Leigh Skaggs Photography » I am a wedding and portrait photographer in Hampton Roads Virginia.

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I have had the pleasure of working with ton of DJ’s in the Hampton Roads area, and all of them are fun and do a great job making sure your wedding reception is a blast.  But Astro Entertainment has some of the BEST DJ’s around!  And Roger Cruz, well he truly stands out, as one of my favorites!!  (And if you talk to him, ask him why I think he is a T-rex?!) Ask the Experts | Astro Entertainment  But on a serious note, his energy is contagious, his knowledge of music and people is undeniable, and his ability to keep a dance floor packed is truly a thing of beauty!  Pari Smith is part of Astro’s knowledgeable sales team and is a great resource when it comes to wedding coordination. Between the two of them, I learned a ton about hiring a DJ and can’t wait to share with you!!

Ask the Experts | Astro Entertainment

Pari and Roger from Astro Entertainment…and a Larry D (another amazing Astro DJ) photo bomb!

What made you decide to become a DJ?

When I was younger, I was the kid with the most records in the neighborhood. One day a mother asked me to DJ her daughter’s 16th birthday party. I broke down my Dad’s stereo equipment and took it over to her house! It was great. I had a lot of fun and I got paid for my first real gig. I was hooked!

Planning a wedding is an overwhelming experience, there are SO MANY things that couples do not know about until they actually start planning the big day! What sort of things would you tell couples about searching for their DJ?

There are lots of Bands and DJ’s out there and everyone has their own niche. But I really think it is important to consider structure when hunting for a DJ or band for your wedding. The DJ really helps move a wedding reception along, and keep it’s flow. If you don’t hire someone that really knows the ins and outs of a wedding you can find yourself really doing a lot of work during your reception.

Let’s pretend I am getting married, How far in advance should I start shopping for a DJ?

You should be looking to book your DJ about a year in advance of your date, especially if you have a specific DJ or Band in mind.

Why should I hire a professional DJ and not just have my friend plug in his iPod?

There are lots of gray areas when you hire your friend as your DJ. Are they a guest or a vendor? What if they get sick on your wedding day and can’t make it? Have they been to a lot of weddings and know how the flow of a wedding should go? When you hire your friend, sometimes you don’t feel comfortable telling them how to do exactly what you want. But when you hire a professional, we are there to do whatever you need to make your party a blast, we have contingency plans in case someone gets sick AND we know how a wedding should flow so we can make sure the day runs smoothly!

We have literally seen EVERYTHING at weddings. Make sure you have hired someone that has that kind of experience to deal with whatever situation arises.

What sort of things or who should I bring to our meeting?

I like to meet with the Bride and Groom at our meetings so that I can really hear what YOU want and not what other people think you want. I like to get a feel for what kind of music you like, but also educate you on how I think it is important to play other genres for the guests at your party. Because a wedding is usually a unique crowd that hits all age groups, and I want to make sure your dance floor is busy all night!

Do you assist me in choosing the music for my processional, recessional, first dance, etc…?

Usually, you have a pretty good handle on what you would like for your first dance, but I am happy to help! I can also make suggestions for the Father/Daughter, Mother/Son dance. And if the dances are something that stress you out, we can fade the music out before they end or we can do a video montage of you growing up that plays while you dance. It gives your guests something to look at while you share your special moment.  

Can I give you a NO play list?

Certainly! And I won’t play things you don’t want, but do consider that getting people up to dance is the end game. And you might even feel differently about a certain song on your wedding day when all the people you love are surrounding you and having the time of their lives!

Do I need to provide a stage for you at the reception?

No, but I do prefer to set up in front of the dance floor. I have found that people are more compelled to dance when they are dancing in front of me rather than me being in the corner and the dance floor being in the center of the room. It makes it a lot easier to interact with your guests, too!

What do you do if my guests aren’t dancing?

Personally, I am always working on the flow of the music to make sure that people want to be on the dance floor. If I find something isn’t working, I mix something else in. If I think too many people are sitting I will try to figure out what gets them moving. And I have some other tricks up my sleeve to get the dance floor moving, too! I want to make sure everyone is having the best time!

What other services does your company provide?

We are a full-scale exceptional DJ outfit! We don’t only provide music to make your wedding reception bump, we provide many other services to make sure the ambiance and whole wedding day is unforgettable! We do Day of Coordination, Photo booths, Wireless Uplighting, Lighted Dance Floors and Video Montages, too. Let us help you plan everything for your day!

Is there anything you would like to tell clients about the process that they don’t know or something they should be asking during the process?

Whether you have hired us for just the Reception, consider using a lapel mic, for the Ceremony, too, so that your guests can hear all those amazing things you two are saying to one another. It is a great idea that is too often overlooked. Also consider letting only your Best Man, Maid of Honor (and maybe Dad) do the toasting. If others want to say something, let them at the rehearsal dinner. This will keep the party moving.  

Also, we have a LOT of experience at weddings. We know how to make them flow effortlessly, how to keep the dance floor on fire and how to make sure your day ends on a high note that everyone will be talking about.  

Ask the Experts | Astro EntertainmentLook how happy Pari and Roger look! Ask the Experts | Astro EntertainmentAsk the Experts | Astro EntertainmentAstro packs the dance floor!Ask the Experts | Astro EntertainmentAsk the Experts | Astro EntertainmentAnd makes your wedding look amazing!Ask the Experts | Astro EntertainmentAsk the Experts | Astro EntertainmentAsk the Experts | Astro EntertainmentAsk the Experts | Astro EntertainmentAsk the Experts | Astro EntertainmentAsk the Experts | Astro Entertainment

Thanks for everything Roger and Pari!  And if you would like to read more from the Ask the Experts series, check them all out here!  Photography, Catering, Venue Coordination, Wedding Coordination!

 

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When Adam’s Mom, Michelle, contacted me about photographing Adam and Katie’s proposal at the King Neptune statue in Virginia Beach, I literally did a happy dance!!  I LOVE being able to be a part of such an emotional and amazing event!!  BUT, when we got there, King Neptune’s statue was surrounded by trucks and tents because of the annual Polar Plunge at the beach!  Michelle did her very best to get everyone to move away from the statue before Adam and Katie got there.  She ROCKS!! 

Adam had lots of surprises in store for Katie!  The first was a card and long stemmed roses placed at the statue for her.  While she was reading the card, he got down on one knee and presented the BEAUTIFUL ring he had picked out for her.  When she turned around, her expression was priceless!!  (I totally cried!!)  After she said “YES!”  He picked her up (they were cheerleaders together at the University of Louisville) and they shared a super sweet moment.  Then he told her to call her Mom and let her know the good news….little did she know her whole Family had traveled down for the big announcement!  And everyone came out for lots of hugs and kisses and LOVE!!  It was just a wonderful experience to be part of and even though it was so COLD…Katie was a trooper for an impromptu engagement session.   After we couldn’t take the cold any longer, we ducked into the Virginia Beach Oceanfront Hilton to finish up!  Congratulations to you all!  I know both Families are so excited about this engagement!  You two are going to have so much fun planning a wedding!!!  XOXO!

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If you have been following along with my new series, “Ask the Experts,” you have met a Wedding Coordinator, a Venue Coordinator and a Caterer.  All three of these amazing Women have given you lots of insight into how wedding planning works, along with questions to ask YOUR experts.  Today, I would like to help you navigate the world of photography!  I have been photographing weddings in Hampton Roads Virginia and beyond for several years, (I have even been to Mexico to document a beautiful wedding.)  And I have learned much along the way that can make your day run smoothly. 

Making sure you have a skilled and experienced photographer is one of the most important aspects of your planning.  Wedding days actually NEVER go as planned!  There are just too many moving parts!  In fact, when I make a timeline for my couples, I know at some point, we will be behind and it will be my job to still get all the photos done in much less time that I had hoped for.  Your photographer must be able to think on their feet, change course on a dime, deliver an excellent product under stress, and make it all look like this is exactly how it is supposed to go down.  So let me help you navigate photography!  Here are some things you need to know!

Ask the Experts | Leigh Skaggs Photography

© Krista A. Jones

 

What made you decide to become a Photographer?

I have always loved photography. One of my favorite things to do when I was young was pull out my Grandmother’s photo albums and just look at the pictures of everyone. I loved the emotions captured, the feel of the paper, even the smell of the albums. As I got older, photography was something that I always wanted to do, but I went into nursing to pay the bills. After my second child was born, and the digital age happened, my Husband bought me a nice camera and encouraged me to try to make it into a business! I am so glad he did!

Planning a wedding is an overwhelming experience, there are SO MANY things that couples do not know about until they actually start planning the big day! What sort of things would you tell couples about searching for their Photographer?

I usually tell my couples that you will spend more time with me on your wedding day than you do with anyone else.  So you better like me! If you don’t, we aren’t a good fit and you should keep searching until you do feel that way about someone.

Let’s pretend I am getting married, How far in advance should I start shopping for a photographer?

Typically for the busy wedding months…May, June, September and October…I book out about a year in advance. But it is always worth checking with me, because some dates are more popular than others!

What sort of questions should I ask to make sure you and I will be a good fit?

I feel like when you are talking to your wedding photographer, they should be asking questions about YOU! How did you meet? Give me details about your engagement! Tell me about your wedding? I want to know about your love story! If you meet with your photographer, whether at a coffee shop or on facetime, you should feel confident that you like that person, personally! And also feel like that will be able to handle the job!  Because let’s be honest, you only get ONE shot to get wedding photography right!

What sort of things or who should I bring to our meeting?

Typically I meet with the couple and sometimes a mom, too! These are good people to have at the meeting. Please bring with you any questions you may have for me. I know sometimes once we start talking you might forget to ask me a question you meant to…so bring a list!

What information will you need from me before the big day?

Before the wedding, we will have met up a few times…either at our initial meeting or our complimentary Engagement session. There are a few other small pieces of information I will need from you before the big day. I like to know the names of everyone in your Wedding party and your immediate Family. This way I don’t say “Hey you in the tux, move a little to the left,” during photographs. I also use the names of the immediate family to work on a shot list for Family formals so that we can move through them as efficiently as possible. The other things I will need from you is a list of your vendors. I like to make sure I credit all the amazing people who work so hard to make your wedding vision come to life. And lastly, I want to help you work on your timeline (if you have a coordinator, I will contact them about this.) I know generally how long it takes for 5 Bridesmaids to get ready (longer than you think!) or when we need to start hair and make up if we are doing a first look. So we will be sure to go over that before the wedding day!

Why should I hire a professional and not just get my friend to shoot my wedding photos?

There are lots of obvious reasons that it is better to spend some money and hire a professional over a friend with a camera. The experience that I have shooting many weddings a year, helps me to anticipate when and where special moments will be happening. I know what to do if a hurricane changes your outdoor wedding plans, and I know how to use my camera in every foreseeable lighting situation. 

But more importantly than that, your wedding will be a BLUR! It takes so long to plan and is over in the blink of an eye! The only thing you have at the end of the day are your memories and your wedding photos. You want to make sure you are hiring someone you can completely trust to document your day from start to finish, so that you can relive it over and over for the rest of your lives!

What do I need to know about a First Look?

A First Look is a great way to get some time alone with your Fiancé before the festivities happen, to get a good portion of your photos done before the wedding starts, and maximizes your time spent with your guests. When we do a first look, we like to shoot with long lenses so we are giving you some time to yourselves. I feel like the Groom is able to have a very authentic emotional response to your appearance because he doesn’t have 150 sets of eyes on him. After you get some time alone, we will start to shoot some romantic portraits of you two. Then we will bring in the Wedding Party and shoot all of their photos. After that, we will get you hidden away before guests start to arrive so you can freshen up! This means that after the Ceremony we only have to do Family formals and some more of the two of you. Generally this will even get you some time at the cocktail party enjoying your guests and let’s be honest aren’t you really there to enjoy spending time with your Family and Friends!! I know the First Look is not for everyone, and that is OKAY!! But please consider the possibility!

My friend did an Engagement session for us! Do we really need another one?

All of my Engagement sessions are a gift to my Couples because I truly feel that the first time we work together should not be on your wedding day. When we do an Engagement session, we are building a relationship. We will no doubt draw on some of the things we learn at the engagement session, but it is so much more important than that! We will have had an experience that was fun and relaxed and (*the Groom will realize that I am not going to torture him!*) Then on the wedding day, when I walk in, you will know, in your bones, that I am there for you! Because we are friends and I want nothing more than to make sure your wedding day is documented as if it were my very own Daughters wedding day. So yes, even if you have already had an engagement session, I truly feel that it is important!  

How do you handle guests that want to shoot the wedding with their iPhones, ipads and digital cameras?

I know that all of your guests want to have photos of your wedding to upload immediately to social media! In this day and age it is important. But I do feel like you lose your guests focus and attention if you don’t consider an unplugged Ceremony. Instead of having them clamoring to get a shot of you coming down the aisle, let me do that! Encourage them to be present with you and your Fiancé in the moment!

At the reception, it is fine to snap away! But help your guests take a quick break from social media during your Ceremony!

How long after the wedding can I expect to see my photos?

I will usually have a sneak peek of your wedding up on my blog and social media with-in 2 days of the event. Your photos will be completely edited by 4 weeks.

Why is Wedding Photography so expensive? 

You are not only paying for AN experience you are paying for OUR experience.  It may seem like we just come on the big day, pull out our cameras and push a button, but in all honestly, we just make it look that easy!  A lot goes into wedding photography that you never see!  Wedding photography actually starts with our first meeting.  Whether that is in an email, at a coffee shop, a studio or on facetime, this is when our job starts.  After that, we typically spend several hours prepping for your wedding before it has even happened! Through engagement sessions, editing, emails, timeline building, and for me memorizing your family tree…all of this prep helps to ensure your day runs smoothly!  On your actual day, we typically show up about 30 minutes before our designated start time to set up equipment, scout locations and prepare to be creative.  Throughout your day, we are tweaking timelines, managing large groups of people, making split decisions to make sure your day runs as planned, and also documenting everything that happens.  Afterwards, we spend days/weeks backing up, culling, editing, uploading and making sure your photographs are perfect before you get them back.  Then we are educating you on how to download your photos, making albums, printing, and making sure you and your Family are happy with our services.  So when you hire your photographer, consider that their pricing is not only to show up on your day for 8-10 hours and shoot the wedding.  We work very hard to make it look as easy as it does…but there are many, MANY hours that go into every wedding that we do behind the scenes.   

 Is there anything you would like to tell clients about the process that they don’t know or something they should be asking during the process?

Wedding planning is overwhelming! Let’s face it; you probably haven’t done this before! All of your professionals are here to help guide you along the way. Make sure you ask lots of questions and make lots of notes. And don’t feel like you can’t reach out and ask for help when you feel overwhelmed! We all know at some point you may feel that way and we are all here to get you through it!! Happy Planning!!

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Missed any of my other “Ask the Experts” series?  Check out Crystal Beng, from Cherry Blossom Planning Factory, guiding you through Wedding Coordinators.  Deborah Davis, from The Water Table, helps you navigate venues.  And Cathy Carter, from East Beach Catering will make sure you and your guest know what  to ask your Caterer.  XOXO!

 

 

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If you are new to my “Ask the Experts,” series you should go back and get caught up with Wedding Coordinator Crystal Beng from Cherry Blossom Event Planning and Wedding Venue Coordinator, Deborah Davis from The Water Table.  They both were super informative on what questions you should be asking and who you should ask them to!  Today, we are talking to Cathy Carter from East Beach Catering.  If you have not had the pleasure of meeting with Cathy or eating food prepared by her and her amazing team, you are missing out!!  She is just such a great person and I am so honored that she took the time to educate me on the things you need to talk with your Caterer about!! 

Ask the Experts | East Beach Catering

What made you want to become a caterer?

Initially I didn’t want to be a caterer; I wanted to be a restaurant owner. But then a friend of mine told me I should try catering instead, because it changes everyday! I have always liked to entertain and make food look pretty.   Being chosen to cater an event for my clients is truly an honor. I am passionate about how much it means to me to make sure you don’t worry about a thing on your special day!  

What questions should a couple be asking a caterer to make sure they are a good fit for one another?

You should definitely have a good feeling about your caterer. You should trust them and want to work with them. It is important that they share your vision and give you options to make your dreams come alive. Are they willing to recreate a Family recipe for you? If your Fiancé likes chorizo but you like Peanut butter and banana sandwiches, can your caterer give you options that appeal to you both!

Let’s pretend I am getting married, I am completely new to researching caterers…How far in advance do I need to book a caterer?

Generally you should book your caterer as soon as possible. Typically a year in advance…sometimes even longer out. After you book your wedding planner and venue.

Planning a wedding is an overwhelming experience, there are SO MANY things that couples do not know about until they actually start planning the big day! What pitfalls do you think couples fall into when searching for their caterer? What can they do to better navigate hiring a caterer?

I think having a realistic budget expectation is very important for a catering meeting. Think about your dining out experiences, whether it is Chick-fil-A or a nice Italian restaurant, consider the price and presentation. How much did that cost for the two of you to eat out? Now consider that for your wedding. You will be adding food costs, cocktail hour, rentals, table set ups, possibly a room flip, staff to serve your food and drinks. All of these things will be part of your budget. I know sometimes Brides and Grooms get sticker shock when they see that it costs XX amount of dollars to feed 150 people. But so many things go in that pricing.   If you are having trouble staying on budget, I recommend cutting 25 people from your guest list.  This will help you manage your catering costs. And you won’t have to sacrifice quality food and service.

What sort of things or who should I bring to our first meeting?

I think you shouldn’t bring too many people to your meeting with me. Because I want to hear what YOUR vision of the day is. What YOUR dreams are. What do YOU like. So I think your Fiance, and maybe a best friend!

Also, it is helpful to have Pinterest boards, magazine clippings, swatches, theme ideas to help portray your image to me!

When do we schedule a tasting and how do we work on the menu for my wedding together?

After we have talked and you have received my proposal, we will schedule a tasting. With me a tasting costs $25/person and I like to keep it to 4 people. When you book with me, that price comes off your bill! I will serve the entrees you have chosen as well as your appetizers, and some other things I think will pair well with your menu.

Tell me all about alcohol!! Do I provide it and you serve it? Do you provide and serve it? Is one way more cost effective? What do you recommend? What questions have I not asked?

The venue decides whether or not you can bring your own alcohol, or if I have to. If you can bring it I will still have to hire a Bartender to serve it. I hire 1 Bartender for every 100 people. You will also need to provide the license for the evening. You can get this online, and we can all point you in the right direction here.

There are lots of alcohol calculators online to help you figure out how much you will need, too. But think about your guests…if everyone is a beer drinker, don’t stock a full bar. One trend I have seen to help cut bar costs, is to have a “stock the bar” party. Invite your Family and Friends to hang out for a fun evening and ask everyone to bring a bottle of alcohol or mixers for your wedding. Another way to help you cut costs on alcohol is you can do a cash bar…or even cover the cocktail hour and do a cash bar for the reception.

Do you provide tables, chairs, plates, napkins, silverware? If not, do you rent them or is that on the Couple? The venue?  

I will rent everything you need, at the rental company. But then I advise you go there and take a look at your tables all set up. Look at the glassware options, see what your centerpieces look like, and touch the linens!

One way to cut costs on rentals is to consider using thick clear plastic disposable plates for cocktail hour and cake cutting. This will save you some money on rentals and if anyone decides to save a piece of cake for later, you won’t be charged the fee for a non returned item with the rental company!

What time do you arrive/leave? Do you set up and break down tables?

We usually arrive 4 hours before the event to set up tables, set up the kitchen, the buffet décor, set up the bar, cook on site (if the venue is capable), and other various duties. We will also break down everything at the end of the night. This is all included in my price (but double check with YOUR caterer.) The only thing I charge extra for is a room flip because I have to hire extra staff to make this happen.

Do you cut and serve the cake? Is there an extra fee for this?

I do not charge a fee to cut and serve cake, but some caterers do. Make sure you ask!

Is there anything else you think a couple should ask a caterer that they are hiring and we haven’t covered?

Make sure you are coming to the caterer with a realistic expectation about the cost of food and drinks. This and the venue will probably be the biggest parts of your budget. There are some things you can do to help cut costs, but make sure you are comparing apples to apples. If I am serving you tenderloin and another caterer has given you a lower price, but it is beef tips, that is not the same cut of beef. Also having a plated meal brings down food costs, but increases labor because we need more people to get the food out faster. Family style, buffet and serving stations require less labor.  

At the end of the day the most important thing is to educate and prioritize your budget, then hire people that you love and trust to get it all done for you! 

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Thank you Cathy!  You have been so helpful!  Don’t forget to catch up with all the Experts!!  More next week!  Have a great weekend!!

 

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Last week we started my new series, “Ask the Experts,” with Crystal Beng from Cherry Blossom Planning Factory.  She told you all about how to search for YOUR wedding planner!  She also said the next two things you should secure when planning your wedding are your venue and your caterer!  So this week, we will start there!  Up first, Deborah Davis from The Water Table, helps you figure out how to decide what is YOUR perfect venue! 

The Water Table is a beautiful wedding venue in Virginia Beach, Virginia with 2 rooms available to wedding parties, a grassy lawn for cocktail parties and gorgeous marina views!  If you haven’t seen it, make sure to make an appointment, today!! 

Ask the Experts |The Water Table

 

 

How did you become a Venue Coordinator?

We actually created the space primarily for a wedding venue because it is such a unique and beautiful location right on the water and marina. It has expansive water views that are spectacular during the day, and at night it’s electrifying beauty really comes to life.

Let’s pretend I am getting married, I am completely new to researching Venues…How far in advance do I need to book you?

Please do not ever hesitate to call us for our availability! We would love to talk to you. But generally, during the busy wedding months (May, June, September, and October) you should talk to us at least 12 months in advance.  

Planning a wedding is an overwhelming experience, there are SO MANY things that couples do not know about until they actually start planning the big day! What can they do to better navigate hiring a venue?

First, you need to just daydream about what “the perfect wedding” looks like to you. Is it Formal? Relaxed? Rustic? Is a ballroom the perfect setting for your big day or would you rather something different with a unique backdrop?  Then consider the scenery. Is it important to have amazing views while dining with your guests?  What does the space look like? Is the color palette neutral? Does it allow you to create the day of your dreams?  And last, what vibe do you feel when you are there. Does it make you feel happy and relaxed?

What sort of things and who should I bring to our first meeting?

Ideally, your Fiancé, Coordinator and maybe a parent should be at your venue meetings.   If there are too many people there the couple can lose sight of what is important to them the most.

Is there a contingency plan for outdoor spaces?

At The Water Table, we ALWAYS have a “plan B,” just in case!

Is the bridal suite included in the price?

There is a Bridal suite included on each floor!

What type of tables do you have (shape, size, top table)? Are there different options?

We include tables in a variety of shapes and sizes. From large rectangular head tables to round sweetheart tables, we have got your table needs covered.

Are tables, linens, chairs, plates, silverware and glassware provided, or will I have to rent them myself or get them through my caterer?

Your caterer and coordinator will be able to help you obtain everything you need to make sure your complete wedding vision is achieved!

What time can my vendors start setting up on the day of the wedding? How much time will I have for décor setup?

When you choose The Water Table, it’s available from set-ups to send offs! It is a 12-hour rental.

Is there a caterer that the venue prefers that I use, or can I choose my own?

The Water Table requires that only our pre-selected licensed and insured caterers operate in our facility. We offer several exceptional caterers from which to choose, so outside caterers, family and friends are not permitted to provide cooking or catering.  The caterers with whom we work offer a wide variety of food choices and menus that are personalized for each event. Our choice of approved caterers ensures that all parties have an event with the best possible experience and memories.

Can I bring my own wine, beer or champagne, and is there a corkage fee if I do? Can I bring in other alcohol?

Yes, The Water Table allows you to purchase your own alcohol and provide it to your caterer for serving. Our caterers provide the bartenders. The Water Table caterers are all licensed and also offer the option to provide you with full bar service needs, including alcohol purchases. Kegs are not permitted.

What sort of things do you see trending right now?

Special effect lighting, String or bistro lighting on our covered porch is huge! Blushes, peaches, melons and champagne colors!  Using unique chair styles really make a difference in the room.  And opting to have the Ceremony on site at our venue (which is included in the price!)

Is there anything else you think a couple should ask a venue coordinator that they are hiring and we haven’t covered?

I would make sure you ask lots of questions of your venue coordinator. But also be sure that they will be there along the way to help answer any NEW questions that may arise. We are always here to help you plan and achieve your dream wedding.

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