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The big proposal has finally happened and the excitement is palpable! From family to friends everyone will be asking you the same question, "When's the big day?" And while you and your significant other can't wait to tie the knot, there's a lot that goes into the planning, especially choosing the right vendors. Like a giant puzzle, they are the pieces needed to bring your wedding to life!

Since many popular vendors book up well in advance, we've put together a checklist of what you'll need to consider right off the bat along with some of the most sought-after services you should book sooner rather than later.

Budget

Creating a budget is the first step for any type of event. Before you can start locking in your vendors you need to have an idea of just how much you can spend. Come up with a realistic plan of all the things you want to incorporate into your day and create a spreadsheet listing out each item, in the order of importance. Wedding sites such as WeddingWire offer free and easy-to-use planning tools; take advantage of their budgeting tool to help keep track of all of your expenses.

Guest Count

In the early stages of planning your numbers might not be exact but it's a smart idea to have a tentative guest list; you'll need it when you start looking at locations. While the number might go up or down a few, try and get as close a count as possible. That way when you're booking your reception you'll have a good idea on what size space will best fit your needs. Popular spots such as Violette's Cellar in Staten Island, NY offer a few different rooms that hold a varying amount of guests. A popular choice amongst couples is The Tosca Room, an elegant private dining space that can accommodate up to 160 seated and 250 in a cocktail setting.

Event Date

Without a date securing vendors is an impossible task. If there is a specific catering hall or particular vendor you want to be a part of your special day, you can always narrow things down by choosing a particular month(s) and find out what dates they have open in the time frame you're considering.

Venue

As soon as you have your date book your venue! If you're having your ceremony in a church or any location other than where your reception is being held, book these both simultaneously because popular dates fill up fast. For example, if you know you want to get married at one of the elope to Gatlinburg Tennessee wedding chapels, book it as far in advance as possible. You don't want it to get booked up on your chosen date! If you plan on the ceremony being in the same spot as the reception, look at venues that offer a variety of options. The Stonehouse at Clove Lakes in Staten Island, New York is situated on its own private island surrounded by nature. A beautiful gazebo offers the perfect spot to exchange "I Do's." With so much to offer, venues such as this one can be booked well in advance, and while you might not be planning on waiting along to get married, keep in mind others are!

Photographer

As soon as you've secured your location, hire your photographer. The more in-demand they are the quicker they'll book up so start making those appointments as soon as possible. If you have a few favorites, do a little homework on each, and make sure their style of photography fits what you envision for your big day.

Entertainment

The entertainment is such an integral part of your event, it's what makes for a great party. Hence, the need to look into dj hire, or band hire, as soon as possible because a great entertainment vendor can book up at least two years in advance. If you don't have someone specific in mind, do your research. Booking a DJ or a band is a personal experience, you don't want to hire someone you've never seen or heard of before. Ask for recommendations, attend a showcase, and get a sense of who you're hiring. Make sure the company is insured, that they're legitimate, and are consistently employed. Most importantly, talk to the person who will be working on your event. You want to not only convey what you're looking for but to ensure you're both a match.

Everything Else

This includes things like invitations, dresses, tuxedos, cake, favors, and any additional fun vendors [think cigar rollers, photo booth, candy table] that you want a part of your day. Transport is another big detail people forget about. Whether everyone is making their own way there, or you want to rent a private jet, this is something you must consider beforehand. While they might not need to be booked immediately, why wait if you know what you want and who you want to hire. The earlier the better; that way you can enjoy the time leading up to the big day.

Between the holiday season and Valentine’s Day, engagements are in full effect. With the excitement comes the planning, and there will be a few fun celebrations to coordinate before the big day! From the engagement party to the bridal shower, to the rehearsal dinner, finding the right space that speaks to who you are as a couple while setting your event apart is important.

Although you probably won’t have a firm guest list together, it is a good idea to have a rough guest count, that way you’ll be able to decide whether you need a larger or smaller size wedding venue.

The next decision and there are many, is the type of affair do you want. Whether it’s your engagement party, rehearsal dinner, or wedding, what are you looking to create? If you want something timeless and elegant, rustic, shabby chic is a popular choice. The rustic theme has a slightly worn, home-made feel and exudes effortless style.

If you’re considering a rustic theme for your wedding or any one of the many celebrations that come along with your engagement, these few simple ideas will help you get started planning your event. The rustic theme is sure to look great at your venue of choice. Whether that's somewhere like Brookwood Camp or our The Stone House at Clove Lakes, this theme can work at any location.

Location

Depending on the time of year you’re getting married, consider wedding sites with outdoor grounds. You wouldn't want the wrong wedding site to mess up that beautiful dress you bought from somewhere like WINNIE COUTURE, so choosing the right wedding venue and site might be a good idea. The possibilities are endless when you find a location that will allow such options as an outdoor ceremony, a gazebo, for not only exchanging vows but also for those romantic wedding shots you know you’re a photographer’s going to be aiming for. Once a boathouse in the 20th century, The Stone House at Clove Lakes in Staten Island is nestled in the heart of Clove Lakes Park and offers impressive grounds that can be transformed to fit your vision. We even offer a rustic wedding menu as one of their package choices.

If utilizing outdoor grounds doesn’t fit into your plans, our sister location, Violette’s Cellar also located in Staten Island, offers up a rustic interior décor, where you can recreate that outdoor feel right inside. From their vintage-inspired feel to the warm lighting, wood décor, and reclaimed furnishings from the original structure built in the 1930s, the possibilities on the space are endless.

Color Palette

When it comes to color opt for warm tones and build from there. The use of wood, whether it’s already in your location’s décor, or from the things you bring in, will blend nicely with pastels and earthy tones. Try and stay away from the bolder hues as it’s all about that soft look. Another great way to infuse color is through your flowers, which includes both your bouquet and any other floral arrangements you choose to decorate with.

Signage

One of the great things about a rustic look is the endless personal touches you can include. From wood signs like an arrow directing your guests to a specific location, to the use of a chalkboard to include fun sentiments of love, the ideas to create a personalized touch are endless.

Stationary - Invitations/Response Cards/Wedding Programs

Whether you choose to order these from a vendor or make them part of your DIY, there is no limit to the creativity you can achieve. Focus on earth tones and infuse the colors you plan on bringing into your wedding. If it’s the engagement party, bridal shower, or even rehearsal dinner that you’re planning right now, bring a hint of the colors you plan to showcase at your wedding to give your guests an idea of what’s to come without revealing too much. When it comes to the types of materials available to achieve that rustic look, burlap, twine, vellum, manila tags, and embellishments (ribbon, beads, buttons, lace, fabric) are just some of what’s available for creating these unique pieces that set the tone for your big day.

And remember, think outside the box; anything goes, it’s your day. Plus, you can even create these DIY ideas at home but pick and choose a select few and leave the rest up to the vendors of your choice. When you’re in the thick of wedding planning you’ll be thankful you did.

Bottoms Up! Why You Should Create a Signature Cocktail, Or Two, for Your Next Event.

The event is set, whether it's a wedding, engagement party, bridal shower, rehearsal dinner, milestone birthday, whatever the celebration, consider creating a signature cocktail, or two, to make your special occasion even more memorable. Adding these types of personal touches lends a unique twist that will have your guests talking long after "the last call."

When deciding on what type of cocktail you'd like to create there are a variety of factors to take into consideration. The best place to start is by looking at what you enjoy. Are you a lover of wine, whisky, vodka, or maybe you prefer a cold brew. Would you need to think about reducing the amount of alcohol that you use so that the younger guests won't have to worry about getting a fake ID in time for the occasion? Does that mean that a mocktail is on your horizon instead? Coming up with ideas can be tricky so if you find that you're struggling you can always ask your caterer or wedding/event planner to help out.

Ideas for the perfect signature cocktail for your wedding

If it's a wedding you're planning, why not create two signature cocktails, one that represents both the bride and the groom. If it's a family event, consider non-alcoholic options as well which you the youngster can drink without needing a fast fake id. There is no right or wrong way to go about the process. Remember, it's all about adding another layer of personalization to your party. To help you get started here are some fun tips and ideas to get you thinking.

A Catchy Name

If your drink of choice doesn't already have a fun name, come up with one. Keep it simple, creative, and witty. Consider taking inspiration from a memorable moment or incorporating the theme of your event into the name of your signature drink.

Presentation

This is everything; you want to go for the WOW factor. From the glass it's served in, to the garnishes used, these are the touches your guests will be talking about. If you're planning a rustic wedding, why not serve your drink in a mason jar? If beer is your drink of choice, instead of serving it in a stein, think of creating a fun label to put over your favorite brew.

Color Scheme

Whether you're hosting an engagement party, bridal shower, rehearsal dinner, milestone birthday, or wedding, color always comes into play. Consider the dresses you choose for your bridesmaids, the table linens, flowers, even the decor of your catering hall or restaurant. For example, if your color of choice is red, think red wine, sangria, cherries, pomegranates. At Violets Cellar, the in-house sommelier is available to work with you on choosing just the right wine that will comprise your favorite cocktail.

A twist on the classic cocktail

If you're having trouble coming up with a unique idea why not put a spin on one of the classics. Talk to your bartender(s) about swapping out some of the traditional ingredients in a classic cocktail with something fresh, that way you'll be putting a new twist on your favorite drink.

Consider the season

Think about the season you're hosting your party and tie that into the cocktail. If your wedding, engagement or birthday party is going to take place in the colder months, what about a spiked hot chocolate bar? Or how about a margarita snow cone? Two classic childhood favorites with an adult upgrade. If you're planning a bridal shower brunch consider something refreshing like a lemonade or pina colada mimosa. These two options would pair nicely in the warmer months and with locations like The Stonehouse at Clove Lakes that offers an outdoor, park-like setting, complete with a gazebo and waterfront view, there's a ton of inspiration to draw from.

Weave in some history

If it's a wedding or engagement party you're planning, how about incorporating a little bit of history; do you have a favorite place you like to visit or was there something specific you drank on your first date? If you love to vacation by the beach, think pina colada. If Florida holds a special meaning, incorporate orange juice. If you're throwing a milestone birthday party, what about serving your favorite cocktail from back in the day?

The choices are endless when it comes to creating your signature drink; just remember, think outside the box, let it speak to who you are, and drink responsibly!