand experiences are grounded in a setting that conceptualizes how wonderful it might be for your potential customers to have you in their own lives. It invites the viewers to imagine what it’s like to actually engage with your brand.
There are a number of national and local brands doing away with the white backdrop and perfectly styled products in favor of real, raw, and less stylized images of their offerings in application. And that’s because sterility and perfection are hard to relate to, and don’t do much to give your viewers’ imaginations the fuel they need to invoke the other senses.
And how about these images? Are they enticing you, inspiring you to imagine the smells, the taste, and the feeling of a warm mug of herbal tea in your hand? Do you begin to envision the sunshine on your back as you read a book and pour yourself a second cup of earthy black tea infused with the floral sweetness of calendula flowers? Are you starting to crave a lingering chat with your best friend, and the sound of birds chirping serenely as the mug rests in your palm?
It’s pretty clear that the second set of photos accomplish so much more than the first, because it offers a pretty excellent experience along with the featured product.
Similarly, using lifestyle photography in your personal shoots to document your wedding, engagement, or other personal milestones provides intimate context, sparks memories, and becomes much less about the aesthetics and so much more about the personal connections.
Today I'm chatting with local graphic designer Katie of Rotanz Design about all things Branding + Logos + Website design for the small business people out there! We're in a different situation than the big guys, we're not rolling around in money so we make tough decisions about our investments, especially in the beginning.
Let's get her profesh opinion to help guide you through your choices!
Katie! Give us a quick run-down of what you do + who you are!
Hello! I’m Katie Rotanz, Owner/Graphic Designer of Rotanz Design in Asheville. I help small businesses, creatives and entrepreneurs stand out in the market with beautiful, modern, minimal designs. I design logos, websites and print pieces such as brochures, catalogs, rack cards, business cards and labels. I strive for simplicity and clarity in all my work and enjoy the challenge of finding the best solution both visually and functionally.
I moved to Asheville about 6 years ago and worked as a waitress until I was able to land my first design job. I’ve since worked for two agencies in town and have been working for myself full-time for a little over a year now. I’m super excited to be moving into a shared office space with some other freelancers in the River Arts District!
What do you enjoy the most about your work?
One of my favorite parts about this job is the relationships I’ve made with my clients. There’s something really special about working with other local business owners and creatives that are passionate about what they do. The energy that surrounds them is contagious and it’s so fun to be part of their business journey. I have to say my favorite moments are seeing my logos and designs out in the wild on t-shirts, hats and cars… I have to hold back from fist pumping in public!
What's the value in a branded identity that includes a logo and custom website? What are ways a website can make or break your small biz?
Having a strong brand can improve recognition in the marketplace as well as build trust amongst your target audience. If people see that your brand is consistent across all platforms, there’s a sense of quality and professionalism that not only helps your reputation and referral network, but it helps you stand out from your competition.
A website is such an important tool for your business! Think about how often people are on their phones and computers, Googling and researching exactly what they are looking for. I think the best thing you can do for your website is be authentic and provide as much information about your business and services as possible. It’s also important to make sure your site is mobile-friendly, easy to navigate and is up-to-date. If visitors struggle to find information or can’t easily understand where to go on your site, they’re going to bounce right off and find another website.
What advice do you have for small biz on a budget? They have the same goals but maybe lack funds this year.
While it’s ideal to have a logo, website and all the things when you get started, I can totally relate to the financial anxiety of starting a business and prioritizing your funds. If you have to pick one thing first, I would suggest building a website. A website is an incredible tool to hold all the information about your business and can work for you 24/7. If you can’t afford a web designer then I would recommend starting a Squarespace site on your own. Squarespace has a wonderful library of video tutorials and guides that can help you get started. When you’ve saved up some money, you can hire a designer to begin the logo/branding process and then take your website to the next level.
Another important piece is a business card. I have those things on me all. the. time. You never know who you are going to run into in a coffee shop, bar or networking event who may need your services or products. I’ve worked with people to design a card before they dive into a full brand design and can charge for an hour or two to put together a nice “interim” card before they begin the branding process. You can also design cards on Vistaprint or other online services if necessary (although some of the designs can be quite cheesy).
The goal here is to have something to hand out to people AND have a place for them to go to learn more about you and your business. These two items are great first steps.
What if a small biz has no ideas on branding and needs help from all angles, what should they nail down before working with you?
While you don’t have to have a business plan, a marketing strategy or a mission statement to get started, I do I prefer to work with people who can quickly and easily tell me what their services are and who they do it for. In order for me to create effective design, it’s important to focus on who we’re targeting so I can design accordingly. It’s difficult for me to work with clients that are indecisive about their business goals because if their mind changes after finishing a brand, they may need to start over depending on the new direction of the business.
I also don’t specialize in business naming, taglines or trademarking so my clients will definitely need to have their business name figured out and legally checked prior to working with me.
*Side note: I highly recommend taking classes at Mountain Bizworks if you’re just starting off. I took a class called Foundations and it really helped me figure out the direction I wanted to go with my business.
On the flip side, if a business already has a website but they want to hire you and switch to a new host based on your recommendation, do you help with the transfer over?
Absolutely! I only work in Squarespace, but if a client has a website in Wordpress, Wix or another platform, all I need to do is point their domain (url) to the new website I’ve built. I’ll then give them instructions on how to cancel their old hosting. If someone already has a Squarespace site then all they’ll need to do is invite me as a contributor and I can hop onto their site and make specific changes or find a new template and redesign it completely.
What advice do you have for someone worried they'll change their style + branding within the next year or so? They're still figuring it out!
I think the most important thing to do is be consistent.* Oftentimes businesses will change their mind on design direction and branding and will make little changes here and there which causes brand confusion. My advice is to own your brand, stick with your color scheme, fonts and style and if/when the time comes to rebrand, then you can make that decision and go for it intentionally.
If you’re new to your business and not quite sure which direction you are going to take, then it’s okay to be patient and wait to invest in branding when you have a better idea of where you want to go.
*Chelsea note: Check out this video from Marie Forleo all about consistency - it's SO important when developing an audience!
Do you have a certain style you like to stick with when it comes to design or do you love a variety?
I definitely prefer simplicity in design. I find that minimal design catches my eye and stands out against the noise of the streets, screens and magazines. My logos are especially minimal, but that’s to ensure they work across all platforms from large billboards down to a tiny Instagram profile picture. The more complex the logo, the harder it is to be effective in really small applications – and harder to be remembered! I work with lots of different types of businesses and can still accomplish a very different look and feel for each, but I certainly have a modern style and always make sure potential clients have checked out my logo portfolio to make sure my aesthetic is what they’re going for.
My websites also have a minimal look to them and while that’s clearly my preference, functionality and usability is always what I focus on first. You can land on a beautiful website, but if you have no idea how to navigate it, then it’s not doing the job.
Who's your dream client?
My dream client is a small business owner, entrepreneur, or creative in the Asheville area. My favorite clients have gone through my logo and website process and then check back any time they need other branded materials such as signage, brochures, stickers or other print pieces. I love that aha moment that I see in my clients when everything starts taking shape. There’s a real sense of pride and excitement when they can SEE it coming together.
Where people can find ya to keep following along your work, journey and tips?
Thank you for including me on your blog, Chelsea! I’m honored to be featured and hope these answers can help new or existing business owners understand the world of branding and web design a little better.
If anyone has additional questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out! My email address is email@example.com and you can check out my website at rotanzdesign.com and find me @rotanzdesign on Instagram!
Many engaged couples choose their wedding package based on pricing + their day-of timeline. Hopefully both, not one or the other!
I've got another reason to consider, what moments do you need your photographer to NOT miss?
Is Grandpa secretly a cryer? Do you have a group ready to dance their asses off at the reception? Or maybe it's definitely NOT a dancing group so you know late night won't be necessary. Envision the day and how you see it unfolding to really know what you want photographed!
I offer packages from 2 hour to 8 hour coverage for my small weddings because this takes care of all the bases. I'm happy to customize but it's nice to offer what most couples need from the get-go!
So let's look at how they each play out based on my experience with small weddings + elopements (for which I offer an hourly rate).
Covers the basics. For my 2 hour couples, we generally fit in a few getting ready or scenic photos + the ceremony + family photos + couples portraits. Boom. Done. If you only need the basics and have a small group in attendance, this may cover your needs. Or maybe it feels too limited...
Covers the basics plus you get time for candids. For my 4 hour couples, we fit in a few getting ready + scenic photos + the ceremony + family photos + couples portraits + candid moments.
I'll be honest, I'm trying to capture candid moments even if we're together for a 1 hour session. But during a wedding day, things can get hectic. If we're trying to make it all work out smoothly and find the best lighting and feel slightly rushed, I won't have the freedom for candids. Candids require some breathing room for the photographer to walk around and find unexpected moments.
For my 6 hour couples, we fit in getting ready + scenic photos + the ceremony + family photos + couples portraits + a touch of reception fun + plenty of candid moments.
This is a great option for a multiple location wedding too! If we're having a ceremony on a mountain top and a reception downtown, it's likely you'll need to add in driving time to the timeline.
I consider the 4 and 6 hour options happy medium package that fit the needs of most.
For my 8 hour couples, we fit in getting ready pics of BOTH partners + scenic photos + the ceremony + family photos + couples portraits + ROARIN' reception fun + plenty of candid moments.
If you're booking me for 8 hours, you likely have a larger wedding (I sneak those in sometimes) and/or you have a full timeline with multiple locations and activities that can't be missed!
Regardless of your best fit, I'll always ask for the most important-can't-miss-photos you are dying for + I ask for enough time to get couples portraits + I photograph the sweet details of the day. Those are non negotiable ;)
I'm always available to take a 2nd look at your timeline too, happy to throw in my 2 cents.
Hi all! I'm excited to introduce a new addition to the CLP blog - guest posts!
I love working with other creatives / makers / entrepreneurs and now I'm tapping into their expertise and advice to share with you.
First up is my friend Kathryn of Evergreen Era Films located here in Asheville. Her films are thoughtfully produced and add such a warmth to your wedding or business. Yep, she offers her services to the same crowd I do - weddings and small businesses! Woo hoo! She's always who I recommend when clients are looking for film of their wedding day or to promote their brand via video.
She's sharing with us 3 reasons video improves your website presence. Be sure to check out her work with small businesses once you've read the post! Take it away Kathryn...
I'm Kathryn - founder, editor, and main videographer at Evergreen Era Films.
I'm an old soul with a soft spot for raw and honest connection. With each interaction I have, my main goal is to create a space where people can feel worthy and heard. This deep rooted passion for connected and compassionate living is what fuels my belief in equality, protecting mother nature, and living life in balance. With time I have also learned to find strength in vulnerability. This is a core foundation for all my films, focusing on the authentic, honest, and heartfelt reasons that people created their business. After all, story and connection is what makes shopping small so special, right?
"With online video quickly becoming a key means for people to satisfy their information and entertainment needs, small businesses that fail to include it in their internet marketing strategies will do so at their peril."
1) People are more drawn to video than text
"It is naturally engaging and, in an age of information overload, it's vital for small businesses to offer content that is easy to digest; if not, consumers will simply move on. Video does this very well."
- The Guardian
Videos grab attention in a way that text just doesn't anymore. We are drawn to quick and visual stimulation. Attention spans are shorter than they used to be for younger generations (unfortunately), but it is one of those facts of life that we must use to our advantage as we move forward. The positive of this phenomenon is that it encourages us to discover new ways of getting our point across and interacting with our world. Therefore, video can connect you with your clients more easily in this technological age.
2) People want to connect, relate, and feel emotions
"No matter how hard you try, some people will never feel like they know the “real” you until they see you on video."
One of the most powerful aspects of a small business is the story behind it. What is your why? It is personal, relatable, and it encourages people to want to support your work because it has a purpose that resonates with them.
If you have a website to sell your products or services, this is most likely one of the first interactions your clients will have with you, especially if they aren't local to you. Therefore, you want that interaction to inspire them and allow them to relate to who you are as the creator. Having a summary film of either your business or who you are is a powerful tool to connect with people on a human "face to face" level. People connect to natural human interactions that include body language, voice, tone, etc and the best way to provide that is through video.
3) Create a more interactive webpage & social media presence
"Videos are good for SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) and Google loves them!"
As simple as it may seem, using all different types of media will make your website more dynamic and interesting, but it will also help you rank higher in search engines. Utilizing photos, text, and video will give your viewer more chances to learn about you and your product while experiencing it differently each time. This allows them to move through your page and feel more and more aware of your brand than with each interaction. The longer a client stays on your page, the better it is for your SEO.
"The number one reason for using video in your content marketing plan?
Video converts more customers. Simple, right? Recent research shows that 71% of marketers say video conversion rates outperform other marketing content."
“Will you Photoshop this out?”
A common phrase we hear all too often.
Cultural standards on appearance have skyrocketed with social media. We all sit around thinking others look perfect and put-together all the time (no way, not true!). We get down on ourselves for being human and real. This is a problem I have to address and contemplate a lot as a photographer.
I think it’s time to draw boundaries when it comes to how we edit and the impossible standards of Photoshopping + Instagram filters + weird apps that alter your face in a photo (WHAT?!).
Let’s break down the most common scenarios:
Well I edit out your freckles? No.
Will I edit out that blemish that’ll be gone in a week? Yes.
Will I edit out scars? No.
Will I edit out grey hairs? Sometimes! If it's clear you're going for natural hair color then no and if it's clear that you color your hair to cover up the grey then yes.
Will I edit out wrinkles in clothing? As much as I can without turning your clothing into plastic ;)
Will I edit out that t-shirt stain that appeared after lunch? Yes.
Will I edit out the flyaway hairs? If they're distracting. If they're showing the wind blowing through beautifully, then no.
Will I edit out that piece of trash or water bottle near your feet? Yes.
Will I edit out that distracting tree branch, bugs flying by, stranger in the background? Yes. I have no problem editing out environmental distractions to an otherwise lovely photo.
Will I "fix" your stomach or arms? No, that's what posing + flattering clothes are for. More below...
Will I edit out your “double chin”? No but I will guide you into flattering poses under beautiful lighting. That being said, not every image gets set up for flattering angles.
If your spouse makes you laugh out loud or if he/she says something so sweet that your cheeks flush, I’m not worried about you looking like a model. I’m sending that pic your way because of that special moment.
How do I make those decisions and why does it matter?
1. I would have to charge twice as much to accommodate editing time for extensive and timely Photoshop requests. I'm not interested in offering that service but there are many out there that do!
2. I don’t want to perpetuate impossible beauty standards by making you look like anything other than you. We need to collectively work towards highlighting the beauty of all people, not highlighting the beauty of over-Photoshopped skin or mimicking celeb Insty posts. a Light touch-up here and there is as far as I go.
It’s hard to define your role in this as a photographer because it’s my goal that you enjoy your experience and the results.
When you're 80 years old and showing your wedding photos to grandkids, I want you to recognize your beautiful self from so many years ago. I want you to be reminded of exactly how you felt that day. I don't want you to look back on a plastic figure.
Hot tips for a photo session you'll feel great about:
One final thought: You're great just the way you are!
One of the hardest parts of photographing couples on their wedding day is if one or both of them gets stressed out.
Stress is an unfortunate part of the wedding day. It's why wedding planners are so awesome!
When you're hosting a small wedding or elopement, a planner may not be in the cards and it's likely you're getting a lot of hands-on help from family and friends. It's wonderful to see family helping you create a beautiful wedding but that alone can cause tension.
Things don't go to plan... rain happens, someone forgot the flowers, the vendor is running late and did I mention rain?
So many of my clients envision an outdoor wedding in the mountains. Rain is most common here in the spring (March-May) and then it's unpredictable the rest of the year.
So what's the plan?
1. When to check the weather: The weather changes like CRAZY here in the mountains. If possible, wait until 24-36 hours out to make the call.
2. It may only sprinkle or you can't wait any longer to decide: You have the decision of what's more important- peace of mind or being outdoors?
Some couples like to wing it and don't mind a little rain. Some couples can't be bothered with not-knowing. No right or wrong answer here, imagine yourself in each situation and choose the one that makes me you feel most at ease.
3. It's gonna rain: Are you going to let rain ruin this special day? Hell nah.
-Reschedule. Some weddings are small enough that it's possible to reschedule the whole thing to the day before or after. It's uncommon but I've had 2 couples go for this option in the past 2 years and I was able to work with the schedule change. You never know!
-Umbrellas. Maybe the rain is coming but it's not a downpour. Maybe you'll be outside on a patio/not a spot that'll get muddy... Worth investing in cute clear umbrellas for all your guests?
You can buy cheap throwaways or get quality umbrellas and consider them a favor to guests.
-Indoor venue. Can you move the whole thing indoors at the B&B you're staying at? At a local hotel? Air BnB? Friend's house? Studio space?
These options depend on your budget and number of guests so think stover ahead of time to save yourself stress during the week before the big day!