- Catering—Pyramid Catering: Nick: A-; Ursula: B. When we were hunting for caterers, we couldn't find anyone who could match Pyramid's combination of price, selection, and quality. We could find caterers at roughly the same price that we liked, but if we wanted a second or third entree, they'd charge us more. Pyramid had three meat entrees in our package and threw a vegetarian option at no extra cost. If you go with their catering, we recommend not serving fish, since it's very hard to get right in large numbers; and that serving a starch other than rice might be a good choice. We asked for changes to some of the food at our first tasting and had assurances that changes would be made, but those changes weren't apparent on the day of. But really, the overwhelming majority of guests had good things to say about the food.
Ben was very responsive to email during the final month before our wedding as we had more questions, but during the early stages, setting up meetings and getting responses was not super timely. This sort of thing can drive the newly engaged insane, but we found less-than-super-timely replies to be somewhat par for the course with many vendors. If this sort of thing is important to you, I would look carefully for vendors who's reviewers say things like "always responded timely", etc. But even better, my advice is to try to do things far enough in advance that slow responses aren't an issue. Your vendors are dealing with dozens of clients at once (if not more); yes, your wedding is important to them; but if they have matters that are pressing for a wedding that's much closer to happening, they're going to push your stuff to the side for a bit.
- Rehearsal Dinner—La Vita e Bella: A. Good Italian food, tremendous selection, and reasonably priced. The final bill did end up over the quote we were given, but only because people drank more wine than their initial estimate. I think the service really pushes these guys over the top.
- Reception Venue—Rainier D.A.R.: A. The DAR rental includes all of your staff, plates, tables, chairs, and table linens for one price. If your caterer can provide napkins, it eliminates the need for a separate equipment rental company altogether. We had one snag trying to distinguish the time for the end of the party from the time we had to be out of the reception hall, but they managed to accommodate our later end time at the last minute.
- Rings—Greenlake Jewelry Works: A+. Nick got this recommendation from a friend for Ursula's e-ring and they've been fantastic every step of the way. Custom bands are expensive compared to picking up a plain band from a major jeweler, but if you're willing to spend the money you'll get quality work at Green Lake. When their first quote for wedding bands ended up too high, they worked with us to come up with an alternative that would cost less but still have a similar spirit.
We worked with Adrienne, if you specifically like our rings and are looking for someone to work with there. She doesn't do CAD designs though, if you like to use those as reference points.
- Photographer—Chris Gendron: Nick: A; Ursula: B. Our e-pics came out fantastic. And the teaser photos look great too. The downside is that Chris has a loooooong turnaround time; we got a look at the online album five weeks after the wedding, and we'll have the DVD of hi-res prints "soon". This feels like it is on the long side. Obviously, check out his gallery and make sure you like his style, but Chris was great to work with, and even helped one of our groomsmen with his bowtie in a pinch :). (Ursula: I'm not as in love with Chris's photos as Nick is. I think this is mostly due to stylistic concerns; I don't like Chris's composition, and it doesn't seem like he's got a sense for shooting from flattering angles or helping subjects to find them. If you're a bride who cares how you look in photos, I would suggest looking elsewhere for a photographer.)
- DJ—Jeremy Hamel of Sonic Entertainment: A. Definitely gave us what we were looking for in terms of a playlist. We had a little trouble getting a hold of him, but arranging things with the DJ was one of the last things we did so I doubt it's his fault.
- Ceremony Venue—St. Mark's Episcopal Cathedral: A+ (if you're already a pledging member). The fees for for church members are quite low. Since Nick goes to church there, he was worried that having just 125 or so wedding guests there would leave the room feel very empty. But it didn't feel that way at all, which you'll be able to see in the photos soon.
St. Mark's also worked very hard to accommodate our requests to use gender-neutral and non-heteronormative language during the ceremony. We really appreciated this.
- Tuxedos—Formal Image, Inc.: B-. We picked Formal Image for logistical reasons; the bachelor party ended on Friday morning near Mt. St. Helens, meaning we had to pick a rental shop in the Southern part of the Seattle metro area to do the fitting in person in case something didn't fit. Of the five tuxedos, three didn't fit one way or another, some in really egregious ways. I'm told this happens when calling or faxing in measurements, but going 2-for-5 does not inspire confidence. Also, they don't have enough staff to handle all members of the wedding party showing up at once, and there were two wedding parties there that morning, adding to the madhouse atmosphere. On the plus side, they were able to find better fitting shirts & jackets and alter hem lines on the spot. Nick's tux wasn't a perfect fit, but he's a funny size, so really, it all worked out. But there were way too many close moments, and the groomsman was treated very poorly by staff members.
- Wedding dress—Melissa Quinn at Faerie Fingers costumes: A. Mel is an old acquaintance of mine who had made clothes and alterations for me before, and she was the first person I thought of when I decided to have my dress made. She was very flexible, went through three or four fittings, and was open to my ideas. Her craftsmanship is impeccable, and the end price was ridiculously reasonable (under $900 including fabric). I would totally recommend her to anyone north of Seattle (given that she's located in Everett).
- Bridesmaid dresses—Jiminie Hayward at mylittleblackdress: A-: I had been admiring Jiminie's work for months before the wedding planning started; Jiminie makes dresses to the exact measurements of your girls, in the color and fabric of your choice, in a range of styles or to your specifications. I would definitely recommend her dresses as a quality alternative to the standard David's Bridal bridesmaid dresses; the minus is only because (as you might expect) there were some fit problems that required alterations for two of the four bridesmaids.
- Cake—Kelli's Creations: A+. We love Kelli! Our cake looked fabulous, and judging by the fact that only a bit of the chocolate & coffee layer left, it was delicious. Kelli is really at the sweet spot in terms of giving you great quality at a reasonable price. When we gave our per-person quote from Kelli to another cake maker, they didn't even bother negotiating. And her cake tasted better than theirs! She also did a second tasting with us to make sure we didn't get a chocolate cake that was too chocolate-y or almond cake that was too sweet, and candied the orange slices to decorate the cake herself at no extra charge.
Posters on the Seattle discussion board on TheKnot.com get an additional discount.
- Van Rental—Alamo downtown: B. We rented an extra van to help ferry people between the ceremony and the reception. And thankfully, there are a couple of car rental shops downtown so that no one had to go all the way to the airport. But they lost track of our reservation, and since 25,000 Cornhusker fans were in town, they almost weren't able to find a single car! We're not sure how they ended up finding a van, but they eventually did. That caused a momentary freak out.
- Alterations—Deb Hedeen: A+. Deb is a complete professional at what she does. She did excellent alterations on short notice for an eminently reasonable amount and was a real pleasure to deal with.
- Transportation—BMC Limo: A+. We rented their vintage London Taxi at almost the last minute (I think we finally reserved it the Wednesday before the wedding), and it was a huge hit. They were also able to re-route the driver twice just a few hours before our even as we kept re-arranging where we needed rides. Totally worth it if you are looking for vintage transportation, something that will give you and your guests a big smiles, a fantastic prop for photos, etc.
- Hair & Makeup--Jenny and Belinda at VAIN Hair Salon (Belltown): A-, A. I was set on doing my hair and makeup at VAIN after following their blog for a while. Both Jenny and Belinda were consummate professionals and a pleasure to deal with; although Jenny specializes in updos, I had finger waves, which might explain some minor imperfections and loose hairs the day of. Nonetheless, a great place to go, and comparatively economical; we paid under $300 for test and day-of, and that included a generous tip.
- Flowers—Pike Place Market: A+. If you are willing to be flexible on what flowers are in your bouquets, boutonnieres, centerpieces, etc., buying from Pike Place Market is a great way to save money. The flowers were all very high quality and held up through the entire ceremony & reception.
- Hotel—Hotel Monaco: A+. Totally accommodated early arrivals & late departures for wedding party members and guests. Also willing to let people book an addition 3 days earlier or later than the day of the wedding (as opposed to 2 for most locations). They do have an attrition policy (i.e., you get charged if you don't fill at least 80% of the rooms you book), but beyond that they have great staff and great service.
- Hotel—Mayflower Park Hotel: A+. A perfect location for visitors who want to play tourist in Seattle. Willing to hold up to 20 rooms without attrition guarantees. Guests said they had a good time.
- Hotel—Ramada Inn Downtown/Seattle Center: B. If you read the reviews online you'll find a lot of roach motel complaints. But those seem to be older, and it's a perfectly fine place to have people stay, especially if you want to give people a budget option in the city. That said, at least one of our guests didn't get a gift bag that we had left for them, and others didn't get one because even when given a list of possible guests, they couldn't find everyone in our wedding block. This was a downer. If you're not doing gift bags, this is a fine choice; but if you are, find some other way to make sure your OOT guests get your gift bags.
Our vendors are listed roughly in the order of how much money we spent on them, from the most money to the least. This should give you a sense of which parts of a wedding are expensive, so hunting for savings can mean real money, versus the parts of the wedding where the best deal in the world will only save you $75.