So what goes on an RSVP card anyways?

It's Wedding Wednesday here on the blog! 

And today we're talking RSVPs. Did you know that RSVP stands for the French phrase Répondez s'il vous plaît meaning 'please respond.' Just a random little tidbit for you today. 

Anyways, so like the blog title says (because I was lazy and couldn't think of another title!) what goes on an RSVP card anyways? Other than the respond by date and yes I'm coming or no I'm not. RSVPs are probably the second most important part of an invitation suite, aside from the invitation itself. It's the one piece of information from the guest to the couple. It holds all of the information that the couple needs to know for their big day, so it's important to gather all of the information that they may need. 

That said, here is a list I've put together of items that can be put on an RSVP...if that information is needed. 

  • Allergy Questions  |  If you'd like to know if any guests have food allergies (gluten free, dairy free, nut free, etc.); Please list any dietary restrictions...
  • Entree Choices  |  If it's a sit down dinner and your guests need to choose their entrees; Please initial next to chosen entree.
  • Guest Attendance/Specific Counts Needed  |  If you have reserved a certain amount of seats per guest and want to ensure they know how many seats that is; We have reserved __ seats in your honor.
  • Song Requests  |  If you need help compiling a playlist for the DJ, asking your guests is a great idea and can ensure that they get up on the dance floor; I promise to dance if you play...
  • Transportation Needs  |  If you need to ask guests if they need transportation at certain points of your wedding events. This is mostly to and from the hotel that the bride and groom have blocked off for the wedding to the ceremony and reception. Don't forget to ask for the number of people to be using the provided transportation.
  • Other Weekend Events  |  For some destination weddings since everyone is traveling to be there, they could be invited to multiple events over the weekend: Rehearsal Dinner, Brunches, Activities, etc. If they need to RSVP to those event, please include. 

And just in case you're more of a visual person....

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Different Wedding Websites

I have worked with some of these websites in the past as a vendor- trying to create profiles, seeing what works the best for me and mu budget (or lack there of). But now that I'm in wedding planning mode, I'm using these sites way more and very differently. 

To be honest, I knew some things about these sites, but not a lot. I didn't really know how brides used them, what they were more known for or how I should be using them. Sure I check out their blogs here and there and see their gorgeous wedding photos, but functionality wise, I haven't really done much research. 

My first thought when I got started was to use the Knot. They are the most prevalent at bridal shows, I have their magazines, and that was just my gut reaction on where to get started. I also found, and purchased, their wedding planning binder, after asking a planner what their thoughts on planners were. I chose it because it looked simple enough to use, it wasn't super expensivem it wasn't too froo-froo-y, and it had a plastic sheet to hold on to additional papers in the back. I love magazines and get a ton of inspiration from them, so this plastic sheet meant I could cut pages out and hang on to them.

Some of these websites below, I have had free business profiles for a while. I mostly have them just to have them and don't invest too much other than ensuring my profile is up to date. But in order to get the full experience as a bride (and not get a ton of spam to my personal email address), I created an email address just for the wedding and created new profiles with it on all of the sites. 

That said, in case you're like me and maybe don't know what each different wedding website really does, here's a quick synopsis of what I've found so far. 

THE KNOT  |  As a vendor, I've heard a lot of different stories, some good, a lot bad, about the Knot. But whether I truly like to admit it or not, it has been the biggest help to me. I've used it for my checklist, budgeting and researching vendors. I downloaded the app on my iPad and it lets me check things off as I do them and gives me a really good timeline as to when I should have things done by. 

The biggest vendor the Knot helped me with was my Venue. I was able to plug in the amount of guests, location radius, and budget and it gave me multiple options that I could look at. 

WEDDING WIRE  |  I also created an account on Wedding Wire and downloaded the app to take a look. It's very similar to the Knot, just different. If I hadn't download the Knot app first, I probably could've used Wedding Wire just as easily.

Working in the wedding industry, I know that different vendors invest in different websites. And different brides relate to different wedding websites. So I have researched vendors on this site as well as the Knot to get more thorough information regarding vendors I don't have any background on. 

Wedding Wire also had a similar venue search and even included the available dates. Although I will say my concern with available dates is, do vendors really update that regularly? What are the chances that if I contacted a vendor that Wedding Wire said had the date open, but they aren't open and hadn't updated it? That makes me a little skeptical....

STYLE ME PRETTY  |  Style Me Pretty is more of an inspiration that anything else. I searched for vendors a few times, but their lists are pretty scarce, so I didn't find much. I did enjoy looking at gorgeous photos and their wedding inspiration and plan on using it more for inspiration than finding vendors. I will say that on the weddings in the blogs that I found gorgeous, I did research those vendors on other sites and in Google to see if they would work with what I needed. I'm a visual person, so photos are a great way for me to see what the vendors have to offer.

SOUTHERN WEDDINGS  |  I LOVE the Southern Wedding magazine the most! Like that is my absolute favorite part of Southern Weddings. They have gorgeous photos, fun inspirations, traditions, and great articles, especially if you want that southern touch. I've gotten some fun ideas and traditions from the magazine that I can't wait to incorporate into my wedding. However, I wouldn't go there for much more than inspiration. Their vendor list is very limited.

WEDDING LOVELY  |  Wedding Lovely is actually the site I had my first Twila & Co. free profile on. It is similar to the Knot and Wedding Wire in that it's more about planning and vendors. They do have a blog for inspiration, it's also easy to use and has a lot of good information, it's just not quite as 'known' as the Knot or Wedding Wire.

WEDDING.COM  |  Wedding.com is an interesting one. I wasn't as blown away with it as I was the others. There weren't a ton of vendor profiles, the website was both underwhelming and overwhelming at the same time in that it was somewhat chaotic and unorganized, but as not aesthetically pleasing as the others. It didn't impress me enough to want to create a profile and get more information.


Just a note from a vendor perspective, it didn't matter if the vendor profiles had paid/developed profiles on any of the websites. I still researched each vendor on other social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, and their websites and looked at reviews on various platforms. 

And a note on vendor reviews. Reviews can be an interesting thing to read. As a small business, I know that sometimes reviews don't always tell the whole story and only share one side. I've seen a lot of situations in the industry that have two very different sides, so I always take reviews with a grain of salt. If a vendor has one bad review but 10 good ones, I kind of assume that that one particular bad one was just an unfortunate situation. If the vendor has multiple bad reviews from differing people with different situations, then I see it as a red flag. I also look up reviews on different websites such as Facebook, Google, and even the business page. It helps to get a more well-rounded point of view before booking. 

What I Wish Someone Had Told Me Before Starting a Business

Starting your own business is not an easy step. Venturing out on your own makes for a lot of changes in your professional and personal life. This business becomes your baby; a part of who you are...an extension of you. 

I have had a few friends decide to start their own businesses and/or quit their 'day jobs' to go full time into their passion, and I couldn't be happier for them. It's such an exciting time! We've gotten to talking about the ins and outs of running a business, particularly about some of the things that people don't tell you.

I grew up watching my parents run their own businesses. I watched my dad start his construction business from the ground up, and my mom quit her job in Public Relations and go pursue her dream of helping people as a personal trainer and nutritionist and start her own business. It was really in my blood to start my own business from when I was a kid, so when I made the jump, I really didn't think twice. I thought I knew what it took; I saw my parents go through different life stages. And while I was prepared for somethings, there were others I definitely wasn't.

Which leads me into today's blog...Things that I wish someone had told me before starting a business. Whether you're still pursuing your business part-time, or you've jumped into it as full-time, I think (hope!) that these points either help you or resonate with you. Because you're not alone in this! A huge thanks to my friends who inspired me to write this and helped give me ideas of things to talk about.

The first month or so is very lonely. When you're in an office environment, your coworkers can get annoying. A lot of times you'd rather be at home in the quiet, watching TV, working in your comfy clothes. But when you first start working from home EVERY DAY, it's a big adjustment. You get lonely. You get cabin fever. If you have a roommate or significant other, they probably come home and you're like 'OH MY GOD, A HUMAN!.' It takes a while to adjust to that and to your schedule. 

But it gets better! Now, I crave my alone time. If I have too many meetings or not enough time in my office, I get cranky. And if I have too much time in the office, I run errands. At first it's weird to do things during those 'normal' office hours, and you almost feel bad for taking a few hours out of your day because you really should be working. But the beauty of running your own business is being able to create your own schedule.

Since I'm a morning person and my most productive time is before lunch, my best days start with a good portion of work in the morning and then running errands during the middle of the day because it's not busy and I can enjoy my time perusing through Target or picking out food at Wegmans.

Most importantly, figure out what works best for you! Go to the local coffee shop to work and be around people. Or find other small business friends to grab lunch or a mid afternoon drink. Don't be afraid to reach out to others and put things on your schedule. It may feel weird at first, but you'll start to develop a rhythm of how you work the best. 

You're going to want to give up many, many...many times. I have wanted to quit so many times. Or go back to my 9 to 5 job where I could leave at 5 and be done for the day and not stress or worry. But the good parts completely outweigh the bad. And when you land that first amazing client or project, you're going to feel exactly why you started your own business. And as one of my favorite small business owners says, 'If it was easy, everyone would do it.' 

Money is tight. Oh man. This is the hardest part. When I first started, it was a big shocker financially. The adjustment from a regular salary to a 'I'm going to make money I just don't know when' mentality. It's still hard for me today. There were a lot of times I couldn't go out with my friends or travel or buy the outfit that I wanted. There were a lot of times that I felt like I made the wrong decision because, hell, I'm in my 20s! I should be out having fun, not worrying about this stuff. But drinks are fleeting, and you probably don't need that outfit anyways. You're investing your time into yourself and your happiness. 

Everyone has an opinion about what you're doing and how you can do it better.  Oh my gosh, if I had the two cents for every time someone tried to give me their two cents for how to run my business, I would be sitting pretty. We start small businesses because we want to run things our own way. Sometimes its best to keep your opinions and thoughts to yourself unless we ask for it. And we will, I promise. 

You'll cry many...many times. I can't even tell you how many times I've cried. Over being too stressed, not stressed enough, too many clients, not enough clients, my client didn't like my project, or they loved it and I'm crying tears of joy. And I'm not a huge crier either...but as this is your baby, you will naturally take everything to heart. 

It's okay to cry! Once I let it out, the next day I always feel so much better. I come back to my desk with a new found gusto and I feel ready to tackle anything. So crying is almost encouraged. 

People are either jealous or proud of you. Yes, that's right. There's truly only two types of people out there when you tell them you started a business. They're either jealous that you're following your dreams because maybe they can't or don't have the guts to, or they're genuinely proud of you for following your dreams that they are supportive and excited. I know it sounds weird, but it's true. And you'll know which one they are from the moment you tell them your news. They are either going to be so happy for you and ask questions about how things are going, what you're doing, etc. or they'll try to talk you out of it or start with the negative questions about how you'll support yourself or do you think it's a really good idea. Particularly at these insecure, starting stages of a business, you don't need that negativity! You're already scared enough in your own mind, let alone that you need someone else to point it out. So hang on to those people who are genuinely excited; because those are the ones you really need during this transition in your life. 

REMEMBER: it's worth it.  As hard as it can be, just keep going. And you will have that moment when you're working on a project that you love or enjoying your cup of coffee from home on Monday morning about to check your emails, where you feel like this is  exactly where you need to be and what you need to be doing. And it's the best feeling in the world. 

Branding & Instagram

If you're like me, Instagram is one of the biggest tools you use in your business to keep in touch with your followers. I use it on a daily basis, and use it as a way to keep my followers updated as to what's going on with the company and what I'm working. I try to be personal, thoughtful and keep up with the things I post, and at the same time, try to have a consistent feed. It's certainly a challenge!

It's only been in the past year that I've really upped my Insta-game and focused on both the content and the look, so when someone asks me how I keep it so consistent or compliments me on my feed, it is a HUGE compliment. It's not always easy. 

This is also one of the biggest questions I get and suggestions I make when someone is working on their branding. Instagram is a HUGE part of branding, and can be a very useful tool if done right. But I find a lot of people only think about it post by post, not the overall big picture. While one post might bring someone to your profile, it's your feed that ultimately captures their attention and is the determination of if they follow you or not.

Today's blog is going to talk about things you can do to make your feed more consistent and branded to your business, but I do want to preface by saying this: it doesn't happen overnight. Seriously- it took me months to get a good flow, and even now I still struggle with it at times, but here is what I try to focus on when choosing photos for my feed and matching my brand.

Background  |  First of all, I try to use a similar background in many photos. I try to do a light grey or white to give my feed a 'lighter' effect. I personally love clean and simple looking things, so these colors work well for me. It also helps when I take my own photos as I have a white foam board that I use as a background. 

Obviously, choose a background that fits YOUR brand, but I would suggest not to make it too busy. Perhaps a marble effect or a lighter color works better for you. Or maybe a wood or texture. 

Colors  |  After trying to maintain a consistent background, I try to include my brand colors in as many photos as possible. My {current} brand is blues and greys, so I try to use a lot of blues and greys. However, my new brand is going to be blacks and white with a pop of blue, so you'll be seeing a switch pretty soon!

Editing & Filters (obviously!)  |  I know this one is kind of obvious, but if you do use filters or edit your photos on your phone, edit them all the same way. When I take my own photos, I edit each one in the exact same order and only allow myself to use the same 2-3 filters, pending which one looks the best and keeps my photos in line with one another. I use both the Afterlight App (Best $1 I've ever spent!) and Instagram's editing tools to edit and filter my photos. It's easy to learn, and once I developed my technique for getting the correct brightness and exposure that I prefer, it takes me two second to edit any photo on my phone.

Every 2-3 Photos  |   Okay, so now you have the three basic rules that I use, here's the last one I use that kind of lightens the mood...We all have those photos that show a product or event or something, and we absolutely LOVE that photo but it doesn't match our feed at all. In fact, it sticks out. Not because it isn't beautiful, but because it just doesn't match. So I use a rule that every 2-3 (or 4 or 5, whatever YOU prefer) I post a photo that doesn't necessarily match my brand or other photos, but because I do it consistently (seriously, keep it consistent) it starts to match. For example you could do: post 1: branded, post 2: branded, post 3: branded, post 4: different, then repeat. This gives the whole feed a nice flow, and keeps things consistent, which then starts to look like you branded it/planned it out. 

Helpful Apps  |  Well, I use the Later App on my computer and my phone to plan my posts and see how they are going to look. And let me tell you: It has made all of the difference! It's not just planning, but also reminds me to post because otherwise, I would forget!

Additional (yet important!) Note: Be Authentic   |  The cool thing is, is as long as your photos generally follow these rules or if each photo follows at least ONE rule, the consistency will start to show itself. By no means should your feed be totally perfect and every photo doesn't need to have the same background and incorporate your brand colors; that's not how business is. Business is messy and real and can sometimes be all over the place. So ultimately, your feed should be authentic and represent YOU. These are just a few tips that I've found to be useful in building my brand via Instagram. 

Instagram Feed

Branding Items You Should Invest In

In case you missed it, we're on a branding quick here on the blog as I'm going through my rebranding this month. Last week we talked about Branding & Client Gifts, the week before that we talked about Why Inspiration Boards are important, and this week we're going to talk about branding items worth investing in.

You could get EVERYTHING branded. No joke. If you can think of it, someone out there can do it. While that can be totally awesome, it can also be completely overwhelming and can often influence us to spend money on things we may not even use.

So how do you know what to get? Other than your website and social media, what other items do we actually need branded? And even further, as a small business, how do you spend those essential, yet small amount of branding dollars? 

Truthfully, it could be nothing. Perhaps you're perfectly content with stopping right there. Perhaps you want ALL OF THE THINGS. Unfortunately, that answer differs from business to business and how we relate to our clients. However, I'm going to try to help by talking about the things I find useful, time-saving, and just plain pretty.

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Business Cards  |  Now I know this seems pretty obvious, but you'd be surprised by how many people don't get them or upkeep their orders of them. While there are tons of different ways to hand out your information, Business Cards are the steady favorite because they are quick, easy to hand out, and pending the kind you get, cheaper of some of the things you could get printed. 

 Photo by Abby Hudson Photography

Photo by Abby Hudson Photography

Stationery  |  As someone who writes notes a lot, branded stationery is important to me. I always have both blank flat and folded cards in a drawer in my office that I can quickly snag I need them. I have some with just my logo, and some with my contact info too pending who I'm writing to. And I love matching colored envelopes to my brand to give it just an added touch.

 

 Stationery Photo by Abby Hudson Photography

Stationery Photo by Abby Hudson Photography

 Stationery Photo by Abby Hudson Photography

Stationery Photo by Abby Hudson Photography

 Stationery Photo by Abby Hudson Photography

Stationery Photo by Abby Hudson Photography

 Stationery Photo by Hope Taylor Photography

Stationery Photo by Hope Taylor Photography

 Brand Style Photo by Hope Taylor Photography

Brand Style Photo by Hope Taylor Photography

Postcards  |  Since I fill a lot of online Etsy and Shop orders, I get custom postcards printed with my logo/branding on the front, and a little note thanking my clients on the back. For the longest time, I used to hand write a thank you note, but it just took SO MUCH of my time. I had to think of what to write and what to put, it took time to actually write out because when it comes to my handwriting I'm a total neat freak, so I'd end up rewriting it like 5 times and spending twice as long writing a note as I would actually filling the order.  So now I order a large stack of postcards, sometimes I'll sign my name, and just throw it in there with each order. It saves so much time and energy. 

Brand Stock Photos  |  Whether it be stock photos purchased from Etsy or Creative Market or SC Stockshop, or photos taken specifically for you and your brand, I am a HUGE believer in stock photos. I use mine ALL. THE. TIME. I use them on my website, on Facebook, on Instagram, on my blogs...literally everywhere I can. They serve as a great 'palette cleanser' for lack of a better term on my Instagram. If I need a nice filler to cut up busy photos or have a good topic but no photo, that's where I use my brand stock photos. And I'll use the same one in 3 or 4 ways by cropping and zooming in so it doesn't look the same (with the photographers approval of course!). 

Here's the original photo:

Here are three ways to use it!

 Brand Stock Photo by Hope Taylor Photography

Brand Stock Photo by Hope Taylor Photography

 Brand Stock Photo by Hope Taylor Photography

Brand Stock Photo by Hope Taylor Photography

One Client Gift Item  |  And lastly, I'm taking it back to last weeks topic a little bit as far as branding and client gifts. While a full on gift box may not be in your budget, perhaps one simple gift that speaks to who you are as a business owner and person. Things like a simple candle or your favorite snack or maybe even a Koozie is all you need. And you can add your own branding by a label or ribbon, making it a cheap yet nice extra gift.