A NJ Wedding: Red Bank – Episode 4

The final chapter in our NJ Wedding Journey – most definitely my favorite. In this episode we spent time at Fred Astaire Red Bank and the Salt Creek Grille in Rumson, NJ.  Making a good impression during our first dance was definitely important to us.  I don’t know how we would have done it without Andre’s amazing professional support.  He really should be on Dancing with the Stars.  The Salt Creek Grille was the location of our rehearsal dinner. Thanks to the generosity of Chris’s partents (Cathy and Connie – who join us for the tour), we had the most special evening with our closest family and friends. Stay tuned for pics from both experiences!

The best part of episode 4 is that you get to see video clips from our wedding day. I have to say – this is my favorite episode because I get to see how all our hard work came together. Our wedding day was the most beautiful day of our lives (to date).  Working with all these local wedding vendors really made it an unforgetable experience.  Hope you have enjoyed seeing it all in an NJ Wedding! We have so many people to thank – especially our parents and matron of honor and best man! But working with these professionals   made the entire experience a lot easier. Huge kudos to Frank and Teja, Curt and NJ Discover for asking us to participate in this special project.  I hope another couple (somewhere in NJ) gets this opportunity soon.

A NJ Wedding: Red Bank – Episode 3

In episode 3 of a NJ Wedding, we met with 3 very important businesses when it comes to planning a wedding: the right jewelry store, luxury transportation and cigars!

We always knew Red Bank had amazing resources for jewelry.  (There are lots of great stores in our town, including Tiffany’s). We checked them all out – and found what we think is the best local offering – Hamilton Jewelers. Their Facebook page has great info as well. In this episode, you’ll also see Chris chat it up with Arrow Limo and Cigars Plus.

Hope you enjoy it.

A NJ Wedding: Red Bank – Episode 2

Here’s Episode 2 of a NJ Wedding (Red Bank Style). We met with more of our fabulous vendors. For those of you shopping around for wedding vendors in Red Bank, NJ, you’ll get to see the following in this week’s episode:

Mosaic Salon in Spa (and don’t forget to like their Facebook page)


A.Rae Makeup (the most amazing makeup artist that I have worked with on many occasions). She is a HIGH DEF make up artist. ;)

Sweetest Sin Boutique: I actually ran out to Sweetest Sin the morning of our wedding. Well worth the investment. :)

Our amazing photographer, Laura Vitucci Photography. Laura’s facebook page is great as well.  All of our wedding fphots are up on our flickr site!

A NJ Wedding: Red Bank – Episode 1

In addition to writing this blog about our experiences planning a Jersey Shore wedding, and incorporating a variety of “social media activities” into our big day, Chris and I also decided to take on another personal project: filming a reality TV show pilot! Not what we had expected as part of our wedding preparation process, but it was a fun experience and one that is finally ready for prime time. I love the idea that we really went beyond the typical ways people capture wedding content. While we did have professional photographers present, this entire wedding experience was truly a multimedia extravaganza – complete with user generated content, Facebook Status Update Changes, and now local cable TV integration. For those of you that are interested in the the power of social media to grow and change the way in which we live and consume content – pay attention.

I should give you a bit of background here: Back in March when we participated in the Red Bank Wedding Walk, we met Frank Dicopoulos (former CBS Guiding Light soap opera actor) and his wife, Teja Anderson (actress/writer). Frank and Teja asked us if we’d be interested in helping promote the local Red Bank wedding-related businesses. Since we were planning on sticking with all local vendors, we thought — sure. Plus we were hoping to share our planning process and big day with the world online. I can’t quite believe it, but it all came together. Check out the recently announced launch of A NJ Wedding – Red Bank! The first of the four episodes (embedded below) aired last week on Comcast 190. Re-runs of all episodes will be hosted online at NJDiscover.com after initial airing. Check NJDiscover.com for local times, programming or any changes. You can watch episode #2 tonight at 9 pm on Comcast 190.

Chris and I were proud to be able to showcase how much fun planning a wedding in Red Bank, NJ is. All of the people we worked with on the project were so supportive of us during the process. As I’ve written in other posts – you should like the people you work with on your wedding, because you will be spending a lot of time with them.

If you’d like to read a bit more about this project, check out our “Social Media Press Release on Presslift. You can also read up on this on the following local blogs/press sites: Red Bank Green, Asbury Park Press and Red Hot Magazine!

Frank and Teja have future plans for this format. Future episodes of shows will feature new brides and grooms in Red Bank, New Jersey or in the town of their choice. If you’re interested in doing some think like this, you should reach out to Frank! I’m always up for supporting New Jersey – and showing a cast of characters that AREN’T what you usually see on TV on shows like The Jersey Shore and Jerseylicious. Hope you enjoy our efforts and please feel free to share on Facebook, etc.

This episode includes features with:
Oyster Point Hotel
(btw – they have an awesome Facebook and Twitter Page)

Mustillo’s Town and Country

Sassy Chic Boutique (and owner Donna Orecchia’s Sassy Chic facbook page)

A NJ Wedding “Red Bank” Episode 1 – NJ Discover from NJ Discover on Vimeo. Watch it here as well:

Say YES to the Dress: Red Bank Style!

By the time January came along, my mother-in-law informed me that it was time to start looking at dresses. I have to admit that I was putting it off. I did not know what to expect and the prospect of finding the right dress felt pretty overwhelming. One brisk, sunny Saturday this past Winter we headed out to a large department store to see what their bridal salon had to offer. What I found was a crowded setting with multiple brides (each with average entourage of 4 family members and/or friends). With a lack of personal service and jam-packed racks of overly-floofy designs, my visit was pretty quick.

Keeping inline with our Red Bank Wedding planning process, we headed home to keep our appointment at Mustillo’s, an elegant, family-owned local business (for over 69 years). I wrote a review on Yelp you can read, but just to highlight – the 3 best parts of working with Mustillo’s was:

  • Elegant, Private experience. In the beautiful – upstairs bridal lounge – there was never more than 1 or 2 brides present (mostly i had the big beautiful, well-lit room to myself).
  • One stop shopping: I was able to select gorgeous options for my Matron of Honor, Mother and Step-mother. They also did all the alterations and I was able to get my shoes and purse there as well.
  • Designer selection. My dress was a Alvina Valenta and my Matron of Honor got a Jim Hjelm. There were so many beautiful options. I was kind of nervous that I wouldn’t find the right dress for me. I was happily surprised to find my perfect dress – right here in my hometown. :)

They are just in the process of getting on-line now – so stay tuned and be sure to follow Mustillo’s on Facebook and Twitter.

Content is King (and Queen): Capturing the Moments

One theme that re-occurs throughout the wedding planning process is that vendors book up quickly. It is not an exaggeration to say that you should begin the selection process for some vendors at least a year in advance. We’ve touched on two of those so far: venue and music. If you are looking at high-quality, popular locations and entertainment – you can rest assured that so are other brides-to-be.

Thinking through how you are going to capture the moment on your special day- specifically selecting photographers – is a critical step. I would put this at the top of the list as soon as you get engaged.

Selecting a photographer is a very subjective process. For Chris and I it was important to have professional photographers present at our wedding. We know there will be lots of user-generated content created that evening (we are even specifying the hashtag – #stephandchris – and Twitter Handles that we’d like people to use on table tents at the reception). But your guests are there to have fun – not document your entire day. That’s what professionals are for.

It’s best if you feel a personal connection to the photographer (or photographers). Often times weddings are shot by two people.  It’s important you connect as individuals. These folks are going to be with you the entire time.

  • Interview multiple photographers to get a sense of their quality of work and more importantly – their personality compatibility and shooting style.  Are they “in-your-face-types” or more of objective photo journalists? Ask them how they would describe their interactions with the bride and groom, family and guests.
  • Make sure you own the rights to all photography created during that day.  You should receive print outs as well as a digital file containing all the shots.
  • Ask yourself how you want to document these digital files post-wedding.  Will you make your album online? Does your photographer offer a service that designs and prints albums?  Do you want large print wall hangings made? How many pictures do you think you will frame? Are you going to upload your pictures to Facebook and Flickr?
  • Together with your photographers, you need to lay out a strategy for the day.  That begins with a creating a schedule. Will they be there while you are getting ready?  Where will you go in between the church and the reception (if you are getting married in a different place than your reception). Are there any “must have shots?”  What type of photos do you want with which family members? With the wedding party?  It’s great to get suggestions – they are professionals after all. But you need to prioritize what is important to you.
  • Look at the packages they have available: Most wedding photographers have a range of price points available.  The number of hours as well as design and production services are usually detailed.  Once again, you need to work within the budget you have available.
  • Do you want to capture the day via video as well?  Does your photographer work with a certain videographer regularly?  Do you want to offer your guests flip cams instead?

When it came to photographers, Chris and I also wanted to find a Red Bank based solution. We are lucky to live an area that has a lot of successful, talented photo professionals.  When we met Laura Vitucci of Laura Vittuci Photography – we found what we were looking for. Laura’s keen eye and ability to connect with those around her really made a difference to us.  Her wedding portfolio was impressive. We also loved the photo albums she designs and produces after the wedding. We’re going to have one for our coffee table of course, but they also make great gifts for parents (Shhhhh… don’t tell them). Here are some of her shots that we really loved.  Don’t worry – this blog and Facebook will have tons of photos of oue big day – so stay tuned!

Dancing In The Dark: Choosing the Band or DJ

Chris and I conducted a very unscientific survey of some of our closest friends and confirmed our hypothesis that the two most memorable parts to any wedding are: the food and the music! [It goes without saying that the love of a couple, family and friends are really what count, but humor me here].

After we decided to host our big day at the Oyster Point (with its fine cuisine and beautiful environment), we immediately turned our attention to selecting the entertainment for the evening.

When it comes to music, there are options at every budget range. I’ve been to great weddings that were fueled by tunes playing off an iPod system. I’ve danced late into the evening with a DJ spinning for ecstatic wedding guests. In most cases, iPod playlists tend to be cheaper than DJs and DJs tend to be cheaper than live bands. As I mentioned in my introductory post – you have to define your budget up front.  This will guide all the decisions that you make along the way. For Chris and I – we knew we wanted to make the investment in live music – the love of which is a common bond we share.

Before the MTV show came along I used to tell every one that I lived at the Jersey Shore.  I still say that, but I have to follow it with – not THAT Jersey Shore.  It was really important to us that our guests experience our JERSEY SHORE here in Monmouth County.  There is one band that epitomizes summer fun in the MC – Brian Kirk and the Jirks.  Chris and I had both seen this local favorite live on many occasions. We also liked the fact that he was a big Red Bank supporter and former resident of our neighborhood. One night soon after our engagement, we stumbled into the Downtown to find Brian on stage. We knew then that he was OUR WEDDING SINGER.

We thought you would appreciate this old clip from YouTube of Brian Kirk and his band on a day when one of his life dreams came true. Bruce Springsteen showed up at Donovan’s Reef in Sea Bright, NJ (a local favorite on the beach where Brian has played regularly for years). The estimated date of the video is Labor Day 2001.

In case you’re curious – yes, Brian Kirk and The Jirks will be playing quite a few Bruce songs on our big day. Follow Brian Kirk and the Jirks on Facebook and Twitter!

YouTube Preview Image

Where we began our wedding planning – determining WHERE (and when).

The place to start when planning your wedding is selecting THE PLACE. For Chris and I, once we decided that we were going to have a local wedding (near Red Bank, NJ) – we started thinking about the type of venue we wanted.  We knew we wanted a waterfront wedding in a relaxing environment. We  narrowed down our choices to either the Oyster Point Hotel or one of the many beach clubs on Ocean Avenue.

Once you narrow in on a general location, it’s really important to pick a time frame.  We started almost a year in advance of our target wedding date (at the end of Summer 2009) – and I was shocked at how many places were already booked. We ruled out getting married on a holiday weekend as many of our friends and family had told us they had plans during big summer holidays. We focused on weekends near a holiday  (so we could take advantage of one built in day off for the honeymoon). Business tends to slow down a bit at the end of August – so that was also a factor.

The Oyster Point is one of the two leading hotels/wedding venues in Red Bank. It is a modern “W-like” environment with a hip, cool lobby lounge and bar. And of course, it has a beautiful view of the Navesink RiverThe Molly Pitcher Inn (sister hotel to the Oyster Point) is a gorgeous hotel in town and on the river as well.  Stylistically – the Molly Pitcher Inn is more traditional though.  We prefer a modern sensibility so the Oyster was better for us.  Both are elegant and sophisticated – it just depends on your style. I think it is important for the venue to reflect your aesthetic sensibilities.

(photo credit: Megan Conley)

The Oyster Point immediately treated us like royalty.  Our contact – Bill Murray – met with us for an initial consultation and has been there every step of the way. During our first meeting, Bill took us on tour of the facility – including the rooms.  It was important to us that the hotel rooms were well-appointed and comfortable (especially the beds). There is WIFI throughout the hotel and flat screens in the lobby lounge.  And, each room has an iHome alarm clock so you can plug in your iPod or iPhone.  That’s important to this digital couple.  We also love the fact that The Oyster Point is on Twitter and Facebook!

Bill went over the wedding packages, pricing, and even discussed some of the suggested local vendors who they work with regularly on everything from flowers to music to decor.  He is a wedding expert in his own right and has seen it all. He really had a grasp on all the details of planning and understood his venue and menu very well. He also explained all the different budget levels to us.  Overall, everything at the Oyster Point was first-class and full-service.  Working with them felt comfortable. I knew we were in excellent hands.

Being local has it’s advantages.  It was easy for us to visit the Oyster Point for a cocktail or dinner.  We’ve had many occasions to enjoy the view throughout the planning process. I could also see us celebrating anniversaries there.  A perfect get-away at any time of the year.

August 28th was available so we put a hold on the date.  We were pretty much decided on the Oyster Point – but we wanted to check out the beach clubs (for piece of mind). From Sea Bright to Monmouth Beach, NJ (along Ocean Avenue) – there are a myriad of beach clubs that do weddings: including: Merry Makers and Driftwood. As you get further down the Jersey Shore, there are plenty of wedding venues in Long Branch, Asbury Park and even further down in Spring Lake. We thought briefly of those as well but they all felt a little too far away from our target area of Red Bank.

We set up meetings with a few of the beach clubs. An oceanfront reception seemed like a cool idea. As we hoped, the views were amazing.  We love the ocean and most places have accommodations in case it rains. Pricing seemed reasonable (although the price quotes were all without tax and gratuity – this is an important thing to take note of as that is a significant cost). For most clubs, the décor didn’t match the sophisticated modern style we were looking for.  Everything felt a little too “beachy” for our tastes (and not updated). Size wise, some of the venues we went to weren’t able to accommodate 200 guests (our target). The idea of all that sand getting everywhere was a turn off for me as well. I just didn’t see my guests wanting to put on flip flops all night. There’s no question you can do a classy beach wedding and these places are great as well – just not what we were looking for.

The biggest drawback was the issue of transporting guests to and from the beach club to the hotels. With so many out-of-towners attending our wedding, I felt this would be difficult. While some could drive, we would have to consider mass transportation (which adds another layer of costs).

We did our due diligence and we were very happy with our decision. Things to keep in mind as you’re exploring:

  • The food is key. Definitely make sure you do a menu tasting. My philosophy is that the 2 most important things people will remember about your wedding: Food and Music! That’s what counts.
  • Ask for references. It’s important to talk to others about their experiences. How were the staff? Were you satisfied? Don’t forget – the venue selection is more than likely the most expensive part of the wedding budget, so do your research on pricing. Best of breed venues will happily provide you with references and detailed pricing packages.
  • Be sure to ask about any projects or construction that may be on-going or up-coming. Who wants scaffolding at their wedding venue. :)
  • Make sure you secure a room block (or blocks) as soon as possible.  I think it’s a nice thing to offer multiple price points for hotels if possible. But either way – make sure you get people focused on reserving rooms asap.
  • Take the path of least resistance.  Instead of completely blank palate that we could decorate, we went for a place where the décor was beautiful enough so that you don’t have to bring in a lot additions. When you run the numbers, decorating really adds up.
  • Shop around. Make sure you set aside time to look at a few places. This is not one of those things you want to feel regret about in the future. It’s worth an upfront investment. And go with your gut! As with other important things in life – make sure you have a good feeling about the staff. Trust me, you’ll be talking to them a lot. :)

The Final Countdown: Journey of a Red Bank Bride

It’s been an exciting few months planning our wedding – which is right around the corner on August 28th. Chris and I got engaged on October 4th, 2009 in the very beautiful Napa Valley at Quintessa. As someone who has planned professional events, I always thought wedding planning would be easy breezy. I actually joked that 12 months was plenty of time to get it all together and that I could probably do it in 3. Alas, I was wrong. I should say, this all depends on the type of wedding you have and the scope and budget you are looking at. Also, if you are doing it full-time, 3 months could work. But, for the average couple out there who also have full-time jobs, wedding planning can be quite an adventure.

(photo credit: http://aweddingjourney.blogspot.com/)

The next few posts on this blog are meant to serve as a guide for those going through this exciting journey.

I hope that the experiences I share here help inform your process. And if you happen to be considering a wedding in the lovely state of New Jersey – hopefully you learn about all the cool things that Red Bank, NJ (and the immediate surrounding area) has to offer.

Before we start this exploration, I wanted to share a few core ideas that informed our process:

  • We loved the idea of a destination wedding but wanted our special day to be accessible to older relatives (who mostly live in New Jersey).  We happen to be lucky enough to live in a “destination” – so we decided to go with a wedding weekend in our very own Monmouth County – specifically Red Bank. (There are lots of other choices at the beach in Jersey that are NOTHING like the show Jersey Shore – so check out the many great options).
  • Local is the new global! After deciding to stay local, we committed to supporting ONLY local companies in the process.  We wanted to work with vendors that were close by and that are part of our community.  It’s a great community and businesses here put an emphasis on the customer’s experience.  It’s sophisticated yet still with a beach vibe (and close to NYC)! On a side note – working with vendors all in one location made planning efficient and much easier.
  • We specifically wanted a small wedding party – one best man, one matron of honor and a few kiddies (1 ring bearer and 2 flower girls). This was important to me especially – and again, made life much easier to plan. Can you see a theme here?
  • We did not get a wedding planner, but I definitely could see the benefit of using this service.  The cost may be worth it for some of you. I did interview a few people, but by the time I brought them into the process so much was already planned and it wasn’t worth it for us. That said – I do have staff supporting us the day of (not necessarily a “professional” wedding planner – but event coordinators that will undoubtedly put my mind at ease).
  • I am a Digital bride. Big surprise there right? For me, it all started with the master spreadsheet. But I also wanted to find the right mix of online services as well as traditional print communications.  We have this wonderful website (created by ContentRobot and hosted by BlogonCloud9) but we did do print invitations as well. The Save the Date was a video though! :) I’ll be exploring this theme more as we go.
  • It’s your wedding, but it’s not just about you. We learned through the process that there are a lot of expectations to meet.  Unless you are eloping, my suggestion is to try and be flexible.  Took me a little while to get that one, but I learned.
  • On a similar note, I will also say – keep an open mind. While I had some thoughts about fun things I enjoyed at other weddings and even some visions of my own – you don’t really know until your there, making a decision. It will ease the stress if you just go with the flow.

Ok – here we go.  Hope you enjoy learning more about our journey.

Getting Excited for our Big Day: Recapping the Red Bank Wedding Walk

On March 20, Chris and I had a great time in our hometown participating in the Red Bank Wedding Walk.

The First Annual Wedding Walk was created by the Red Bank RiverCenter. This one-day event was created to introduce prospective brides, grooms, wedding attendants and their families to Red Bank as a one-stop shopping destination for weddings. We of course already knew how amazing Red Bank is for a perfect wedding celebration (after all – our entire wedding weekend will celebrate the joy of living in Monmouth County). But it was great to visit with our vendors and see so many people enjoy the beauty of our town. Chris and I got excited for the entire process.

We hung out at the Oyster Point, talked wedding photography with our awesome photographer Laura Vittuci, visited with Nicole at Mustillos (where I”m getting my dress and the dresses for my moms and matron of honor – see the pear green beauty below). We also spent some time at Hamilton Jewelers looking at wedding bands and stopped in at the oh so fabulous Sassy Chic Boutique. And the day would not have been complete without a visit to Darryn Murphy Designs. Darryn, Craig and Patrice are truly gifted individuals that make any event totally 5-star!

There were approximately 30 premier businesses and sponsors participating in categories such as: Floral Design, Formalwear, Hotel/Banquet Halls, Invitations/Printing, Jewelers, Photographers, Restaurants, Salons/Spas, Shoes/Accessories, Transportation, Lingerie, Wine Purveyors and custom Framers.

Brides, grooms, friends and family registered at The Molly Pitcher in the AM.  We all received a Wedding Walk Map and Tote Bag. We hit 18 locations and then went back to the Oyster Point for the grand prize drawing. We didn’t win – but we had a great day. And more importantly, it really helped us to enjoy the process.  That is what I’m going to focus on in these final months leading up to the big day – having fun with it!