Archive for David Connolly

How (And When) You Should Tip Your Wedding Vendors


Photo via iStockphoto

Celebrity wedding planner David Connolly is here to answer all of your burning wedding-related questions. 

Q: I heard some people tip everyone (the church, the wedding planner, the people who work at the reception, etc). How much is appropriate? For example say it cost 600 to get married in your church, how much would you tip on that? I totally get/agree that you would want to show your gratitude and appreciation for your vendors — I’m just concerned with looking cheap. Is there a magic percentage like there is for restaurants? I don’t want anyone to feel insulted and this is totally stressing me out. Thanks in advance for any advice you have!
– Courtney McKay via Facebook

A: Hi Courtney,

Great question. To ease your stress, I offer these “Tips On Tipping.” To obliterate your stress, I offer them in a video game metaphor with the hope that your groom may consider taking on this great-for-grooms task.

LEVEL ONE: The Thank Yous
Your first task is to extend verbal or written thanks to everyone involved in the planning, design and management of your day. “It takes a village” as they say and 100 percent of the village deserves to be recognized by you personally. Bonus points for giving extra cupcakes to the rental company movers or leftover flowers to the coat check attendant.

LEVEL TWO: Gratuity-ville
In this level you are encouraged to offer something EXTRA to those who do something EXTRA. How do you know the difference between “extra” and “expected”? Collect the signed contracts that you made with everyone supplying goods or services. The specific details of your expectations and a mutually agreed upon compensation, including any anticipated gratuity, should be outlined. Your mission is to recognize and tip when work is done outside that agreement or is of an unexpectedly personal or higher-than-anticipated calibre.

On this level, remember to tip those who fulfill extra requests you have texted like: “I love it but can you make it in persimmon stripes/two feet taller/an hour later/fully submersible?” Or Facebook messaged “I know we said absolutely 100, final number, but I anxiously sent the B list so we’re at 155. Actually 153 plus 2 more junior bridesmaids. Not a big deal right? Don’t worry if you can’t get the extra custom table cloths in time…although it sure would be nice.”

Others to consider tipping: Anyone who provided personal connections or referrals, creative solutions or budget-conscious DIY ideas, which resulted in considerable cost- or stress-savings.

How many magical tipping tokens to give away is player’s choice with the standard being 15 to 20 percent of the service. The Wedding Wizard suggests buying tickets (available in all price points) to something the vendor has shown interest in during your time together (live theatre, sporting events, movies, concerts, hobby shows). Bonus points for giving them out at the rehearsal or last meeting before the wedding day. This marks a substantial difference between trusting gratitude and dangling reward.

LEVEL THREE: The Final Test-imonial
On level three, you hold the most valuable reward, one everyone wants and that money can’t buy: A testimonial and offer of future referral. It should be given to those who have earned it and, as such, understand nothing is more valuable than reputation. You offering permission to be a future reference and actively sharing a good word of mouth is, well, priceless.

1. Thank You = 100% of All vendors/suppliers (verbal or written)
2. Gratuity = Extra 15-20% of fee for extra service.
3. Reward = Reference and testimonials.

Hope this helps you navigate your way to top scorer in record time.

Thankfully Yours,

“Feeling gratitude but not sharing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”
– William Arthur Wars


Helpful Advice For Tackling Your Seating Plan

advice » Planning » Reception Ideas

Seating Plan

Photo via iStockphoto.

Celebrity wedding planner David Connolly from Rich Bride, Poor Bride joined Weddingbells as a guest blogger answering all of your burning wedding-related questions.

Q: David, what is the easiest way to do the seating plan?
Stephanie Ricciardi via Facebook

A: Hi Stephanie,

Firstly, I applaud you on deciding to tackle the challenge of a seating plan. I believe that predetermining the table and seat at which each of your guests will sit is appreciated as a convenience.

– Seating can be done more quickly, meaning food can be served per schedule.
– It allows you to identify specifically to the servers which chair is getting which meal, who has allergies, who is under-age, etc.
– Left on their own, people sit without leaving spaces for couples, resulting in an eventual shift or the couples sitting apart.
– It enables you to assign preferred seating to view the head table, speech podium and/or screens, etc.
– If there is sensitivity to certain family members being in the eye-line of others, strategically-placed seats help.
– It can be a clever matchmaking opportunity!

So with justification made, on with the fun.

I’ve experienced first-hand success with all of these options.

1. Traditional Head Table
The groom sits to the right of the bride, at the centre, then the wedding party (not their guests), alternate male/female along the side of the table facing the guests.

If the wedding party is too big to accommodate the longest possible table-length in the room, there can be two, tiered tables with the bride and groom centred at the top table with no one sitting directly in front of them on the bottom tier (sometimes the cake goes there).

2. Traditional With A Twist.
Same as above, but the dates/spouses of the wedding party are invited to join the head table and wrap around the front, again leaving a space for the bride and groom at the centre.

3. Table For Two aka “Sweetheart Table”
If you’re ‘visiting’ tables during dinner in lieu of a receiving line, you avoid disrupting others every time you leave or return to your table. Sometimes, it’s simply a much better fit, given the configuration of the room.

4. Table For Two Plus Two
At a semi-circle table sit the maid of honour, groom, bride and best man.

Now for the rest of the room. Here are some guidelines, yours to consider and apply (or completely disregard) based on your individual situation:


1. The universal law of magnetism will not cease to apply during your wedding so seat ‘obviously’: Families together, work mates together etc… then sub-divide in matched age groups and interests.
2. Sit elderly, disabled, pregnant and guests with newborns:
– near doors/facilities
– away from loud speakers
– at tables that will remain in the reception space throughout the night (not those that might be removed to create a dance floor)
3. Strive to place each of your guests next to one person they already know and one person they don’t but you feel will be compatible with.
4. Try for an equal number of alternating males and females, unless one of your common interest groups dictate otherwise.
5. Children under nine should sit with their parents which means 10-16 year olds will be too cool for that so if there are enough of them, let them thrive at a ‘teen table’ of their own. This can be the worst located table on the plan as they don’t care about the speeches (they care about texting that they heard Justin Bieber might be singing at the wedding).
6. Ask your guests to specify their needs for high chairs and booster seats. The latter takes its own place on the seating chart as it is a chair. High chairs however, generally don’t.
7. Share your completed plan with someone you trust in time to implement their suggestions should you agree on any changes.
8. How and when to communicate which table and seat a guest is assigned to is a separate matter entirely. I only bring it up to remind you that if you are creating a framed seating chart, either by table or alphabetically by name, it must be completed in time for (oversized) printing and framing.
9. Do your best not to have a ‘leftovers’ table of people without dates and people you thought would decline your invite.
10. Consider these suggestions, then do whatever suits you and your family best. Remember, as Abe Lincoln said: “You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time”.

Wedding Dress Fitting Dos And Don’ts

advice » Fashion & Beauty » Wedding Dresses

Celebrity wedding planner David Connolly from Rich Bride, Poor Bride has joined Weddingbells as a guest blogger answering all of your burning wedding-related questions.

Here Connolly tackles everything you need to know before you attend your first wedding dress fitting appointment.

DO make your first fitting appointment six weeks prior to your wedding, because unless you’re 5’7” and wearing a three-inch heel, you’re going to need alterations.

DO make peace with your body the way it is at your second fitting, scheduling your fitness regime to become a maintenance program at that time.

DO bring your actual wedding shoes as there is no other way to determine the perfect length. If you don’t have them, reschedule the fitting. Hem length and fit are not something people notice when they are perfect. You tripping over extra material on your way down the aisle is definitely something people will notice.

DO bring your undergarments. Find functional, properly-fitted support that will create a perfect (yet potentially unfamiliar) silhouette. Remember, if your dress is structured and proportioned to be larger than life, you might have to be too. No problem thanks to body shapers, balconettes and padding! Choose a colour as close to your skin tone as possible.

DO NOT feel guilty about taking the time to meticulously examine the dress for marks, tears, loose seams, missing beading, discoloration etc.

DO schedule your hair and makeup trial before your second fitting, then bring a silk scarf to cover your hair and face to get in and out of the gown. If scheduling doesn’t work, don’t wear any makeup to the fitting, just to be safe. NO ONE handling the dress should wear watches or personal jewellery that could potentially snag lace, tulle, organza etc.

DO familiarize yourself with the bustle on your dress. Figure out where all the hooks and loops are so you can easily transition the gown on your wedding day.

DO bring whoever is going to be helping you get in the dress and bustle it to the fitting for a how-to tutorial.

DO try on many veils and headpieces while in the dress. If you have a small face, wearing your hair up and off it will make it look bigger. So will choosing smaller hair accessories worn close to your head. Conversely for big faces, consider wearing pieces of your hair down and choosing bigger hair accessories and veils to create proportion.

DO consider a final light steam wherever you are getting dressed especially if you’ve traveled with your gown. If you don’t have a steamer run a hot shower in a bathroom with a closed door until a medium steam is created, then bring the dress in and hang it on the back of the door. With a white towel wrapped around your arm, lightly sweep the dress downward to the hem, starting with the inside layer.

DO budget for alterations from the beginning, remembering the more elaborate the dress, the more money, time and level of expertise required to alter it. A bodice and sleeves can range from $30 to over $100 if laced, beaded or boned. Bustles and pressing/steaming can cost from $30-$100 each depending on length of train, etc.

DO remember that “attire” is traditionally budgeted at 10 percent of the total wedding cost and should include gown, alterations, shoes, head piece(s), undergarments, accessories, jewellery AND whatever expenses the groom incurs.

Expert Advice On Narrowing Down The Guest List

advice » Planning


Photo via iStockphoto.

Celebrity wedding planner David Connolly from Rich Bride, Poor Bride has joined Weddingbells as a guest blogger answering all of your burning wedding-related questions.

Q: Is it acceptable to invite people to only the ceremony (not reception)? We can’t afford to feed all the extended family. How do we indicate this to them on the invitation?
– Lauren Peters

A: Hi Lauren,

Thank you for your question. It allows me to throw down the gauntlet and suggest that, “We can’t afford to feed all the extended family” actually means “We don’t want the extended family at our reception, otherwise we would have prioritized our planning to make that possible.”

No judgement. It’s your prerogative, but be clear that your day is designed by your priorities. Don’t blame the budget.

Any budget number can divide into any number of guests and result in a heart-felt affair. A small budget can host 300 people at an alcohol-free BYO-BBQ in a park accessible by public transit with an mp3 dock and visit from an ice cream truck. The same budget could chauffeur 12 of your closest friends to meet you for a night at the finest restaurant in the city.

How can you establish your priorities? Start by answering these questions:

1. Why are we getting married?
2. Why are we having a wedding?

The most common reason to get married is to become a family and a wedding is generally the celebration of becoming that family with…your family. Who and how big in numbers your “family” is can be determined by making a list, in order of importance, of who you want to be there. Whose support you’d like as you promise to love someone forever. Then draw a line where the list divides between “must-have” and “negotiable”. There, all done. Your guest list should be the “must-haves”, for they represent your chosen family and you don’t need anyone else. Let the “negotiables” and “would-be ceremony-only” guests off the hook. Chances are anyone you invite because you think you have to will attend only because they think they have to. And that is not the stuff miracles are made of.

My advice: Only invite guests that you can “afford” to have with you all day long.

Hope that’s helpful,


David Connolly is the owner of Aisle File, Toronto’s premiere wedding agency. He was a contributing author to Rich Bride, Poor Bride’s Ultimate Wedding Planning Guide and is a recurring wedding advisor on Entertainment Tonight Canada, Breakfast Television and is a series expert on Big Voice, currently airing on the Oprah Winfrey Network.

10 Ways To Avoid Winter Wedding Weather Worries

advice » Planning

Photo courtesy iStockphoto

Celebrity wedding planner David Connolly from Rich Bride, Poor Bride has joined Weddingbells as a guest blogger answering all of your burning wedding-related questions.

Are the risks of an unpredictable forecast worth the reward of the magic (and often cost savings) winter weddings bring? Absolutely! Here are some tips to help you navigate through the unique challenges the season brings.

1.  HIDE
If Mother Nature creates a vista that isn’t in your vision you can rent a walled, entrance canopy tent to keep your guests protected from the weather and the less than perfect scenery. Likewise, if the view from the reception room is of a storm that might cause guest anxiety/early departure or is of mud-puddled, frosted grass that looks nothing like view in the brochure, consider changing the view either by drawing the curtains, installing semi-opaque sheers over the windows or focusing the attention on you through lighting and a gorgeous backdrop.

A comfortable, well-functioning coat check area is vital and an easy DIY project if one isn’t available at your venue(s). You’ll need: Standard-sized coat racks (large enough to accommodate approximately 30 coats each) as well as perforated ‘double-numbered’ tickets pre-hung on the hangars to aid in recovery. There should also be ample, available seating to change out of snow/rain boots into dry shoes and a place to store the wet footwear. Finally, stickers or tags guests can write their name on and affix to their umbrellas makes returning a mass of black umbrellas easier at the end of the night. If guests choose to wear snowy or muddy footwear into the ceremony space, make sure they walk around the centre aisle to their seats and that any foot wiping mats are removed before the bride’s entrance.

Be sure your vendor contracts include an ‘Act of God’ clause in the unlikely event that a blizzard or freak sleet storm prevents your wedding from happening. You may also want to research the growing popularity of wedding insurance.

If a sparkling snowy wonderland is vital to the success of your vision renting an artificial snow-making machine, the kind used for ski hills or movies, provides a guarantee. Their rental cost is variable depending on the surface area and amount you desire. For example: A machine that can produce 2.5 tons of artificial snow rents for approximately $2500.

5.  MAKE
Have a phone call chain of people in place to communicate with your guests and vendors should your day be postponed. Or supply a number to your guests to call if it becomes a day-of decision.

6.  TAKE
Remind your guests to include extra, weather-related travel time in their planning.

Typically groomsmen who don’t have appropriate overcoats to wear with their tuxedos or suits forgo outerwear all together. This is a mistake as they will be called upon in inclement weather to help get people safely to their cars or shuttle buses. Tell them to forgo style for a warm coat, gloves and hat to protect them from harsh weather. One of them should also be responsible for creating and transporting an inclement weather ’emergency kit’ of salt, anti-freeze, an extra windshield scraper, jumper cables and an emergency flashlight.

Brides should have vehicles large enough to accommodate the dress, coat, stole, wrap and umbrella. If time allows, travel in sweats and dress at your venues if the possibility of getting water or mud and slush on your dress are irreversible. Otherwise, a contingent of people to lift hems and carry umbrellas will be required.

Ask your venue rep what their specific ‘weather’ procedures are. Do they have on-site staff to shovel and salt? How busy is the local plowing company they use? How soon before your arrival are their driveways, parking lots and walkways cleared? Do they have golf umbrellas available for your use?

10.  WISH
Make peace with fact that anything is possible, everything is subject to change and that adding the intense emotions of a wedding to the already highly emotional holiday season requires patience, preparation, humour and balance.

Find David on Facebook at

How To Create An Intimate Atmosphere In A Large Wedding Venue

advice » Planning » Planning » Wedding Decor

Celebrity wedding planner David Connolly from Rich Bride, Poor Bride has joined Weddingbells as a guest blogger answering all of your burning wedding-related questions. Need some help with the planning process? Have a question about etiquette, organization or budgeting? Post your question in the comment field below and we’ll forward it directly to David.

Here is this week’s reader question:

Q: We have a large space for our wedding (we are using it for both the ceremony and the reception). Do you have any suggestions for making the transition from ceremony to reception easy and what is a good way to make a large space feel intimate?
– Candace Getten via Facebook

A: Hi Candace! Congrats on your engagement and thanks for your questions.

First, here’s a tried and true way to create a seamless transition between a ceremony and reception being held in the same place: During the signing portion of the ceremony, have wait staff pass champagne/sparkling wine and sparkling water to your guests. Traditionally, only minutes remain before the officiant can conclude by inviting everyone to join in the first toast to Mr & Mrs…then, the happy couple physically lead their guests to wherever they wish them to be next. With a drink in hand and the right musical segue at the next space your cocktail party will seem to have started effortlessly.

Here are some bubbly cocktail recipes that you’ll have to keep taste-testing until they’re perfect (these are the sacrifices we make for our guests!)

1 sugar cube
1 dash bitters
1/2 cup chilled champagne
Lemon peel
Stir sugar and bitters in pre-chilled champagne glass. Add champagne. Twist lemon peel over and drop into glass.

2 parts champagne
1 part orange liqueur

2 parts champagne
1 part peach juice or peach puree

6 ounces champagne
1.5 teaspoons of lavender syrup
Served with lavender sprig (or try ginger syrup)

As for your second question, I think the most effective (and cost-effective!) way to make a large space (or any space for that matter) feel more intimate is with lighting. Candlelight only in the space you are using is a great first step. Whether it is produced by actual candles or a manufactured lighting design, go for “just bright enough to see your food and safely navigate the room.”

Check to see if the existing ceiling lights are controlled in sections and if so, check if they are on dimmers, or just controlled by on/off switches. Consider this when creating your floor plan, seating the head table under the brightest lights. If all of your lights are all on one circuit and ‘off’ is too dark, consider fabric swags on the ceiling to diffuse the light, lighting gels, or removing the bulbs from some of the fixtures.

Choosing table linens and draping in deep, warm tones and rich textures will absorb light and can make a room feel smaller (deep, warm and rich doesn’t neccessarily mean depressing and gothic… what about burnt orange, honey and merlot? charcoal, chocolate, teal and cherry?) If picking a pattern, be bold and pick the biggest scale available. The same is true with your centrepieces: big-scale basics over small and fussy, which will make the ceiling seem even higher. Cover or obscure any existing mirrors if possible and finally, ask the venue if they have any plants, shrubs, folding screens, fencing, planters or projection screens that can help delineate your space.

Find David on Facebook at

Where Should The Majority Of Your Wedding Budget Be Spent? We’ll Tell You.

advice » Planning

Image courtesy

Celebrity wedding planner David Connolly from Rich Bride, Poor Bride has joined Weddingbells as a guest blogger answering all of your burning wedding-related questions.

Q: Where do you think the most important part of your budget should go to on your big day?
– Melissa Ann Dorey via Facebook

A: Hi Melissa,

This is completely up to the priorities you have set as a couple when creating your overall budget. It’s usually determined by your culture, custom and desires.

Traditionally 40% to 50% is allocated for reception venue costs: staffing, food and beverages, taxes and tip, which makes it the “most” but not always the most “important.” Most brides will argue that the most important element is the gown, even though total attire costs, including accessories and the groom’s suit, usually only make up 10% of the entire budget.

For some, however, a destination or photography trumps an expensive wedding wardrobe. So you see, it’s completely dependent on how you’ve decided to bring your vision to life.

The good news is that by asking the question, it indicates that you realize the most important part of wedding planning is creating a comprehensive, realistic budget. When dividing your total figure amongst these line items, you are setting your priorities and the “most important” or “most costly” elements will appear as a result.

Hope this helps!


Find David on Facebook at

9 Reasons You Should Make Your Own “Collectables” Centrepieces (And How To Do It)

advice » Planning » Planning » Wedding Decor

Sneak peek of a wedding I was thrilled to produce collectable centrepieces for. Photography by Jen Aaron.

Celebrity wedding planner David Connolly from Rich Bride, Poor Bride has joined Weddingbells as a guest blogger answering all of your burning wedding-related questions. Need some help with the planning process? Have a question about etiquette, organization or budgeting? Post your question in the comment field below and we’ll forward it directly to David.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! This blog entry transcends a question to give thanks to my grandmother and all she taught me about this career, and life. It is inspired by her knack for throwing a curtain on a card table while filling an empty lemonade pitcher with lilacs from the backyard, all in the time it took for unexpected or forgotten guests to walk from the curb to the porch and be greeted by the screen door swinging open accompanied by her singing, “Finally!”

So when I read about “personalized, found-object collectable centrepieces” being a wedding trend for 2012, I think, “Trend? Me arse. Tanks ma b’ye but we be doin dat dare ting since Judas Priest made Sundees. Now G’waywitcha and yer trends before I puck ya in da moute.”

Or more simply put, ‘Thanks Nanni for truly instilling the belief in me that, “There’s always room for one more at our table.” And the skill-set to ensure that our table would win if there was ever an impromptu, “Who has the nicest table within four blocks?” random, might never happen, competition.

9 Reasons You Should Consider Making “Collectables” Centrepieces

1. Although popularly related to ‘vintage shabby chic’ or beach themes, this method can help create any level of formality or style. Whimsical? Of an era? Minimal? Dramatic? Romantic? Cultural? All of the above? It’s the selection of objects that define the vision.
2. Ultimately visual cohesion will exist through a colour scheme and common textures but don’t be rushed to establish them. Let your initial decor scavenger hunts and ongoing familiarization with the reception room allow must-have pieces, fabrics and/or finishes to inspire you.
3. Places to look: Flea markets, garage sales, attics, basements, closets, your aunt’s lavender farm, your uncle’s tool shed, Craigslist/Kajiji.
4. Choose objects that might elicit guest conversation or possible interaction: photos in a wooden recipe box, a real trophy, newspaper clippings about guests in a journal, a sailor hat on a stand that your grandfather wore when he proposed to the pill box hat at the next table over.
5. Don’t let colour or original purpose prevent you from considering a find that you love… you can change the colour or finish of almost anything and you’ll be surprised at how elegant pheasant feathers coming out of an upside down chandelier can look.
6. Collecting, shopping, packing, recording, transporting, cleaning and setting up on the day takes longer than you think and requires you to enroll a dedicated helper in the plan — far enough in advance that you trust them to make changes.
7. Full marks for sustainability! One stop further on the eco train would be to double your guest favours as decor by incorporating them into your table design. Kitchen herbs planted in 10 terracotta pots or mason jars or soup tins, leather bound books, gorgeous vintage ornaments in a cut crystal punch bowl or hanging from a branch standing in an antique ice bucket, jars of candy, or cupcakes and candles.
8. You don’t have to give the centrepieces away. Especially if their contents include early shower or wedding gifts that suit: the teapot, the photo-frame cube, martini glasses with floating dahlias, the birdcage, crystal candlesticks…
9. Permanent botanical keepsakes like assorted hob-knob milk glass vases holding paper flowers made out of whatever suits the couple best…paperback novels, copies of the wedding vows, sheet music, maps, or fabric flowers in apothecary jars.

Yours in Gobble, Gobble Gratitude (and especially you Nanni…I love you more than Jello),
(aka Captain Collectables)

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The Top 5 Reasons To Have An Unplugged Ceremony (And How To Explain The Concept To Your Guests)

advice » Planning » Ceremony Ideas » Planning

Celebrity wedding planner David Connolly from Rich Bride, Poor Bride has joined Weddingbells as a guest blogger answering all of your burning wedding-related questions. Need some help with the planning process? Have a question about etiquette, organization or budgeting? Post your question in the comment field below and we’ll forward it directly to David.

Here is this week’s reader question:

Q: “I am getting married in 18 months and I would like to “ban” cameras from the wedding and reception. I do NOT want photos of my wedding posted on Facebook without my consent and to be honest, I am paying a very large sum of money to a professional photographer so it should be ME that gets to share photos of my wedding, not other people. We are happy to provide professional photos to anyone who wishes to have them for their own personal use. How should I deal with this situation?”
– Jen Gibson

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Expert Advice On Thank You Card Etiquette

advice » Planning

Celebrity wedding planner David Connolly from Rich Bride, Poor Bride has joined Weddingbells as a guest blogger answering all of your burning wedding-related questions. Need some help with the planning process? Have a question about etiquette, organization or budgeting? Post your question in the comment field below and we’ll forward it directly to David.

Here is this week’s reader question:

Q: “I was married three weeks ago and have just returned from my honeymoon. We have not sent out thank you cards yet. When should they be sent out by? Thanks!”
– Amelia Sirianni

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