Oct 22, 2005
Yank Sing Catering
This one will be a long one, but I know a lot of Asian brides may be waiting for this review. I will give you an honest assessment of my reception vendor. Here is the deal. My husband and I wanted a smallish wedding (think Brazilian Room in Berkeley, afternoon wedding), but I have a humongous family and my family wanted a Chinese Banquet, so we decided that if we were going to do a Chinese Banquet, it had to be lavish, grand, the works. No cheesy Chinese restaurant for us. Also, because we are both lawyers, once we decided to have a big wedding (the compromise was the small tea ceremony and small backyard ceremony in Berkeley), we opened it up to our colleagues and the professional community. So it had to be professional and also up to par with what such a community would expect. And Yank Sing holds up to 1000 people in the Rincon! We had 332 guests and everyone was impressed. From the waterfall dropping from the seven foot ceiling, to the Atrium Space, to the food, everything. Everyone was impressed. But do not get the idea that they will give these things to you. I brought in a lot of the details to make it work. It added up. Was it worth it? In the end, I would say yes. But if you are looking for budget, Yank Sing is not the place to go. There are a lot of hidden charges that you probably wont know about unless you investigate, or unless someone gives you the scoop. So here goes. Here are the hidden costs: 1. Atrium Fee = $3000. Yes, it cost $3000 to have your wedding in the Atrium. If you want it in the restaurant (there is a restaurant in the building too), it will cost you nothing, but most likely, if there is a wedding in the atrium, your wedding will be overshadowed. That happened on our day, and I felt badly for the folks in the restaurant because you HAVE to enter to atrium space to get to the restaurant, so they were passing by our lavish event. 2. Clean up fee = $500. Yeah, they hardly did anything, but this was a MUST. 500 big ones. NO way around it. 3. Linens, napkins, etc. = $15 bucks for each table cover (unless you are going for white, in which case it is free), and $.75 per napkin. You do the math. It adds up. You HAVE to use their linens, so its not as if you can even go find your own cheap linens. Also, they have UGLY (and I mean ugly) black chairs that you can use, and they will recommend some chair cover vendor who is very expensive (and hers are very cheap-looking), so you will have to pay for your own chair covers (I will talk about my great vendor below). I would have gone for the Chivari chairs, but I liked the way my chair covers looked in the space. 4. Corkage Fee. They charge about $12 or $ 15 per bottle. Yup, if you bring in your own wine, you MUST MUST pay the corkage for wine or champagne. This adds up. Basically, they make the corkage so ridiculous that youre basically captive to their wine selection, which is not very good (do you like cheap BV?). We beat their price, however, by going to Bev Mo and picking very good Californian white wines (you can get a bottle for about $5 bucks), as well as Chilean and Australian red wines, and then we paid for corkage. But yeah, this totally adds up. 5. Pre-Dinner Reception. Okay, so if you are going all out, you will probably want to have a pre- dinner reception. But no, this is not free. Everything adds up. So we ordered about 500 pieces of dim sum to be passed around as hor doeuvres and also had an open bar (only wine and beer, no hard liquor), and that was probably another $1500-2000 for us. We thought it was a nice touch and would people in a celebratory mood before dinner. 6. Plated Service. Okay, I had to include this because as you can see I have very beautiful centerpieces that you ordinarily do NOT see at Chinese banquets. The reason for this is because Chinese people are all about using the darn lazy susan. The food comes out and the lazy susan goes spinning and spinning. Well, we HAD to have plated service in order to have centerpieces. Food was the centerpiece of our event and we did not spare any expenses in that regard. So we had menus on each plate so that guests would know what dish was coming. That created for excitement and I was able to have my beautiful centerpieces on the table the whole time. Yank Sing has nice lazy susans, though, so I cant complain. They remained on the tables and were a nice touch, but no one really turned them because there was no need to. Plated service cost us about $63 bucks per table (multiply that by 32 and youre talking about $1800 bucks). Oh yes, a note on plated service what that means is that every dish came out on a separate plate per guest. We had 10 courses, so each guest got a little bit of each course on their own small plate (that is, 10 plates were used for each guest that night!). 7. Details, details, details. Other things that I did to make the space beautiful may not be things you think of, but these things cost money and Yank Sing does not provide them for you. Nor do you find out about this until later! First, the candles. In order to light your own candles, you MUST get a fire permit (this is because the Rincon Center is a historical building). You must go to the SF Fire Dept and then they test your candle. Its a pain in the rear end. The permit cost a whopping 160 big ones. Yeah, I couldnt believe that. You can use YSs candles, which are little rinky dinky frosted ones that I used at some tables, but to get nice candles, you gotta pay the permit price. Also, I brought in theatrical lighting. The Rincon Center is beautiful BUT DARK. I brought in 8 uplights that I rented from a theater light place in Oakland (details to follow). The lights were pointed towards the pillars and throughout the space and I put in an amber filter, which gave the Rincon Center a warm glow. Finally, their table settings come with the bare minimum. All the details on my tables were my own - menus, favors, table numbers, name cards, etc. Go to YSs website to see what most weddings look like (go to the Wedding Banquet section). Very cheesy in my view (think 1980s pink or blue pastel linens and no candles or centerpieces). To get something classy, you must be diligent with the details, and unfortunately, details cost mucho dinero. 8. Cost for an Extra Hour. We had to pay several hundred dollars to have our banquet go until midnight. You have to end your party at midnight (no later). You can go til 11, but the extra hour, until midnight, will cost you several hundred dollars. Here are other gripes that dont have to do with hidden costs, but what caused me to give YS a B-. 1. Parking. They will tell you that the parking lot below you is free. However, by 8 or so, there will be no parking. So late guests, beware. Guests will have to park outside. Also, the parking lot is crazy small. The spaces are made for mini coopers. Your guests should know ahead of time. Also, with another wedding going on, the spots WILL FILL UP. I guarantee it. 2. Two weddings at the same time. I alluded to this problem above. I was peeved because my husband and I told them to let us know when someone booked inside because we thought about buying out the whole space (to get restaurant space, as well as the atrium, you have to spend at least $10K on more food or drinks (beyond the banquet food)). YS was very deceptive and did not tell us until 2 weeks before that they had booked someone inside. We would have wanted to know because we thought seriously about buying out the entire space. Also, as I note above, if you are having a wedding inside the restaurant, you might want to think twice b/c more likely than not, the atrium is being used and there is NO WAY that your guests are not going to feel like the atrium space was really cool. They have to walk past the atrium and many of the guests from the other wedding kept on coming up to our sign-in table thinking ours was the wedding they were there to attend. Also, we were quite loud outside with the dragon dance, so that must have been distracting. I didnt notice the folks inside at all, but then again, I had about 332 guests and they had about 50 guests. 3. Quantity of food with the plated service. I had a trial with YS where my family attended and the food was abundant. However, some of my family members noticed that with plated food, you dont get as much. They have to fit a small portion on a tiny dish and I think YS likes plated so they can distribute more food per plate than if you were getting food banquet style. There were 10 courses, however, so most people had no complaints. But Im sure some of my Asian relatives were peeved that they were not getting more food. The GOOD. Okay, so I totally dished and gave you my honest critique of YS. I ended up going with them obviously, so I will tell you why I did. 1. First, YS space is AMAZING. You will not get a better Chinese banquet space anywhere in the Bay area. Believe me, I did my research. The runner ups included the Asian Art museum (we would have to cater and Chinese food is never good reheated as if it were onsite, plus you have to use special flowers so the pollen doesnt ruin the art, AND it costs at least $12K just to use the space). In the end, though, the 3K was cheap to get such an amazing space. 2. Secondly, the food is AMAZING. Talk about amazing cuisine. No one could complain about the quality. This is probably some of the best Chinese food in the Bay Area (I know - my family is in the restaurant business). Everything was well-seasoned and just perfect. 3. Service. A lot of Chinese restaurants are known for terrible service. You sort of expect it. Well, Yank Sings service was unbeatable, in terms of Chinese Restaurants, if you ask me. They knew what they were doing and were total professionals. 4. Joy Li. She is the reception and banquet coordinator. Joy is exactly what her name indicates. She is a joy to work with. I enjoyed working with her. She was a total professional, although, again, like some vendors, it sometimes took her a day or two to return calls. However, I never pushed her or got crazy, so I got what I wanted. And two weeks before your wedding, she responds to calls within the same day. She is also fluent in Chinese (Cantonese/mandarin), so she is comfortable working with your parents. 5. Location, Location, Location. YS is right next to the waterfront, and in the business district. For us, this was a perfect location b/c we have lots of friends in the city and the restaurant is a block away from the waterfront, so those SF pics were taken right before reception. Also, there are some really great hotels in the area that you can book for your guests (we booked blocks at Hotel Vitale and Harbor Court). If they stay overnight, they can go to the Ferry Building the next morning and see the cool farmers market! Well, you saw my pictures. You can tell me if it was worth it. They were very organized so my day went by without a hitch, but yeah, do know about all these little details before you sign on the dotted line. Okay, okay, I know what you are thinking, how much did everything cost? Okay, here is the rough breakdown. The food was about $570 per table (ten people per table)(you gotta work with them to add high chairs and more chairs for kids, if you have kids). OH yeah, the menus have gone up about $100 last I checked. But they have various menus starting at around $300 going up to close to $800 per table. Anyway, the banquet cost, plus 18% service charge, the other details like linens, napkins, as well as the plating service all adds up quick. And lets not forget that damn corkage fee and champagne. We ended up spending about $32,500 or so on Yank Sing and the other food details (this does not include details such as the DJ, jazz trio band, lighting, etc.). The reception (food and drinks only) totaled about $100 per head. That makes YS cost about as much as some of the fancy SF hotels, but give Asian folk the choice between the Fairmont and Chinese food, its most likely the latter. And if you ask me, Id pick a ten course plated meal over a piece of chicken and rice pilaf any day. Anyway, I hope that helps you decide whether YS is right for you.
Services used: Catering, Wedding Venue
Events with Flair
Mylinh was a godsend. I brought her in for DOC work three months before my wedding, so I had already booked most of my vendors. I am pretty organized and only needed someone to help me execute on the day of. She was organized, professional, and went above and beyond her call of duty. I know many of you may be thinking you dont need a DOC. I thought I could do everything myself too, but in the end, I went with a DOC b/c I wanted to enjoy my wedding day. And Im so glad I did. I did not worry at all on my wedding day, knowing that Mylinh would keep me on schedule, and would handle all the little problems that come up (and believe something will come up). Also, your vendors need someone to contact in case they run into problems. Believe me, you need a point person. Although you may be tempted to ask a family member or friend, there are a couple of problems with this: 1. they have no experience and may botch it up, and 2. they will probably want to enjoy your wedding day. So I do think a DOC is the way to go. If youre already spending a ton on your wedding, you might as well spend a little more to make sure your vision is executed to a tee. Mylinh is also good friends with Nicole Ha, so if you hire them together, they will work together on your wedding day to make sure every detail is taken care of. She is very detail-oriented and will meet with you about 3 or 4 times before your wedding day and will remind you of things that you will inevitably forget. She also has impeccable taste so if you are unsure of what you want, she will have great ideas for you. She came to my house in Berkeley first to set up while I was at the tea ceremony, and then the plan was that she would go over to SF to set up for the reception. Well, her car broke down in Berkeley. She found a way to get over to SF and get her job done, and her professionalism is reflected in the way she didnt even mention to me her car troubles until a week later. She can take care of business like no other and she will treat your wedding day like her own (she even has walkie talkies so she can communicate to your d.j. when she is running around, to make sure he is on task too). You will need to provide her with one or two helpers, however, b/c she will only be there by herself (and if you are lucky, her fiance, Billy, will also be there to help her out). Cost = $500 for all services (though my mom gave her an additional $200 for her excellent services). I have heard that her rates have gone up slightly (around $750 or so for day of coordination, $3500 for a full wedding still a bargain, in my book!). Many people have e-mailed me about Mylinh, and Ive responded in kind to all of the e-mails because I really did appreciate Mylinhs help and am happy to refer clients to her. To help you decide whether Mylinh is right for you, here are some questions that have been asked of me and my honest answers. I would note that Ive noticed one or two aberrant people who were displeased with her services. I think they are in the slim minority (probably bridezillas who would have been unhappy with their day no matter what!). As with all vendors, meet with Mylinh to make sure you hit it off. Without further delay, here are some Q & As regarding Mylinh: 1) How many guests were at your wedding? (so I can get a feel for the size of the weddings she's coordinated) There were 332 guests at my wedding (reception), about 100 guests at my ceremony in Berkeley, and there were three events that day in three different cities! Talk about complicated. Mylinh is able to handle large numbers of guests and she will not get overwhelmed because of chaos, details, pushy Asian folks (as I know our family members can get!) 2) What type of activities was Mylinh involved in? (wedding ceremony, tea ceremony, reception/banquet, etc.) Mylinh was involved in the wedding ceremony and the reception/banquet. She helped me set up for the ceremony in Berkeley (meeting vendors, making sure everything was ready for when we arrived (from San Jose, which was where the tea ceremony was held)). After that, she set up everything in San Francisco for my reception and stayed there the entire evening to make sure that everything was perfect. If you read my bio, you'll see that there are ENDLESS details that needed to be managed, and she thought of everything - down to the last details of how the chopsticks should be arranged. I already had a timeline, but she will help you come up with a timeline to make sure that things happen smoothly. I confess I am very organized myself, but that speaks all the more to her skills because I would not have put up with incompetent, disorganized people, especially with something as important as my own wedding. Also, she helped me with a bunch of stuff beforehand - calling vendors, meeting with me several times to discuss details, exchanging emails, etc. I'd say that she spent about 30-40 hours on my event (including the day of activities). So what she charges you is CHEAP for what you get - we gave her around $700. In my view, she is underpaid, if you do the hours calculation. 3) What did you like about working with Mylinh? I liked everything about Mylinh - she was very organized, very detail-oriented, and also gave some good suggestions that were key to my vision (e.g., bringing in the lighting, candles, etc.). And to top all of that off, she does not stress you out and will not impose her vision on you. She supports your ideas, makes them better, and will treat your wedding like her own. She is also very responsive via e-mail and/or phone. But, as I noted with Nicole Ha, Mylinh is currently also fully employed during the day, so I usually gave her a day or so. She always came through, however, because she is very responsible. 4) What did you dislike about working with Mylinh? I know that this sounds almost unbelievable, but I didn't dislike any aspect of working with her. She is the ultimate professional, and despite the fact that her car broke down on the day of my wedding, I had no clue. She gets the job done. Really, you can't ask for more than that. My husband and I are both attorneys (litigators, at that), and we have extremely high standards. She was a total joy to work with. She is also very sweet and nice, but do not mistake that for being less than assertive. She is able to be all at once nice, helpful, and competent, so tasks will get done. 5) Looking back, was hiring a DOC worth it? YES. I can't stress this enough. For as organized as I was (spreadsheets, timelines, etc.), I was so relieved that I could hand over the reins to someone as responsible and organized as I am (if not more). Totally worth it. I would pay her twice or three times what I did if I knew, in retrospect, how great she is. 6) If you were to grade her for her work, what would you give her? (A, B, C, D, or F) A+. 7) Any other comments? Be realistic when hiring a DOC. I sometimes see brides who are just unrealistic about what they can expect from their DOC. If you are hiring a day of coordinator, you can only expect that person to help you take care of details for the day of. Remember, in terms of a hours breakdown, a DOC will spend approximately 30-40 hours on your wedding meeting with you, going through the details, and then finally making sure everything comes together. You cannot hire a DOC and expect someone to plan your entire wedding for you. If you are someone who has already worked out the details but who needs a responsible individual to help you make the details come together on your wedding day, a DOC is the way to go. If, on the other hand, you need someone to help pick everything out for you, including table linens, a wedding dress, etc., then you need full coordination (btw, Mylinh does full weddings now too for somewhere around $3500-$4000, which is mucho mucho cheap)! Finally, as with all of your vendors, do NOT expect your DOC to be your emotional strength/best friend not that Mylinh or any other DOC is not nice or is capable of that you are simply not paying for that! As noted below in my advice section, be a professional and you will get professional services in return. Be a bridezilla and you will get unhappy vendors and a wedding day that is miserable and less than memorable!
Services used: Unique Services
Pearls Place is located in Louisiana and I was worried that Katrina would have wiped them out, but just checked their site and they are going strong. Lousiana?!!!, you ask? Well, heres the thing. There are only about 2 reputable places to get your bridesmaids dresses for cheap on the internet, pearls place and www.netbride.com. I went to Pearls place because there was always a live person to talk to me. With netbride, I know lots of brides have praise for them, but I couldnt deal with the whole email thing all the time. Plus, the response time was not as good as Pearls Place. What you need to do is go to a salon like House of Fashion in Sacramento, or Trudys in Campbell. Look through all the dresses and try on the one you like. Make sure you write down the name of the dress and the color you like (sometimes places will not tell you b/c they are tricky like that). Then you have to go online and search for the dress, color, and style. Then, you have to call Pearls Place or Netbride and tell them what you want. They will send you a fitting chart and you can go ahead and send it to your bridesmaids. Always order up for your girls, as it is easier to alter it that way (I ordered a size 12 for one of my Brides, b/c she was fitted when she was pregnant, and we had to fix it to fit her after the pregnancy, when she got back to her usual size 4 petite self!). My husband and I are in a position to buy the dresses for our BMs (we also paid for tux rentals) and we thought it would be a nice thing for our bridal party. We have both been in numerous weddings and have NEVER had to pay for our attire, which always made us so happy to be there (b/c we were often dishing out tons of money already for the gift, shower gifts, bachelor/bachelorette party), so this is something to think about if you can do it. If you can swing it, do it. If you cant, maybe you can subsidize (even 25% of the attire will create goodwill - believe me, you will thank me later. I had a friend who subsidized 50% of the dresses and her girls loved her for it). Also, make sure to pick something that is timeless and contemporary. My BMs loved their dresses and also decided they could wear the dresses again. AND IMPORTANTLY, make sure the dress is not too expensive. Consider the economic situation of your girls. If you go with Vera Wang or Watters and Watters, or some other fancy schmancy dress, you may be putting them out (esp. if they have kids or are students). So that is the truth. And there. I said it. For all the girls who have ever resented being a bridesmaid b/c they felt put out, I have spoken on your behalf. I have had too many friends and loved ones complain to me about this sticky situation, so I avoided the entire situation by buying the dresses, paying for them, and getting something inexpensive AND CUTE! Think of it this way - it is your special day and your loved ones will do so much for you, but if you are creating a hardship for them, and dont realize it, you may end with several less friends after your wedding (yes, this has happened to some of my friends). Its not worth it. I can happily report that I am good friends with all of my BMs. I love them too much to put them out! YES, there are cute and inexpensive dresses out there. I did it, and Im sure you can too. Anyway, where was I? I digress. Oh yes, after all your girls get measured, you can go ahead and order your dresses. Both Netbride and Pearls place will send it to you as soon as they are ordered and WITHOUT TAX! That is the best part. BUT, heres the catch, you need to order about 3-5 months ahead. So here are the nitty gritties about the dresses I bought. I bought a Belsoie Jasmine Dress (I forget the style number, but it is in the Fall 2004 collection in Apple Red). I bought five of them for $113 each (that is including shipping and tax). My mom did the alterations so there were no other costs. As a comparison, the dresses cost about $200 (after tax, and thats not including alterations) at House of Fashion in Sacramento. I saved 50% on the dresses! Woo Hoo. Finally, as for the shoes, since I bought the dresses, my BMs bought their own shoes. We all decided on a pair that was available at Nordstrom for about $40. Id recommend Nordstrom for BM shoes. Lots of colors and styles.
Services used: Dress & Attire
Leung's White Crane Lion Dance
They were awesome. We had the lion dance right before dinner and it created excitement and drama for our guests. Everyone loved it. Daniel is nice to work with, although I only interacted with him once or twice he showed up, did the job, and the martial artists inside of the dragons (two in each) are SO talented. It costs $400 for everything, including the drummers. The dance lasts about 20 minutes and you get a free scroll with your name and some good luck Chinese saying. See above. Below are more pics.
Services used: Unique Services
Learn To Dance With Gene Russo
We hired Gene for 3 dance lessons. We wanted someone who could give us some confidence so that we could dance more elegantly. Gene came up with a simple routine for our song and gave us the confidence to be graceful and comfortable. Hes very patient and easy to work with. He worked with my husband a bunch more (Im the less self-conscious one), and I thought he was great! Gene also does group lessons, but we were running out of time so we opted for the private lessons. Cost = $70 per lesson (each lesson is 1 hour). Group lessons are much cheaper, however, if you have more time before your wedding.
Piedmont Party Rentals
They were close to us, did their job, and I cant say much more than that. We rented 100 chairs for the ceremony, a table for food and a red table cloth. Their prices compared well with classic party rentals and they dropped off the chairs and picked them up. So Id recommend them overall. Cost = about $ 415 to rent the chairs, table, and table cloth (BTW, Id recommend the plastic resin chairs, over the cheapest chairs available). I changed my order right before my wedding to more quality chairs and Im glad I did.
Services used: Rentals & Photobooths
Amy Kuschel Bride
I went to about 9 salons ranging from more discount places like Davids Bridal to more expensive salons like Jin Wang (my experience at Jin Wang was horrible, btw. Do NOT go there, unless you want a mediocre dress and want to pay $4000-8000K!). I loved Amy Kuschel. She makes your dress for you. You basically go to her salon and pick out the style you want and then a mock up dress is made for you, followed by your actual dress. Her workmanship is wonderful. My mom is a seamstress and was satisfied with the care and attention that she pays to her work. There were three fittings and, yes, Amy Kuschel herself helped to fit me to make sure the details were perfect. It is made of Mikado silk and I couldnt have found a more wonderful dress. I considered other lines, but I just couldnt beat this price to have my own dress made. Because I am about petite, it was VERY difficult to find a dress that fit. Most of the time brides try on a dress and then it will be fitted to their body through alterations. Ive learned that if you are petite, the proportions will be all wrong. A bride asked me how it works at Amy Kuschel. You can go to her site and check it out. Every season she has about 20 or so new dresses. How it works is that you go to the salon, look at what they have, try on the one they have at the store, and then one will be made to fit you perfectly. So, you do not design your own dress. Rather, you pick from their wonderful selection. And might I add, the experience of being at that salon is great. Very clean, bright, and also relaxing. I went to other salons and it felt like a cat fight. Girls were trying to peel dresses off my back after I tried them on. I hated that feeling. At Amy Kuschel they DO NOT overbook, so you get attention paid to you AND it is relaxing (they offer you candy, water, etc.). Cost = approximately $2000K (you can make 3 partial payments, one at each fitting). P.S. The place that came in a close second was Miosa in Sacramento (on J Street). They also make your dress for you, based on a number of pre-made designs. But the one I wanted cost $3000, which is a little more than what I wanted to pay. The silk is imported from Italy at Miosa and their workmanship was superb. My mom couldnt get over it at Miosa. If you have the dough, go check them out. Way better than Jin Wang, and other high end designers such as Monique Llullier, in my view. I know people are all about name brands, but just go with what you find fits you best and what you LOVE. You cant go wrong that way. Miosa is a little-known store, but a well kept secret in my view. If Im ever rolling in it and need a dress, Im going there. Ask for Michael. P.P.S. Ive seen lots of posts from brides on how to go about finding a dress. I, myself, was totally clueless. As I noted above, if you are an average size bride (Size 6 and up), I definitely think it is worth going to salons like House of Fashion (Sacramento) and Trudys (Campbell) just to see what is out there and that can be altered to fit your body. Remember to bring pictures of dresses you like from the major bridal magazines b/c chances are they will have it there. What happens is that they have size 10 dresses of particular designs (I guess size 10 is the average size) and they will let you try it on (they will pin it in the back and you can try it on to get an idea of how it looks). Make sure you write down the name and size of the dress b/c you can most likely buy it for 40=50% cheaper from Netbride or Pearls Place (see my review of bridesmaids dresses for more directions). Id recommend a line like Maggie Sottera (Australian designer, I thought her designs were very contemporary and affordable, some dresses beginning around $600). Then, there are salons like Amy Kuschel, Miosa, and Jin Wang that allow you to try on their own line and then one will be made for you in your size. Go this route if you are petite (which is what I did), or if you are picky and you want something that fits you like a glove. Youre going to be spending $1800 and up on this option, which might be worth it if you end up liking dresses in the $1500 at salons like Trudys anyway. Finally, there are fancy schmancy salons like Gingers in SF and Bridal Galleria in SF. They are like huge retailers of bridal dresses, much like Trudys in that they carry tons of dresses, but they are more upscale and carry designer dresses (like Monique Llulier, etc.). I didnt go to Gingers or Bridal Galleria b/c I havent heard tons of good reviews from brides and I stopped looking after I found what I wanted at Amy Kuschel. If you are into name brands and designer gowns, you probably want to go to those two salons. OH YES, lets not forget about Davids Bridal. This was the first salon I went to (Colma branch). I would not rule them out. Their workmanship is not as good as a place like Amy Kuschel, but they have small sizes (and you can try these small sizes on at the store). There were some totally cute dresses, so Id probably recommend going there first and then branching out and seeing what you like. Hope this little overview helps!
Services used: Dress & Attire
Overall, I thought they did an immaculate job. I went to almost every store in the Bay Area, including some shops in Century Mall in San Jose, shops in Chinatown SF, shops in Chinatown Oakland, and NO ONE had cheong sams that were spectacular or special. Nor did any of those cheong sams fit me!!! I have a very small waist but hips that are disproportionate for my body, so for those Asian sistas that have either big busts or big hips, forget about it! You will need to buy a much larger dress and get alterations (at which point the dress doesnt look so good anymore), or youll just need to have one made. Lings did everything in about a month and a half (3 fittings), and were good to work with. They are, admittedly, very pricey. Along with your western dress, you may feel like you are up the creek with your budget, but you have to decide what is important to you. I wanted a red dress and one that was special and original, so I went to Lings. Mine has special trim and piping, which is why it is so expensive. I also opted to have nice buttons sewn on and chose a more expensive material, so with tax and everything else, I paid about $650. The hefty price is why I gave them an A-. However, I have had other dresses made there, including my engagement party dress, which I also post below. That dress also cost in the $600 range, but both made quite a statement and I felt beautiful in them! However, I know that the dresses begin in the $300 range if you do not have piping and choose a cheaper material and something more modest in terms of the lining. Definitely worth checking out. See pictures above. Below are a couple more pics.
Services used: Dress & Attire
Mei Qing Fashion
My mom wanted me to wear a tea ceremony dress in the morning and after spending a pretty penny on my cheong sam and wedding dress, I was NOT going to spend a ton on the tea ceremony dress. So I went to San Francisco Chinatown and I was pretty happy with my dress. It cost $99 with tax, and the lady will alter it for you. Heres the only catch, make sure you park in a parking lot! I parked about a block away at a meter, and my car got towed (apparently you cant park at the spaces after 3:00 in the North beach/Chinatown area as they become a lane during traffic hour)! Yup, so I ended having to pay $170 to get my car back, which made the cheap tea ceremony dress more like $300! Go figure. When think youre saving money, you end up getting ripped off anyway.
Services used: Unique Services
Tons of people have already asked me who I used. John was, by far, one of my favorite vendors of all time. His pictures speak for themselves, dont you think? He has an eye for capturing moments and making each one seem like its a piece of art. I cannot imagine having gone with someone else. He was easy to work with (I didnt even know he was there, unlike my videographer, who I mention below). He has done tons of weddings and is published in lots of magazines and has won a lot of awards. He and his brother, Joey, work together and they will not disappoint you (I will try to post some engagement shots below b/c Joey did those. They have similar style and are equally good to work with). You will have a set of photographs to cherish forever. It you splurge on anything, make it the photographer. Details count but you need someone who will make you remember your day fondly. That is the best advice I can give you. Also, make sure you connect with your photographer and that you like their work. If you dont like their work and go with them b/c they are cheap, you will regret it. Believe me. I have friends who wish they went with someone else. Anyway, my package cost me $6400, which is probably the most expensive package. I had 10.5 hours of photography (I paid for an extra hour), got 600+ photos with editing (You cant even imagine how many good shots there were my bio is only a small glimpse), a coffee table album, and the best thing of all is that I got all my proofs and get an electronic copy of all my shots. He has packages starting at $3500 or so, so if you are having a shorter day (e.g., 5 hours or so), like most normal people, do not rule out John and Joey b/c of costs!!!! A small caveat about John and www.jkhphoto.com, however. We bought a package that came with a 30-page 11X14 album. We have yet to see that album it took a while for them to show me the design, and I am still working on the album with them (almost one year after my wedding!). Apparently, this is not uncommon. I confess that we did lag a bit in picking picturesbut more to the point, they are photographers, girls, not album designers, as Ive discovered. Also, they charge extra $$$ if you do not like their original album design (who ever heard of that?). Luckily, that clause did not appear in my contract so I wont have to pay for the extra design costs. If I knew then what I know now, I would probably just hire them for the photography and design my own album through www.mypublisher.com (I have gone and done this and I love mypublisher. Its cheap ($120 with the 50% code) and I was able to format it exactly like I wanted)This is something to think about!
Services used: Wedding Venue
Bay Area Entertainment
We hired a D.J. and a jazz trio band. We thought the D.J. was necessary b/c you do need someone to run the show at the reception. I hired Kalvin because the person I wanted to hire (who was the D.J. at my cousins wedding) was unavailable. So anyway, Kalvin was the referral. He has a nice booming voice, is very professional, and overall, he did a great job. He worked well with my day-of-coordinator and followed my schedule to a tee. The reason why I gave him a B+ is because he said Bay Area Entertainment a bit too many times that night, which I thought was cheesy. I didnt know that he was going to do that, or else I would have asked for otherwise that night. But other than that, it went great. Another thing to note, during your wedding night, he will give you a golden record with your name, date, and the song to your first dance. It was pretty cheesy, in my view, but pretty funny, and in the end, my husband and I did not mind so much. Cost = approximately $1200 for about 6 hours (6 pm to 12 am)
Services used: Unique Services
Daisuke and Friends
Heres the thing with jazz trio bands, they are pretty darn expensive. I checked around and the going rate was about $1400 for about 3 hours. We wanted a jazz band b/c we were having a pre-dinner reception and we wanted good dinner music to set the mood (no elevator music please). And, because I had a classy event in mind, I had to go all the way, which meant that I needed good music. Anyway, I talked to some friends, and one of our friends frequents this bar in Alameda called Kellys. He knows this drummer in the house jazz trio band there, who is named Daisuke. Well, I called Daisuke, Dai for short, and asked him if he wanted to do a gig. Well, he said it sounded great and he would bring 2 friends. So he did drums, asked a bassist to come, and also a pianist. They were people within his circle of musician friends, and they did an awesome job, and I saved a bunch of money. He was great to work with, very professional, and the folks he brought had a wide repertoire of music. Plus, a jazz trio band just brings so much class to your event. My guests loved it, and it was way better than if I had Kalvin, our D.J., play elevator music all night long. BTW, if you go with a jazz trio, try to have a pianist in there. My combination was: piano, bass, and drums, which worked out fine. But sometimes people have guitar instead of piano. I prefer the piano though. Cost = $700 for 4 hours.
Services used: Unique Services
Celtic Harpist Diana Rowan
We needed music for our ceremony, and I always envisioned having a harpist, so I checked a couple of places and went with Diana, who also lives in Berkeley. We figured itd be easier for her to do it since she lived within 5 minutes of our house, where we were holding our ceremony. She did a great job, is very professional, and was able to improvise the day of our wedding because my family got caught in traffic driving up to our house from the tea ceremony, so she played a lot more music than she thought she would be. She charges about as much as others charge, so her rates were fair. Also, we needed a microphone and two small speakers for our ceremony (which I highly recommend if you are having an outdoor ceremony because sound is hard to gauge depending on the weather, etc.) and so she charged us $50 more for her husband to come and set up speakers and a microphone. Cost = $380 for about 3.5 hours (I think that includes the mic and speakers too).
Services used: Ceremony Music
Delicieuse Princesse Bakery
I learned from a friend who got married before me that you can save a lot of money on the cake. I know some folks NEED to have the most fantastic cake ever, and that is up to them, but for me, I figured after 10 courses of food, and a dessert (mango pudding), my guests wouldnt care as much for the cake. If you are having your wedding in a less elaborate venue, having the cake be the centerpiece of the wedding may not be such a bad idea. But b/c I had my wedding at the Rincon, and there were so many other elaborate details already, I just decided to go simple with the cake. I needed it to taste good, but I didnt want to spend a fortune. So the cake was a simple yellow cake with strawberries and kiwi inside. If you shop around, you will see that most fancy cake places will charge about 5.00 per piece. Well, I ended up paying about $1.50 or so per person on the cake. This is how I did it. First, I went to a cheaper bakery in Chinatown (yeah, girls, its pretty ghetto inside, and pretty uninspiring, but you do save lots of $$$ in the end), then I ordered a three tier cake, and 2 half sheets. The half sheets will be stored in the back and your restaurant vendor will end up slicing that up and serving that to your guests. They will never know that their cake didnt come from the 3 tiers. It would have cost a lot to have more than 3 tiers. So now you know my secret. Anyway, in my view, I thought my cake looked pretty good. I ordered it white with a couple of small details and then my florist, Nicole Ha, decorated it. Overall cost = $471 (that includes delivery, I think). They were also very reliable and easy to work with.
Services used: Wedding Cake
Da Vinci Fusion
This is a huge secret and adding this will make your event so much more dramatic. Two weeks before my wedding day I returned to the Rincon Center and Yank Sing and realized that the space was DARK. So I scrambled to find someone who could do lighting. I called Classic Party Rentals and they were going to charge me $500+, and I was going to pay that much at a lot of other places. Then, through a bit of searching and a lot of good luck, I found Da Vinci. They rent out theatrical lights to theater companies and to movie makers. I rented 8 uplights from them and they also lent me the amber filters. It definitely makes a difference, gals (this is something that all the professional wedding planners do for their weddings and many of us just dont think about it Go to www.haleevents.com, who is hot events planner in the Bay Area, and who my cousin used for his wedding. She charges about 5-7K for her services, and she ALWAYS ALWAYS uses theatrical lights. See also my DOCs site, www.eventswithflair.com. Mylinh, too, uses lighting, and it is always more dramatic (Mylinh (who is GREAT), if you go with her, has some contacts too, who will charge a lot less for coming in and doing the lighting setup work. I tried them but they were booked.)). The uplights make the room more warm and your guests will feel like theyre in a different space. Do note, if you go with a place like Da Vinci, you will have to set it up yourself, which can be a little tricky. They showed me how to use the lights but you have to be careful b/c if you plug too many lights into one socket, itll blow a fuse (and Im sure that cant be pleasant on your wedding day to have the lights and electricity all turn off!). So anyway, be aware of that. Mylinh and her fiance set up the lights for me. You can see the warmth from the lights in my Reception pics above. Theres a warm amber, red glow that would have been absent otherwise. Cost = $126 (that is CHEAP compared to what Classic charges).
Services used: Unique Services