Have Your Cake, Decide Later If You Want to Eat It

Newly Engaged? Congratulations to you! I can imagine the next few months will be a complete whirlwind of emotions and feelings. Before you take on one too many DIY projects and find yourself knee deep in planning, take a deep breath. I’ve compiled a list of things to consider when beginning your initial planning search and you’re in luck! Over the next three weeks, I’ll reveal my top three money saving tips when vendor shopping. Last week we agreed to Break Bread and not the Budget, read all about my top caterer questions here. Take control of planning by keeping these ideas in mind when booking your baker.

  1. Order enough cake but not too much.

    A large guest list doesn’t always allude to a large cake. Similarly to the way everyone doesn't drink champagne, everyone doesn’t eat cake. Order enough cake to accommodate 80% of your final guest list if you’re offering cake as your only dessert. Should a dessert bar and other night-caps be an option for you, consider ordering even less cake (more about this in the third bullet).

  2. Make sure your baker and florist are on the same page.

    As mentioned before, your cake should compliment your wedding decor tastefully. If you opt for a naked cake, buttercream, fondant or a mix of all three, there’s a slight chance you'd want to adorn your cake with flowers — the same flowers from the centerpieces, bouquets, etc., So does the florist or the baker add the final touches to the cake? I’ve seen the most success when the florist provided extra flower petals for the baker to place on the cake upon delivery to the venue.

  3. Fake it until you make it.

    Chances are, your caterer offers a dessert menu that you can add to your dinner package. You can save money and time by displaying a fake cake during the wedding reception. The bride and groom will cut a slice of cake from one real layer of cake while the remaining layers will be completely artificial. Once the cake is cut and rolled to the kitchen, the caterer will then serve slices of a more cost efficient sheet cake or a mix of desserts including cupcakes, tarts, macaroons, brownies, cookies, you name it.

Keep Cozy in the Chaos

Happy Friday!

If your 2019 is anything like mine, it as truly been a year already. Here are a few things I’m doing this weekend in Atlanta to keep my spirits high and my mind at ease.

  1. Book Signing Event for Arian Simone.

    Did I mention the event was free and at Phipps Plaza! Do you need another excuse to support a black female author?!

  2. Hot Yoga

    There are plenty of free fitness classes especially during the first week of the month (thanks to my sisters for giving me the scoop). I plan to hit up one a day for at least a week.

  3. Try a new coffee shop

    I hear Read Shop Atlanta is all the rage. Wish me luck.

Are you doing anything new and exciting this weekend? I’d love to hear all about it!

Break Bread and Not The Budget

Newly Engaged? Congratulations to you! I can imagine the next few months will be a complete whirlwind of emotions and feelings. Before you take on one too many DIY projects and find yourself knee deep in planning, take a deep breath. I’ve compiled a list of things to consider when beginning your initial planning search and you’re in luck! Over the next month, I’ll reveal my top three money saving tips when vendor shopping. Take control of your planning by keeping these ideas in mind when booking a catering company!

  1. Decide if you prefer a plated dinner or buffet.

    Dinner is the most expensive and most common meal. So if you’re considering an evening wedding, you should pay really close attention here. For those couples leaning more towards a plated meal, you can expect to pay anywhere from $32-40++ per person in addition to staffing costs. Your final guest count will determine how much staff you need and your final menu will of course determine how much you pay per person. For those leaning more towards a buffet, this is also a fantastic option. I think buffets get a a bad wrap- but if done tastefully they can be efficient and cost effective. First off, consider if guests will serve themselves or if you’d like to have servers. If you opt for servers, not only will you pay for staff, but the buffet line can only form on one side of the table which may lead to a long line. If you go for self-serve, guests could take too much food which can be really bad really quick. Chances are you may have paid a little extra anyway. Most catering companies prepare a little extra just to have a cushion in instances like these.

    —Bonus Tip: If you’ve found a caterer you’re a strongly considering, inquire about rentals. The company may have solid white tablecloths and napkins if nothing else which is a great way to cut additional costs. Most likely, you’ll use that company’s dinnerware and glassware anyway so it may give you peace of mind to have the catering company responsible for everything food related at the end of the wedding.

  2. Find out the cake cutting fee.

    If you’re on any social media these days, I’m pretty sure you’ve seen how elaborate wedding receptions can be. The wedding cake has become one of the central focal points of the wedding reception and the design of the cake is considered and incorporated when finalizing wedding decor and the color palette. Cakes are a big deal (if you want them to be) but don’t worry, I’ll handle the nitty gritty of that in the following blog post. For now, you should pay attention to the cake cutting fees assessed by your caterer. A cake cutting fee is simply that, a fee imposed by the caterer for cutting and serving a wedding cake that the chef or catering company did not provide. This fee can range anywhere from $1 to $5 per slice. Which means the more guests you have, the more cake you’ll need. You should negotiate the cake cutting fee early on especially if you know you intend to book a separate baker.

  3. Inquire about the champagne toast.

    Can you believe there are some guests that don’t drink champagne? While some people (like myself) think this is borderline crazy, this can actually work in favor of the couple. A champagne toast averages approximately $3 per person. Consider offering sparkling cider or encouraging your DJ to make an announcement for guests to grab a drink from the bar (especially if its an open bar) a couple minutes before the toast! One simple decision can cut your catering costs by $300-$600!

    Any questions, comment below or email hello@halleneeley.com

    xo HN

12.26 This Week in Weddings

What a better season to get engaged than during the winter months? People usually take extended time off from work and its the perfect time for exchanging gifts. Did you know we are in peak engagement season? Four of the ten most popular days to get engaged are in December which means you’re bound to see a few proposals on your social media feed over the next few days!

I actually don’t know how I feel about this. On one end of the spectrum it is a very joyous and celebratory occasion and on the other end, friends and family may share the news before you have time to soak it all in.

So what are your thoughts? Would you prefer a personal engagement where you share with your friends, family (and followers) at a later date, do you prefer to be surrounded by friends and family and from there you share with your social media family later, or are you okay with that moment being shared as it happens? Comment below!

Pamper Yourself without Breaking the Bank

I get it. Its hard to do almost anything in the winter. Not in the mood to go to the nail salon or even the gym? Get back to your normal self by trying one or all of these:

  1. Give your hair some loving.

    This masque is so rich and creamy with an earthy aroma. It’s reminds me of taking a hike without all the trees and stuff.

  2. Spruce up the way you sleep.

    Give your pillows and sofa cushion a spritz a few minutes before you settle down for the night.

  3. Stay Hydrated

    Drink four-five bottles of water a day.

    The easiest way to do this is by simply placing them on your desk or work station at the beginning of your day. If you’re anything like me, you’ll drink them just because they’re in your face. If you need something warm consider earl grey or green tea.

  4. Keep up with your skincare regimen.

    When I get home, I just want to eat and sit down. If you can’t make yourself shower right away, at least remove your make up, wash your face and moisturize! You’ll thank me later, trust me.

  5. Go to bed in fuzzy socks.

    I get the best sleep when I workout or wear socks. Keep yourself comfortable and cozy with a pair of fluffy socks. No need to overspend, you can find some pretty good ones at the Dollar Store

    What do you do to keep yourself out of the winter rut? Share in the comments below or on social media!

Hosting for the Holidays

Yo Go Girl!

Whether you remember actively extending your home to your friends and family this season or even if you were voluntold, the holidays are right around the corner! While shopping for home decor during the holidays can be very inviting, don’t lose sight of the forest for the rose gold Christmas trees. While designer wrapping paper, couture stockings and velvet pillows are all immaculate choices, I can’t say these are thing you’d continue to use year after year. Right? Be intentional with your shopping and go for items that you can use into the Spring months or year round if at all possible. Here’s a guide to help you navigate around the shopping madness and crowds.

  1. Make a List. Create a Pinterest board and browse a couple online home decor magazines to get a better idea of your holiday home style. Are you looking for ultimate glam, a rustic barnyard feel or going for muted and earth tones? Keep in mind the color and textures of the furniture you already have as a basis and add subtle and eye-catching accents. You are not going to justify buying a Christmas couch okay?

  2. Check for online sales, coupons and promotions before making a purchase. This allows you to do a couple of things; Avoid the crowds and temptation to overspend by knowing what to expect well before you arrive. Some stores offer a “Buy online, pick up in store option”. How great is that? You can trim shipping costs, save time and get exactly what you need. Looking for a plaid or furry rug? Search online to see if any retailers offer similar items with better promotions or discounts. Haven’t ordered from that site before? Even better! Join that mailing list, save 15% and keep going!

  3. Go for items that can be incorporated into your existing lifestyle. One of my favorite purchases is this Ayesha Curry cutting board. In the warmer months I share cheesea, crackers, grapes and berries on it. In the fall, pretty much the same. Prepare your accompaniments ahead of time (buy enough to refill the board at least once) and set it on your cocktail table or desired gathering spot a few minutes before the party arrives. When I’m not serving on the cutting board, please believe I’m using it to actually prepare dinner.

  4. Skip the Fall/Winter scents and go for home fragrances that incorporate a more holiday neutral aroma. Consider sparkling champagne, fresh fruit or fragrant flowers if that’s your thing. Are you still going to be in love with cinnamon apple spice in January? Probably not. November ended almost two weeks ago and by Halloween I already had more than my fair share off pumpkin spice latte-donut,-hot-coca-fall-leaves anything.

  5. Shop during the off season! Have you every shopped during a post Christmas sale? You can imagine all of the hand lotions, soaps, wreaths, wrapping paper, gift boxes, ornaments, towels, throws and rugs will all be on super sale. If there’s an item you’re really going after, check online in about a month. Yes I know the holidays are over by then, but the sales are just beginning! Set yourself up for success for the following holiday season. Your pockets will thank you.

Whatever choices you decide to make, remember there is no right and wrong way to celebrate the holidays. I encourage you all to hug your friends a little tighter and tell your family how much you love and appreciate them more often. Eat great food, laugh as often as possible and trust me when I say people won’t know if you spent $5 or $50 on that candle. They will however remember those moments you shared together.

Happy Hosting!

x HN

12.09 This Week in Weddings

Welcome to one of the newest segments on the blog, This Week in Weddings where I’ll recap a few of my favorite wedding celebrations, trends, ideas and even inspired shoots from the week! First up is Pantone’s Color of the Year 2019, Living Coral. Because dead coral is so last season. I’m actually pretty surprised to see coral return so soon. I remember it so vividly a few years back when color-blocking was all the rage in the fashion industry. So, what are your thoughts? Leave your Living Coral comments below.

x HN

Sensitive Skin Solutions, Winter Approved

If your skin is anything like mine, you are all too familiar with dry scalp, rough hands, itchy skin and random dry patches. I am here to tell you after 25, your body just isn't loyal! It is true, I have always struggled with dry skin so having my dermatologist diagnose my inflamed itchy patches as discoid eczema, was everything but what I wanted to hear after 6 months of acne treatments. After some research, I learned my cylinder shaped breakouts could be completely seasonal (meaning they're only around for the cold winter months) or they could also be a reaction to using detergents, lotions and body products with fragrance. Who in the world likes to use unscented products? For crying out loud, why would you want to smell blank? 

So like the millennial I am, I searched the internet for some new products suited for my now aging, dry, sensitive, eczema-prone skin. Here's a list of products I use daily for gentle cleansing and extra moisture plus one body scrub that smells SO good, you'd want to eat it -this one is scented, so once every week or two is enough for me. 

  1. Honey Pot (foam wash for sensitive lady parts)

  2. Cetaphil Ecczema Calming (wash and moisturizer for eczema prone skin)

  3. Sugar and Rose Body Scrub (because sensitive girls like to smell like roses too)

  4. Tide Free & Clear Pods & Laundry Detergent (no fabric softener, sorry babe)

  5. Ultra Repair Cream (use to seal in Cetaphil Mositurizer)

Let me know if you try one or all of these. If you have suggestions leave a comment below!

x HN

for the love of hosting

Thanks for visiting.

If one or all of the following applies to you, you're in the right place:

- have an affinity for hosting friends and family

-are freakishly obsessed Martha & Snoop's Potluck Dinner Party

- have grown fond of candles and all things home decor

- have your life strategically organized by boards on Pinterest

-find yourself gawking over wedding industry trends (#donutwall)

 If not, I'm still happy to have you, stay tuned.

x HN