People You Want Involved in Your LA Wedding
Most of the people on this list are not yet decades-long fixtures in the wedding industry and don’t know just how good they are. They charge less than they should and hustle for every penny. None of them are “over it.” None of them treated our wedding like it was a job. Everyone was as excited about our wedding as the guests were, and that makes a huge difference. We almost can’t believe how singularly focused and personally involved all of these people were with us. It’s almost like they had no other clients at all (and all of these guys were juggling a number of clients that time of year). Not everyone we used is on this list, because we wouldn’t recommend some of the other vendors, but we stand by everyone mentioned below. They will make your wedding easier, happier and all around better.
Alan Larsen Films
We were on the fence about having a videographer because we really didn’t want a big bulky video camera (or two) intruding on the intimacy of our day, so it ended up being the decision that involved the most research. Strangely, we couldn’t find someone talented, affordable and nice. When we asked one videographer if we could choose our own background music, he said no, and when we told him that we’d like some say in the music he chose, he suggested that we go with someone else.
We had almost given up on videography. But then we found Alan, who is exceptionally talented and professional, as well as incredibly nice. He and his assistant used the Canon 5D, which looks like a regular camera, not a video camera, so nobody even knew they were filming (this made a big difference). He got beautiful shots throughout the day/night and really put his heart into the editing. Everyone who has seen our highlights video is amazed by the beauty of his storytelling, as well as by the high production quality of the film, including perfect audio. We have gotten pages worth of positive feedback about it from our guests. Also, the vimeo post got 400 views in about a week even though we only had 140 people at our wedding:
We are so glad we decided to hire a videographer and so so so so so glad that that videographer was Alan. We can’t recommend him highly enough.
Along Came Mary
Along Came Mary is probably the most established vendor we used, and there is a reason for that. The food at our wedding was incredible. We were too busy to really go after it, but several guests told us that it was the best wedding food they’ve ever had. Penny Barr, who we worked with, welcomed any and every idea, and her execution was flawless. We wanted to start the guests off with pink champagne and raspberry mojitos. Done. We wanted some of the food to be buffet style and some of it to be served family style. Done. We wanted a rice krispie cake in addition to a traditional wedding cake. Done. Along Came Mary was probably our biggest wedding splurge but it was worth it. Nothing makes guests happier, it seems, than really good food. The compliments are still coming in.
We found Amber by checking out wedding blogs and seeing her name attached to the prettiest, most interesting, most romantic weddings. Then we read reviews and testimonials about her, which all talk about how wonderful she is. In person we found her to be not only professional, but also warm, smart and calm. She gave us advice we never would have thought of, saved us money every step of the way (in part by referring some of the vendors on this list), and kept her cool through whatever we threw at her.
If we had one piece of advice for future brides and grooms it would be to factor Amber into the cost of the wedding before budgeting for anything else. It was truly the best money we spent. She is the difference between having a stressful wedding and having an enjoyable wedding. It doesn’t matter if you’re organized, (Ben and I are both the most organized people we know), it doesn’t matter if you want a low key wedding (she can handle both extremes of the spectrum and everything in between), it doesn’t matter if you weren’t planning on hiring a wedding coordinator (we weren’t), she is the number one service you will not regret spending money on.
No amount of online research compares to her experience, and the details she thought of either helped us avert disaster or added something to the wedding that made it so special and so us. We are still in awe of her multitasking and organizational abilities. More than anything, though, she was our safety net. Every wedding planning couple has a moment (or moments) of panic that makes them think they’re not going to be able to stay on top of all of the moving parts. Knowing that Amber was there enabled us to feel confident that it was all going to work out, which let us focus on having the best day of our lives.
We went to a wine tasting in Malibu months before we got engaged and heard a Spanish band play that we were sure was the Gypsy Kings. They weren’t, but they were the perfect compliment to a glass of wine outdoors on a beautiful day. For our wedding, we wanted a Spanish band to perform during cocktail hour and Amber recommended a band called Cale, but we had our hearts set on the Spanish band we had heard in Malibu all those months ago. After some research, it turned out Cale was that Malibu band. Need we say more? Fine, we’ll say more. We asked them to learn two songs for the processional, and they did, perfectly, at no extra cost. Everyone loved these guys and they’re a nice alternative to a string quartet. We recommend them highly.
I didn’t know how to go about hiring professional hair and makeup people because I had never had my makeup professionally done before and I generally just do my own hair, so I was relieved when Amber recommended a company that provides both. The compliment I heard most on my wedding day was, “You look great and you look like yourself,” which was the look I was going for. Personally, I didn’t want to try anything crazy and I didn’t want to be around frenetic types that might pressure me to pull off a look I didn’t feel comfortable with. Stefani and Michelle from Fiore (who I had met at a previous trial), were lovely to be around, listened to what I wanted and were clearly competent. My mother, Ben’s mother and sister, as well as some of our friends used them too and, different as we all are, everyone loved them. They were a great find and I’ve already recommended them to other brides.
Holly Flora nails it. They work out of the best smelling office in Culver City that you would never know about if someone (Amber) didn’t direct you to it, where they either have or can get any flower you could think of. What we liked most about them is that you don’t have to know anything about flowers to get them to understand what you want. You can have some sort of vague vision and they’ll get it. We wanted pink and white wild flowers loosely arranged in varying sized and textured glass vases. We didn’t want uniformity. We didn’t want roses or calla lilies or anything too specific. They totally got it. They’re open to anything, they can do anything, and their prices are beyond reasonable. They’re professional, they’re unpretentious and they just get the job done. If we ever were to do another event in LA, we would absolutely use Holly Flora.
My mother and I went to every wedding dress shop in LA, including Saks, Vera Wang, Monique Lhuillier and Panache in Beverly Hills. We stopped by L'ezu after a long day, upon Amber’s recommendation. The entire store looks like a dressing room. It has no windows, no mannequins in sparkly gowns and we were offered no flutes of champagne. All of the dresses were hidden in garment bags against the wall and the most prominent object in the room was a work table covered in scraps of fabric. We almost walked out.
Then one of the seamstresses who has been custom making dresses for 17 years asked me what kind of dress I was looking for. I showed her the pictures my mother and I had snuck on my camera phone at the other boutiques and she started pulling out fabric. The rolls of silk, charmeuse and chiffon she pulled out were much higher quality than anything else I had tried on that day. I put my handbag down and started trying on some of their dresses. I realized very quickly that these dresses were in another league. The dress they made me was exactly the style I wanted. It’s my favorite dress I’ve ever worn and one of the most comfortable.
Perhaps most importantly, the price was a third of the Vera Wang or Monique Lhuillier dresses, including however many fittings you feel you need. I suggest going to the designer stores first, figuring out what you like in terms of fabric and style, and then going to L'ezu and getting your dream dress made for significantly less money.
We looked at several photographers before choosing Llanes. They’re a husband/wife duo and they’re on the unconventional side of wedding photography. We were almost worried that they were too unconventional, but they ended up being the exact type of wedding photographers we wanted. More than any other vendor, they didn’t treat our wedding like a job. They were totally *in* it with us. They were so much fun and so loose. They were somehow everywhere at once and always around when we needed them. Our photography was extremely important to us and we felt like it was just as important, if not more important, to them. When researching photographers, we found ourselves avoiding people who didn’t have the kind of energy we were looking for and gravitating towards the people who did. Llanes had the best of that energy. They are engaged, responsive, and perhaps most importantly, off the charts talented. We hired artists and they created art. All of the photos in this post are photos they took.
Full disclosure: Michelle's brother and cousin run this company out of a small office in the diamond district in LA (but they’re happy to schedule appointments anywhere in Los Angeles and can ship all over the country). Roxbury Jewelry is where everyone in our family, as well as all of our close friends, buys their engagement rings.
Like L'ezu or Holly Flora, the money Roxbury saves by not working out of a traditional storefront and not advertising allows them to charge their customers much less than any jewelry store you’ve ever heard of. You can bring the stone that’s been in your family for generations that you want reset. Or you can come in not knowing what you want and ask them to make suggestions. Whatever your approach, once you become a customer, you won’t ever want to shop at a household name jewelry store again because you’ll realize how much those stores overcharge.
People buy more than rings from them. We bought wedding party gifts from them (Ben did monogrammed stainless steel cuff links for the men and Michelle did black pearl earrings for the women), and they also do anniversary gifts (diamond stud earrings, colorful semi-precious by-the-yard necklaces), push gifts, and anything else you could think of. Michelle bought the women in her family matching pink gold bangles engraved with a Yiddish expression her grandmother used to say. For a friend’s 30th birthday, she bought her a small white gold disk necklace that says “30” in diamond braille. She wears it everyday. We cannot recommend Roxbury Jewelry highly enough, but their jewelry and service speak for themselves.
When you contact any of the above vendors, tell them Michelle and Ben sent you, and if you already have a wedding date, contact them soon. Good luck with your wedding!!!