Advice For a Stress Free Wedding Day!

Recently, I’ve had the pleasure of collaborating with San Diego Party Ride, a local luxury limousine company. They compiled a list of advice from wedding planners all over the San Diego metro. As a featured participant, I’ve been given a wonderful opportunity to offer my advice on how to bring together the two families for a wedding.  As a lot of you know, this can be harder than it seems!


At Your Side Planning is thrilled to be part of this interesting piece! With all the different opinions shared by other wedding planners, I believe this is a great resource for any bride and grooms out there currently preparing for their wedding. Keep in mind that your wedding is a unique time and the memory of this day will forever last. Check out the article HERE, you might learn a thing or two on uniting your families on that big day of yours!


Photography: Chaz Cruz

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Bridal Party Gifts

Wedding gift ideas for the bridal party.

You’ve planned the wedding and are feeling a sense of relief.   Hold on.  You’re not done yet… Bridal party gifts are still on your list! Trying to come up with new, fresh ideas for bridal parties can be tough. Start by searching Pinterest and Etsy to get your creative vibes flowing.  Next, think unique, think about something that means something to you and your future husband or wife. Some brides choose to gift their ladies with accessories for the wedding day such as jewelry, purses or robes for the morning of the wedding! A bride that taught English in Japan gave her bridesmaids kimonos to wear while getting ready for the wedding.  A small wooden crate filled with some special soaps, alcohol, candy, can always make a great gift when thoughtfully presented.  A mini bar in a jar packed with your favorite mini alcohol bottles will always be everyone’s favorite.

Getting Ready-0915

Although most would love Tiffanys jewelry, it’s not in the budget for many.  A nice alternative is a personalized necklace, bracelet, or ring from Etsy which coordinates to a spot you and each person loves (Think favorite restaurant, vacation spot, college dorm, sorority house, where you hang out with each person).  With a little thought, you can put together a gift all will adore no matter your budget.

Bridal Party-1010

Photo credit: Photography by Anjuli

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Unique Favor Ideas

Can’t decide what your perfect fit wedding party favor is for your special day? Look no further and get off of Pinterest, because we made you a list of the most loved wedding favors of 2016  guests can’t stop talking about. Leaving your guest with an unforgettable special gift  to take home at the end of the night will make your guests  feel like they are an important part of your most memorable day. We love photobooth photos as a great way to say thank you for celebrating with us. Photobooths are always fun for everyone!

160123_Mortazavi_603Photo by: Chaz Cruz

Don’t let them leave the fun. Make them take it home by creating personalized engraved bottle openers. Every time they use their unique bottle opener they will remember your special day and fun times they had with you. Continue reading

Creating your own Photobooth!

Photo stations have become part of the wedding reception culture. Without a doubt when you attend a wedding these days, there will be a photo booth or photo station! They are interactive, fun and a great way for guests to meet one another.

If a professional photo booth is not in your budget, don’t worry! There are many cost effective ways to create your own photo station without breaking the bank. The first step is to scope out your venue and decide on the best location. The ideal spot is somewhere with a solid wall or a place to hang a backdrop. If you choose to use a backdrop you can purchase a solid or designed sheet, curtain or tapestry. You can even make your own by ripping different solid colored sheets into strips and hanging them. Use a bamboo curtain for a tropical themed wedding or make a sparkly curtain with little round mirrors glued to string. Not too crafty? Choose a shower curtain with a map on it and have guests color in where they’re from with markers!


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Sponsors in Weddings! Who are these people?

Last year we planned and coordinated many weddings in which sponsors were part of the ceremonies. Sponsors are people who are special to the bride and groom, such as family members, who hold key roles in the ceremony such as holding a special items like a the bible, coins, the cord, or veil. These items are tradition within Catholic ceremonies. This is a cultural tradition that began many years ago when sponsors were there to assist the couple financially. Today it is significant more so as honoring those close to the couple. The sponsors names are included in the program and they are part of the ceremony processional, entering after family and prior to the bridal party. Some couples include the sponsors names on the wedding invitations as well.

Ceremony_241-LThank you Torrico Photography

Celia and Kevin had all the items listed included in their ceremony and chose those people who meant alot to them to be sponsors. In the past year, the majority of our weddings included sponsors; at least 4 couples! Each bride and groom have different preferences on choosing the ways to incorporate their sponsors. One couple chose to pair their sponsors with someone other than their spouse as it was considered good luck!


AL1_8445Thank you Lowery Photography

Leslie and Josh chose to do this for their ceremony at the Immaculata and it was wonderful. Having sponsors makes everything so much fun. The grand entrances into the reception, which include announcing sponsors, should be given a significant amount of time because if there are family, sponsors and a large bridal party, it can be quite a bit for the emcee to say! Normally sponsors also have a specific color of attire as well so that all is cohesive with the wedding design, bridal party and colors. Sponsors are a fun and meaningful way to incorporate both tradition and significant people into your wedding ceremony.


_BHV4127Thank you Bob Hoffman

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The Real Deal In Changing Your Last Name!

So, is it really that chaotic to change a young ladie’s last name?

When I first reviewed the steps I had created in a quick article for a prior bride, I must admit I became a little overwhelmed. First of all, I wasn’t sure I was completely ready to let go of my current last name. I considered the idea of hyphenating, but that was too much for me, personally. My maiden name is Romero and my husband’s is Bribiesca…I know right?! It comes from a small town in Spain, Briviesca, which we will visit one day soon, I am sure.  After speaking to a few friends who had recently been married, I decided it wouldn’t be so difficult to change my name to Bribiesca.


The first step is receiving the marriage certificate, which shows the marriage is legal. I was married in Hawaii so rather than the typical one month, it took about 3 ½. Our friend married us, so we questioned if he did everything correctly and if we were even really married. We were thankful when we received our certificate!


The next step was going to the social security office and applying for a new card with the SS-5 form, which can be accessed here. When I went to the social security office I took my marriage certificate, my social security card, birth certificate, and ID, along with copies of the marriage certificate just in case.  I went to the social security office in La Mesa, CA and grabbed a number, spoke to an employee, and then waited for about 10 minutes. The gentleman who called my name was very nice. He couldn’t pronounce my new last name but said my ring was gorgeous and that my husband did great. He also said that with my receipt of name change, I was ready to go anywhere I needed to.


The next place I went was DMV to get a new license to reflect my new name. I made an appointment so I was in and out within minutes! After DMV, I plan on getting my passport, which just expired last year, so the timing couldn’t be better.  I will hold onto my current ID since so many places have me as Diana Romero and I plan on tackling those at a steady pace.

Here are the other places I will need to go:

  • My bank to adjust all my accounts

  • My employer’s records, health insurance, retirement accounts and any IDs

  • Bills such as SDG&E and other utilities and Victoria’s Secret!

  • Gym membership

  • Insurance companies (car, home, health)

  • Post office to request a change of address form in order to change the name

  • Credit cards

  • Any automatic withdrawals from my account

After beginning the process, I realized it’s not all that crazy. I know it will take some time to go to and call all the places I need to, but I am giving myself some time to complete it all. After I complete the name change, I am going to make an announcement to all my family and friends! I think it’s a wonderful event in life and can’t wait to share!

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Unique Bridal Entrances!

“Here Comes The Bride”, originally written for Lohengrin, the opera, in 1850, is the most traditional and popular way to walk down the aisle, with your father at one side. But one of my brides recently asked me about ideas for more personal and unique ways she could walk down the aisle, and I’d love to share my thoughts with you all too.

Today brides are replacing the wedding march and choosing a song that represents them more expressly. Some songs that have become popular are “Somewhere over the Rainbow” by Israel “IZ” Kamakawiwo’le,  “She” by Elvis Costello and “Cowboy Take Me Away” by Dixie Chicks (instrumental only). Surprise your guests with something exciting and unexpected. After the bridal party enters and doors close, the bride’s song could change over to a dramatic and lively song such as the Star Wars theme or 20th Century Fox movie intro.The song by Manfred Mann, “Doo Wah Diddy” would be a blast for a bride to walk into! Imagine everyone expecting a slow, mellow song then hear:  “There she was just a-walkin’ down the street, singin’ ‘Do wah diddy diddy dum diddy do…”. A bride can have so much fun creating just the right entrance that represents her.


Photo by Life Fusion Studio

As for the father of the bride walking his daughter down the aisle, this tradition is also changing. I was married last year and opted to have both of my parents walk me down the aisle, and a good friend of mine sing, “Forever” as I entered. Halfway through the entrance, my friend’s daughter placed leis on each of my parents and kissed their cheeks. My friend who sang teared up and asked my parents if they gave us their blessing. After we exchanged vows, my husband and I exited to “I Do!” by Colbie Caillat. It was just perfect for us!


Photo by Torrico Photography

I have seen brides enter with different parts of their families as well, from siblings to extended family. One bride of ours’ parents had passed away so her young nephew walked her down the aisle and gave her away. It was moving and adorable. For a wedding in which the bride and groom already have children, think about incorporating the children with roles in the march. For example, the bride’s son can walk her in, with the groom’s son meeting them halfway and taking the bride to the groom or vice versa.


Photo by Domingo Photography

Incorporating the bride’s personality into the march is what makes it special. If having the person or people closest to her means a lot, then it should be done. Some brides choose to enter solo, this way she can see all of her loved ones while she enters. Some brides love the romantic guitar while other wants something upbeat. For me personally, I chose my friend to sing a song that had meaning for us, and having live music while I entered was important because of who was singing the song, the words, and the uniqueness of this type of entrance. Whatever a bride chooses to enter to, you can’t go wrong if it’s heartfelt and meaningful to you and your future spouse!

Img_141_090509Photo by Studio Duva

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All About Wedding Dresses

Have you ever wondered what truly goes into buying your dream wedding dress?  It is much more than just the dress itself which I will talk more about.  I was recently married and experienced the shopping and all the wonderful things that came with the wedding dress first hand!  I want to share more on this topic with current brides because I know not everyone is aware of the extras involved!  According to, the top 10 wedding gowns for fall 2012 are from famous designers: Vera Wang, Angel Sanchez, Carolina Herrera, Hayley Paige, Jenny Packham, Reem Acra, Peter Langer, Ines Di Santo, Manuel Mota for Pronovias, and Marchesa.  And many celebrities have been seen wearing wedding dresses from these select designers.  Kim Kardashian, Ivanka Trump, and Hilary Duff, just to name a few, have worn gowns by Vera Wang.  Molly Sims wore Marchesa’s “Isadora” wedding gown.  Jenna Bush wore a custom Oscar de la Renta wedding gown. And probably the most talked about bride recently was Kate Middleton, who wore a dress designed by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQeen.
In 2012, the average cost of a wedding dress is between $900-$1,280.  On the low end, a wedding dress can cost a couple hundred dollars for an off the rack synthetic fabric dress, which can typically be found at department stores or chain bridal retailers.  Mid-range dresses can cost from several hundred to a thousand dollars for an off the rack or custom-made dress, that have minimal to medium detailing (beading, lace), and can be found at a chain bridal retailer or bridal boutique.  On the high end, one can expect to pay several thousands of dollars for a custom-made designer dress.  Of course, the more embellishment or detailing on a dress, the more one can expect to pay.  Brides should know that the overall cost of a wedding dress includes much more than just the cost of the gown itself.  There are many “hidden” costs a bride needs to consider when dress shopping.  These extra costs can come from alterations/fittings, a headpiece/veil, jewelry, shoes/gloves/stockings, undergarments, rush charge (if applicable), pressing of the dress, a gown bag and storage of the dress (at the bridal shop), the delivery of the dress (to the venue), and cleaning/preservation/heirlooming of the dress.  These extras can add between several hundred to a thousand dollars more to the cost of the dress.  I was surprised that one alteration shop was quoting me more to alter the dress than the cost of the dress itself.  I did go to another shop highly recommended who charged a few hundred included adding embellishment and a bustle.  A bustle normally is not included on the dress when purchased but it an extra cost added during alterations.  Adding a bustle averages about $70.  I also had the dress pressed at the hotel I was staying at because I had a destination wedding in Hawaii and obviously did not have it pressed here in San Diego!  Pressing the dress ran me $70.  After the wedding, I had to have the dressed cleaned, pressed and preserved!  Brides should ask the bridal shop if any of these costs are included in the cost of the wedding gown, and should get a written contract stating what is included in the cost of the wedding dress, as well as estimated costs of alterations, storage, and delivery of the dress.  Many shops offer packages for brides which group alterations, pressing and cleaning together for the bride.  We know that the wedding dress is one of the most important items for brides and hope this article helps prepare you to keep in mind everything involved with the wedding gown!

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Backyard or Outdoor Wedding Reception

Are you thinking of having an outdoor wedding reception? Planning a wedding is very exciting so we’d love to offer you some tips to assist if you are considering an outdoor reception.  There are very important factors to keep in mind while planning to ensure nothing is overlooked.   Having an outdoor reception can save on costs and can be just as great as going with a full service venue.  With the right amount of planning, it can be a success and a fun filled event!  Many spots serve as great outdoor reception venues including backyards, estates, private home rentals and park like settings.  I want to discuss a few key points to consider when planning an outdoor reception.  Those items include rentals, service, food and beverage, and music.  These are not all the items that one would need to consider when planning an outdoor reception, however they are those that are most important because of the factors involved.  For all items to take into consideration, hiring a wedding coordinator is highly recommended.

The first decision in wedding planning should always be the budget and the guest count.  The budget will determine what amount can be allocated towards food, alcohol, rentals, décor, vendors and so forth. A wedding coordinator can offer assistance on how to allocate for each area.  After deciding on a budget and guest count, meeting with several full service caterers who specialize in weddings as well as providing rentals would be priority.  If a full service caterer is not hired, then reviewing all areas and logistics for the rentals with your wedding coordinator’s assistance is crucial.  An experienced rental company will be able to make recommendations and provide a walk through at the home or venue to ensure there is sufficient space for the rentals as well as the activities.  After reserving the rentals, a layout should be created for the ceremony and the reception items as well as noting locations of power outlets. This is important for the DJ, the bar, lighting and any other activities requiring power such as a photo booth.  For events running into the evening, consider bringing in extra lighting.  If there is only one restroom and over 40 guests, consider renting a portable restroom or two.  There are nice portable restroom rental companies out there.  These restrooms can be dolled up by placing flowers and toiletry gifts inside.  An experienced wedding coordinator can offer excellent referrals on companies that offer quality, high end portable restrooms.

After creating your layout, the overall design scheme should be determined.  Color, decor and lighting brought in should also compliment the area and the time of day the wedding reception will be held.  Natural lighting is important to consider when deciding on the linen colors and additional lighting on the tables, such as pin lights and accenting as well as sufficient lighting to see after sunset.  Consider the table as a whole and not just the decor that will be placed on the table, but it’s own unique layout including linens and place settings.

As you plan the wedding, the vendors that should be booked first are vendors that only work one wedding per day (such as the photographer).  These key players for the wedding day should be booked as soon as you are able to.  These include the photographer, DJ, videographer and any other wedding vendors who will work the entire event.  The caterer or restaurant plays a big role during the wedding reception. The menu should be decided with your contact for catering.  For the cocktail hour, appetizers or hors doeuvres are great to provide for the guests along with beverages as they mingle after the ceremony concludes while the bridal party and the couple take photos.  The bar should have one bartender for every 40 guests plus a bar back.  An experienced, licensed bartender will provide everything needed for the bar and make recommendations on the amount of beverages for the amount of guests.  Many bartenders allow the client to bring in their own alcohol and will charge for hours only.  If an hourly bartender is hired, it is important to make a list with the bartender on the items that need to be purchased and provided for them.  Your wedding coordinator can assist with ensuring all items are covered.  Another item to consider as related to alcohol is the champagne pouring.  If there will be toasting to champagne, it is important to have the bartender or caterers include the pouring of the champagne into their cost.  Champagne is poured about 15-30 before actual toasts depending on how many guests will be served champagne.   Decide on the menu with your caterer when you have an idea of the meal or meals you would like to provide to the guests.  If it is a lunch time reception, the menu for the meal will be lighter than an evening reception.  If a caterer or restaurant prepares the food without providing servers, bussers or a cleanup crew, it is important to contract a staffing agency that can provide these and I would recommend 1 server for every 25 guests.  Some would recommend per 40 guests, however it is better to have enough servers and service than not enough.  The staffing agency should also designate one of the staff members as the banquet captain to lead the service to ensure the serving, the bussing, the trash and final clean up are smooth.    Dinner ware is something to consider going disposable on if you opt not going with a full service caterer (who can provide china) because if these items are rented or purchased, the cleanup of these items is a big task.  Also, in renting, if every item is not accounted for there are additional charges added onto the final bill.

If a full service caterer is contracted and they include the wedding cake in their pricing, the cake cutting is something normally included.  If the wedding cake is ordered separately and the caterer is not full service, then hiring servers through a staffing agency who specialize in cake cutting is extremely important.  It takes an experienced person to dissemble a cake, cut it and serve it.  Also remember to get cakes, forks, napkins and the cake items for the cake table.

The last items I would like to discuss are the music and clean up.  The DJ or band should let you know their specifications on space as well as power.  The DJ should be aware of the power in the area for set up and the layout of the event.  If there are activities in more than one area (for example cocktail hour in front of house and dinner in the back) then a DJ would probably want two sound systems to cover the event.  Renting a dance floor for dancing is important and if it is an evening event, have sufficient lighting for your guests.  Your wedding coordinator can work with the rental company on square footage and the layout.  A cleanup crew at the end as well as bussers through the end is important as well.  Your wedding coordinator can direct your crew as where the linens, trash, rentals, gifts, cake top and personal items go to avoid any confusion.  Rentals normally will be picked up the Monday following the event.

An outdoor wedding reception can save a lot of money and be such a success!  As long as all areas are covered, you can be sure to have it run smoothly and having very happy wedding guests!

For a free consultation, please call At Your Side Planning (formerly Ah! Le Party) at 619-322-7084 to discuss your special day!  Diana Romero, owner of At Your Side Planning has been planning events for over ten years in San Diego, California.  She founded At Your Side Planning (formerly Ah! Le Party) in 2004 and is highly experienced and professional.  At Your Side Planning (formerly Ah! Le Party) recently was awarded “Best Wedding Planner” on the San Diego 10 News A list.  At Your Side Planning (formerly Ah! Le Party) is a member of the Professional Women’s Organization as well as Small Business certified through the state of California.

All photos by Miguel Pola Photographers

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