The Small Business Guide to Sustainability Certifications

The Small Business Guide to Sustainability Certifications
By Carlyann Edwards,

Today, companies face pressure to expand their corporate social responsibility (CSR) practices. SolarCity’s sustainability briefing found that 75 percent of consumers are more likely to buy a product or service if the company is making an effort to be sustainable, while 82 percent are more likely to purchase a product that represents CSR over one that does not.

How can businesses effectively market their environmental responsibility while avoiding the pitfalls of greenwashing?

Many companies have turned to accredited CSR certifications and awards. Sustainability certifications are voluntary norms and standards relating to environmental, social, ethical and food safety issues.

“These certifications help consumers and stakeholders understand that the company has gone through a third-party verification process to make sure the company is actually walking the walk regarding sustainability,” Josh Prigge CEO of Sustridge said.

With sustainability reporting on the rise and a lot at stake for companies, there are several certifications businesses can choose from. Choosing the best one can be difficult, but here are some of the more popular ones to make your decision a bit easier.
B Corp

B Lab certification requires companies to pass an online assessment for “social and environmental performance,” integrate B Lab commitments into company governing documents, and pay an annual fee ranging from $50 to $50,000. “B Corp is to business what Fair Trade certification is to coffee or USDA Organic certification is to milk,” its website reads. Today, there are more than 2,564 Certified B corporations from 50 countries and more than 130 industries.

“We chose this certification because we feel it is the ‘gold standard’ for sustainable business,” CEO of Vert Asset Management Samuel Adams said. “For small businesses like ours, it is not hard or costly to get.”
LEED

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is an ecology-oriented building certification program run by the U.S. Green Building Council. It is currently the most widely used green building rating system in the world, available for virtually all buildings. According to the company’s website, LEED buildings attract more tenants, cost less to operate, and boost employee productivity and retention. Projects pursuing LEED certification earn points across several categories, including energy use and air quality. Depending on the number of points achieved, a project will either earn a Silver, Gold or Platinum rating.
TRUE

The TRUE Zero Waste certification system recognizes those businesses that are working toward achieving zero waste, cutting their carbon footprint and supporting public health. Administered by Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI), certification is available for any facility and its operations.

To be certified, companies (or projects) must have a zero waste policy in place, and they must have achieved an average of 90 percent or higher in diverting non-hazardous waste from landfills, incineration and the environment for the past year. A detailed list of requirements can be found here. Businesses pay a fee between $1,200 and $1,500 and a certification fee based on the square footage of your facility.
SITES

Developed through a collaborative effort of the American Society of Landscape Architects, The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and the United States Botanic Garden, SITES (used by architects, landscapers, ecologists, etc.) provides performance measures rather than prescribing practices, supporting the unique environmental conditions of each landscape it certifies.

SITE-certified landscapes consume less water, filter and reduce stormwater runoff, provide wildlife habitat, reduce energy consumption, and improve air quality. The combined registration and certification introductory fee ranges from $8,000 to $9,500.

“My decision to earn a SITES credential reflects not only my commitment to the highest environmental standards but my commitment to provide consumers and the green building industry with the same shortcut for understanding the impact of landscapes that LEED provides for indoor environments,” said Cassy Aoyagi, president of FormLA Landscaping.
GBB

The Green Business Bureau’s (GBB) certification process is entirely initiative-based, so your company will receive points for each activity it completes. GBB’s sustainability assessment identifies and communicates sustainability efforts that your small business has already completed, while also helping to guide and formulate future efforts. GBB certification differentiates itself from other organizations by making it easy for small businesses to customize their sustainability practices.

Member companies choose and prioritize different green initiatives. After completing each initiative, companies are encouraged to promote their accomplishments and continue their progress by focusing on new initiatives. GBB specifically targets small and medium-sized businesses. The cost of the program is dependent on the size of your business, with annual costs ranging from $375 to $875.
Choosing a certification

If these five certifications don’t provide exactly what you’re looking for, don’t fret. There are thousands of sustainability awards available. Victoria Kate Burrows, project manager of Advancing Net Zero for the World Green Building Council (WorldGBC) said the organization doesn’t prefer any one certification due to a multitude of varying local conditions.

The WorldGBC’s Net Zero Carbon Buildings Commitment challenges businesses around the world to set ambitious targets to eliminate operational carbon emissions from their facilities. Because of the complexity involved with metrics and various certifications, the WorldGBC has developed a few core principles to increase recognition among the various certification organizations.

“Even if you’re developing a very specific tool to your market, you need to ensure that … key principles are met and that helps achieve alignment and commonality across a huge universe of certification schemes that are out there,” Burrows said.

The same approach can be taken when choosing which sustainability certification makes the most sense for your business. Identify what certifications and measurements your competitors are using, find out what your customers prioritize, and look for a suitable certification.

Certification is an investment. David Veca, a family manager at Veckridge Chemical, stated, “The certificates that are worth paying for are ones that align with your business’s values, and, importantly, your target customer’s values,” he said.

6 Essential Tech Tools for Your HR Department

6 Essential Tech Tools for Your HR Department
By Andreas Rivera,

Few departments juggle as many duties or manage as much information as human resources. Technology makes the tasks of recruitment, payroll and performance evaluation more manageable and allows HR staff members to better engage with the company’s employees.

Here are six HR tech tools that businesses of any size can implement for a happier, better-organized workforce.
1. HRMS (Human Resource Management System) or HRIS (Human Resource Information System)

Human resource departments have a lot of information to input, store and track. The most common method of organizing this information is with a comprehensive human resource management system (HRMS).

Whether it’s a software solution or software as a service, an HRMS can be an HR representative’s best friend. It stores and organizes data, such as employee profiles, schedules, attendance records and more.

Human resource information systems (HRIS) are typically more data-driven solutions that allow you to craft in-depth reports for the purposes of audits.

Most HRMS offerings, such as Paychex and Workday, act as HR’s central platform and often have modules or integrations that allow you to access payroll services, benefits management, and performance evaluations.
2. Performance solutions

Performance evaluations and tracking are not only an annual meeting between supervisor and employee, but the goals and objectives discussed in that meeting are tracked and revisited throughout the year by HR. To get the most out a performance review and better formulate goals for individual employees, HR can provide managers with the tools to track their staff member’s performance throughout the year, saving notes and feedback to prepare both manager and employee for the evaluation. Many HRMS and payroll solutions, such as ADP, come with a customizable performance review module.
3. Recruiting software

As the name implies, recruiting software streamlines the hiring process. You can post job ads, sort and accept applications, manage candidates and more, saving you the hassle of manually tracking everything yourself.

Small businesses, in particular, should check the pricing and features for each solution being considered: Many recruiting programs are geared toward bigger companies with large volumes of applicants. Small businesses may be better served by a less-expensive product with fewer capabilities, depending on your hiring needs. Check out Business News Daily’s best picks for recruiting software here.
4. Payroll service

Payroll processing is an arduous task. Make it easy on yourself (and your bookkeeper) by investing in an online payroll service. This solution automatically calculates and tracks paychecks, deductions, paid time off, etc. Some even allow you to file and pay payroll taxes and report new hires to the IRS.

Business News Daily has compiled a list of the best payroll services here, or if you need help deciding which one is right for you, check out our buyer’s guide.
5. Benefits management platform

While some payroll services allow you to administer certain benefits, such as vacation time, a more robust solution can help you manage all employee benefits including paid time off, retirement plans, health insurance, workers’ compensation and other perks.

Chen Amit, CEO of payment solutions company Tipalti, says one of the best decisions his company made was outsourcing its benefits management.

“It gives our business a baseline for standard HR processes, something that at least puts you on par with larger organizations,” Amit said. “Then we could focus on where to go from there: adding benefits and perks that go beyond standard dental, health, vision. It also reduces our operational footprint.”

A benefits management service, however, is not necessarily the same as a professional employer organization (PEO), which operates under a co-employment arrangement. The PEO acts as a legal employer of your workforce, issuing employees’ paychecks and managing benefits and compliance for you.

“PEOs can give you access to additional perks, healthcare options and expertise that you wouldn’t have managing things on your own,” said Jacqueline Breslin, director of human capital services at TriNet. “These benefits also help with hiring as they make working for you more attractive.”

6. Employee engagement tools

Employee engagement is a high priority for many companies. With today’s tech tools, you can monitor your organization’s culture, giving you better insights into what your employees want.

“I’ve seen apps that encourage positive feedback inside the organization while helping [build] the company culture,” said Pablo Brenner, CEO of Collokia, an enterprise collaboration tool.

For example, such programs as YouEarnedIt allow people to recognize and reward co-workers when they do a good job or exemplify company values. Other tools, such as TINYpulse, let you collect anonymous feedback from your team that you can use to improve your culture and operations.

When you’re trying to get a feel for employees’ thoughts and opinions and specific subjects, such as what type of food should be provided at the next meeting or gathering employee’s opinions on a new companywide policy, sometimes it’s best to use free programs like Google Forms or Survey Monkey. These tools allow you to compile honest feedback anonymously.

Other options for engagement technology include company intranet platforms such as Igloo, Podio, and OneWindow Workplace; corporate social networking apps like Yammer, WeVue, and Workplace by Facebook; and numerous enterprise collaboration and video conferencing tools that are currently available.

Ron Yekutiel, CEO and chairman of video platform Kaltura, noted that video tools may be of interest to HR departments looking to improve their hiring and training processes.

“Whether it’s conducting more effective interviews through video, video conferencing to bring dispersed teams closer together, [or] onboarding and training of … new and existing employees … today’s on-the-go workforce increasingly prefers video as a means for communication and collaboration,” he said.
Choosing a solution

While it may be tempting to choose the highest-rated or least-expensive solution, it’s important to do your research and find the tool that’s right for your business’s needs. Don’t invest in certain solutions just for their own sake – some simply aren’t worth a company’s time, said Breslin.

“It’s important to find solutions to automate tasks that would otherwise eat up valuable time in your day,” she said. “However, some tasks should never be automated, such as the handling of complaints or employee conflicts.”

Brenner noted that the tools you choose should be user-friendly and not create hassle or frustration for your employees.

“You wouldn’t expect a millennial to read a manual on how to use a new app, so why should you expect [employees] to read the … operating manual [for an internal software program]?” he said. “All tools should be self-explanatory, or worst case, [make it] extremely easy to access an explanatory video.”

No matter what type of tools you’re considering, seek out solutions that will carry your organization into the future.

“HR teams looking to stay ahead of the curve should incorporate new technologies, such as … business collaboration systems while keeping an eye on technologies like AR and VR as they evolve,” Yekutiel said. “This goes a long way in attracting today and tomorrow’s workforce, and enabling teams across the organization to work effectively and increase productivity.”

Additional reporting by Nicole Fallon.

5 Ways to Improve Your Work-Life Balance Today

5 Ways to Improve Your Work-Life Balance Today
By Sammi Caramela,

Work is an expected societal norm: Go to school, get a job. But your career doesn’t have to be so strict and restraining. Work isn’t just a way to make money; it should serve you both financially and emotionally.

“Success, in my opinion, is about living a life through making choices that guide toward your goals to be your best,” said Dr. Michael Tischler, founder and CEO of Teeth Tomorrow. “The real key is to create goals that you are passionate about with respect to health/appearance, career and relationships.”

While work might be demanding at times, it should never become a priority over your wellbeing. You need time and energy for your hobbies and interests, for your family and loved ones. Don’t spend eight hours a day working just to come home and neglect the things that keep your spirits high and passion fresh. Here are five ways to improve your work-life balance.
1. Know that there is no ‘perfect’ balance.

When you hear “work-life balance,” you probably imagine waking up easily at 5 a.m., hitting the gym, grabbing your meal-prepped lunch and heading off to work, just to come home early, cook dinner, do some chores, and wind down with a nice book in bed by 9 p.m. But that’s often not the case.

Don’t strive for the perfect schedule; strive for a realistic one. Some days, you might focus more on work, while others you might have more time and energy to pursue your hobbies or relax on the couch with your loved ones. Balance is achieved over time, not each day.

“It is important to remain fluid and constantly assess where you are [versus] your goals and priorities,” said Heather Monahan, founder of #BossinHeels, a career mentoring group. “At times your children may need you, and other times you may need to travel for work; but allowing yourself to remain open to redirecting and assessing your needs on any day is key in finding balance.”
2. Prioritize your health.

Your overall health should be your main concern. If you’ve been struggling with anxiety or depression and think therapy would benefit you, fit those sessions into your schedule, even if you have to leave work early or ditch your evening spin class. If you’re battling a chronic illness, don’t be afraid to call in on rough days. You’ll only prevent yourself from getting better, possibly causing you to take more days off in the future.

“Prioritizing your health first and foremost will make you a better employee and person,” said Monahan. “You will miss less work, and when you are there, you will be happier and more productive.”

According to Tischler, this can be as simple as daily meditation and exercise with respect to your occupation.
3. Make sure you like your job.

If you hate what you do, you aren’t going to be happy, plain and simple. You don’t need to love every aspect of your job, but it needs to be exciting enough that you don’t dread getting out of bed every single morning.

Monahan recommended choosing a job that you’re so passionate about you’d do it for free.

“If your job is draining you and you are finding it difficult to do the things you love outside of work, something is wrong,” she said. “You may be working in a toxic environment, for a toxic person, or doing a job that you truly don’t love. If this is the case, it is time to find a new job.”
4. Don’t be afraid to unplug.

We live in a connected world that never sleeps. Cutting ties with the outside world from time to time allows us to recover from weekly stress and gives us space for other thoughts and ideas emerge, said Jackie Stone, CMO of personal cloud storage company MiMedia.

“When you are always on, you don’t allow other things to surface that might be more important,” she added. “I meditate each morning for 10 minutes, which provides me with a great start to my day.”

Sometimes, truly unplugging means taking a vacation and shutting work completely off for a while.

“A vacation could be a 15-minute walk around the block without looking at your phone, or a vacation could be two or three weeks traveling with family/friends,” Stone said. “It’s important to take a step back to physically and mentally recharge. If you are surrounded by good people at work, a vacation should be easy to take.”

Monahan added that, when she used to travel with her boss for work, she’d look over to find him reading a novel while she would be doing something work-related.

“I didn’t understand at the time that he was giving himself a break and decompressing while I was leading myself to a potential burnout,” she said. Now, Monahan practices the same tactics. Taking that time to unwind is critical to success and will help you feel more energized when you’re on the clock.
5. Make time for yourself.

While your job is important, it shouldn’t be your entire life. You were an individual before taking this position, and you should prioritize the activities or hobbies that made you happy.

“Whether you take a walk in the park, get a massage or [take] a hot bath, it’s important to always set aside an hour a week to do something for yourself,” said Mark Feldman, vice president of marketing at Stynt.

Additionally, you should focus on surrounding yourself with loved ones rather than making excuses to be alone all week. Just because work keeps you busy doesn’t mean that you should neglect personal relationships.

“Realize that no one at your company is going to love you or appreciate you the way your loved ones do,” said Monahan. “Also [remember] that everyone is replaceable at work, and no matter how important you think your job is, the company will not miss a beat tomorrow if you are gone.”

Don’t take your loved ones for granted just because you know they’ll always be there for you. If anything, that’s more of a reason to make more time for them.

Additional reporting by Shannon Gausepohl and Nicole Fallon. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.

Focus on ‘Family’ Is Key to Long-Term Family Business Success

Focus on ‘Family’ Is Key to Long-Term Family Business Success
By Nicole Fallon,

According to Family Enterprise USA, 5.5 million family-owned businesses operate in the United States. What’s the secret to their success? It just might be the “family” aspect that makes these organizations thrive.

“The business world knows that if you take care of the customer, the bottom line will take care of itself,” said Paul Gentilini, owner and dealer principle of third-generation car dealership Gentilini Motors. “Family-run businesses take it a step further — if you take care of your employees and treat them like family, they will take care of your customers and treat them like family. The business will thrive with loyal patrons and employees, and continue to grow and be profitable even during tough times.”

What truly drives many family businesses is the sense of connection and identity the owners and their family members feel with the business, said entrepreneur Allen Fishman, founder and executive chairman of business coaching services provider The Alternative Board (TAB).

“In family businesses, [the founder and employees have] an incredible passion for the business, and a focus and energy that you’ll never find in a non-family employee,” said Fishman, who is also the author of “9 Elements of Family Business Success” (McGraw-Hill, 2009). “They’re so focused on the business’ success that it’s part of their identity. [The business] isn’t the life of non-family employees. In general, they won’t identify themselves with the business being part of who they are the way family members do.”

Gentilini said that non-family businesses can learn a valuable lesson from this “family business” attitude.

“The core values of a family-run business are based on the core values of family life — every member of a family is there for the other members in their time of need, no matter how big or small that need is,” Gentilini told Business News Daily. “A non-family business can benefit from applying family values to their operations by creating a culture that has people wanting to work harder for them because they feel like family, not a number.”

“[A family business attitude] makes all employees feel like part of the business,” added Don Gentilini, Paul’s uncle and previous owner of Gentilini Motors. “We watch out for each other and make sure all customers are treated the same every day, every time, by everyone — like family. My dad expected more from our family than our employees because we had to lead by example and being more than just an employee working a job. Family is expected to do more and be better. That behavior flows into all employees and helps us meet our daily goals.”

Despite the strong company culture typically found in family businesses, not all of them succeed: The Family Business Alliance found that just 30 percent of family-owned businesses are passed down to the next generation, and only 12 percent remain viable into the third generation. A recent TAB survey found that lack of succession planning is one common reason that family businesses fail to stay within the family.

“Twenty-nine percent of business owners do not have a succession plan,” said David Scarola, vice president of TAB. “Without one, it’s easy to understand how owners of family businesses can lose the legacy they’ve worked so hard to build.”

Family business succession also faces the issue of a lack of training. Although 45 percent of owners say their children are involved in their business, 62 percent say it’s unlikely their business will remain family owned when they sell or retire.

A lack of confidence in leadership abilities could account for this gap, said Scarola, who noted that training family members early and thoroughly can go a long way in building that necessary confidence.

The perceived special treatment of related employees and the mixing of family and work issues can also cause points of contention in a family business setting, Fishman said. To ensure the success of any family members hired, he advised family business owners to operate with a certain level of objectivity.

“If you bring a family member into the business, get them to work outside the company first,” Fishman said. “Make him or her learn how to take direction from others, so the family dynamic is neutralized. If spouses work together, make sure your roles are separate. Don’t discuss family matters at work or work matters at home.”

Originally published on Business News Daily.

How to Tactfully Say No When You’re Asked to Work for Free

How to Tactfully Say No When You’re Asked to Work for Free
By Sammi Caramela,

If you’re an expert or have a specific interest in something, you’ve likely been asked to help others in that particular area. For instance, if you’re talented at graphic design, you might help a friend create images for their personal website; or if you’re a hiring manager, you might edit your cousin’s resume.

There’s nothing wrong with lending a hand, especially if you find joy in doing so – but beware of those who take advantage of your expertise. If you find yourself stressed with requests and bending over backward for people with no reward, then you need to learn how to say no. Here’s how to tactfully turn down working for free.
Give discounts

Instead of offering your services for no price, lower your typical rates by a certain percentage (e.g. 50-percent off for family members.) This will show your loved one that they’re special to you, but that work is work – and you can’t afford to do it for free.

“Think about what you can charge them while still feeling like you and your work are being valued,” said Caitlin Drago, ICF-credentialed life coach. “Look at the number and imagine you’re in the middle of working on the project. Are you feeling resentful or happy to be doing the work for them? No one wants to resent their friends and family.”

If you are going to offer discounts, however, make it clear that they aren’t for everyone, and they shouldn’t be openly discussed with others.

“If you aren’t explicit about your family member sharing the ‘deal’ you gave them, word may get out,” said Drago. “The last thing you want is for your work to be devalued.”
Make a deal

Money isn’t everything. There are plenty of other ways that you can be compensated for your work, like free advertisement or tasteful reviews. Maybe the person you’re helping can help you, too. Do they have an area of expertise in which you’re lacking?

Perhaps you’re a writer, and they’re a therapist; you can edit a blog post for their professional website, and they can act as a source for an article you’re writing on mental health. There are many valuable arrangements you can make if you think outside the box and are willing to ask for it.

“There may be times that it is okay to work for ‘free’ where you aren’t getting monetary compensation, but you are receiving something back in return,” said Drago. “Make sure that it is exposure that will actually be helpful for you.”

In article on Inc., Amy Morin writes that there are only four times you should work for free: when you earn exposure, when you expand on your real-life experience, when you gain a valuable addition to your resume, and when it’s for a cause that you believe in. If your deal does not involve any of these reasons, don’t agree to it.
Be honest

If you feel uncomfortable or strained, tell your loved one. Don’t do whatever it takes to please them, especially if it’s at your expense. Be your own mentor, and think about what will best serve you in the end.

For instance, nonpaying clients should provide the tools and resources you need to do your job so you don’t have to waste your own, such as art supplies or specific software. You should never put money into a job if you aren’t earning any back.

“You … want to be sure that the scope is well-defined and you feel good about the exchange,” said Drago. “It may feel formal – especially with a family member – but clear boundaries will ensure that no one is taken advantage of, whether on purpose or not, so that your relationship is not negatively impacted.”

If you can swing “pro bono” work from time to time, that’s great – but don’t make it a habit, and don’t let anyone abuse your kindness.

Engagement Advice from our Real Brides 2016

Engagement Advice from our Real Brides 2016

T H E E N G A G E M E N T

One of the most euphoric times of your life is the short but sweet period between dating and marriage. You jump at every opportunity to call your beloved “fiancé” and you cant help but stare at the sparkle on your ring finger! It’s a busy period, it’s a joyful period. Here’s what real brides have to say about their experience and the things they wish they’d known when they were engaged.
engagement-header2

“Have fun, don’t let the little things you’re learning about each other become annoyances, but have grace for each other and remember that you’re building a life together, not just a wedding!” – Shannon and Chris, see their sparkly and stylish wedding here.

. . .

“This is the best time, as you have just announced your big news to the world and everyone is super excited and happy for you as a couple. Take time out to relax and celebrate with family and friends before you embark on the planning process for your wedding.” – Cindy and Justin, see their sentimental and stylish wedding here.

. . .

“You are only engaged once, so embrace the excitement and love that you are surrounded by. And of course, wear your “Feyonce” t.shirt as often as possible.” – Nicole and Chaz, see their glamorous wedding here.

. . .

“We were engaged for 18 months before we got married. My advice would be to enjoy that time as much as possible. I remember very early on wishing the time away because I was so excited for the wedding, my maid of honour reminded me to enjoy the time you’re engaged as it only happens once, after that I didn’t wish the time away anymore and I relished in the excitement of being engaged.” – Emma and Matt, see their urban glam wedding here.

. . .

“Don’t over think the wedding process – your first pick is usually the one you go with. Enjoy just being engaged!” – Danika and Joel, see their elegant and rustic wedding here.

. . .

“Although it is exciting to plan the wedding. Make sure that you focus on the relationship as a couple as well.” – Erin and Chis, see their summery outdoor wedding here.

. . .

“Enjoy the time of being engaged its such an exciting time of your life with so many celebrations and special times to look forward too, enjoy the moment before all the wedding planning starts” – Emma and Jonny, see their destination wedding in Fiji here.
engagement3

Photography + Florals + Styling: Lilelements / Cake cups: Desserts with Lynda

“Make the most out of your time being engaged. It’s the next step before you become husband and wife. Enjoy the wedding planning but don’t take everything to heart. Time is the one thing that we can never get back – just enjoy it.” – Azra and Paul, see their fairytale wedding here.

. . .

“No advice needed – it’s a pretty fun time! Just make sure to keep your ring sparkly.” – Kristine and Nathan, see their art gallery wedding here.

. . .

“Have fun with it! It’s a short period, but a special time! Have fun in the moment and try to continue building a deeper relationship with your significant other. Take time for yourselves and remember to stay connected through the whole process. Allow yourself time to bask in the engagement glow… it is a beautiful time to see your relationship begin another chapter together!” – Kirsten and Mickey, see their classy vintage wedding here.

. . .

“Make it as quick as possible! More time to plan = more time to stress about little details.” – Kirsten and Cael, see their romantic Hunter Valley wedding here.

. . .

“Make sure that you take time in your engagement to relax and enjoy this extremely special and exciting time. It can be easy to get overly-consumed by wedding planning- make sure to spend lots of time together enjoying each other’s company. My approach was to book all of our vendors and the ‘big stuff’ within the first 2-3 months of our engagement so that we had a big chunk of time where we could just sit back and enjoy being engaged. Everyone is different though. Do what works best for you.” – Fiona and Aaron, see their classic Tasmanian wedding here.

. . .

“Don’t rush the small stuff. You will have plenty of time to organise everything, that being said, don’t leave everything to the last minute! Also don’t ask your best friends to be in your bridal party as soon as you get engaged, wait until closer to the wedding date. You never know what the future holds.” – Kiarne and Ayden, see their rustic country wedding here.

. . .

“It’s easy to forget that you have just gotten engaged and get straight into the wedding planning, but it is important to remember you need to celebrate the commitment you have made by becoming engaged to one another and not stress about the wedding details. I would definitely say eat all your favourite naughty foods now, because you will feel guilty about it later!” – Christine and Paul, see their luxurious Sydney Harbour wedding here.
engagement1small

Engagement Ring: Hearts on Fire

“Don’t over-stress by thinking about the organisation of the wedding and minimise tensions as much as possible. Just enjoy life together.” – Jo and Marc, see their rustic Tahitian wedding here.

. . .

“Enjoy being engaged!! Once the planning starts things can get crazy. We had a long engagement (18 months) and it was perfect. Buy lots of planning books and create templates and put everything in there! Your bridesmaids are also there for you, so get them to help you.” – Amber and Scott, see their luxurious wedding here.

. . .

“Time goes so quickly and it is easy to get caught up in wedding plans. Be sure you take time out to indulge once in a while to do the things you love. Enjoy your time being engaged!” – Sara and Silvio, see their Whitsundays wedding here.

. . .

“I guess thinking back now you have a few coulda, woulda, shouldas enter your mind in regards to your wedding. With the engagement, I would suggest to do whatever makes you feel comfortable and most importantly something you will enjoy. Remember it is all about you and your significant other. If you want a low key BBQ, or a day at the beach with loved ones to celebrate this occasion then go for it.” – Rose and Jordan, see their hinterland wedding here.

. . .

“Enjoy the moment/day together, before sharing the news. It’s such a special and exciting time for you both, and you deserve to soak it all in together.” – Lauren and Matt, see their intimate and rustic wedding here.

. . .

“Take time to be in the moment. Continue to date each other. You’ll have to sometimes step away from all the stressful planning, hustle and bustle of family, friends and other well-wishers and just enjoy each other.” – Tanyala and Antaeus, see their timeless Chicago wedding here.

. . .

“Just let it all soak in and don’t start getting too crazy with wedding plans too soon. Enjoy this milestone with your fiancé.” – Acacia and Luke, see their tropical winter wedding here.

. . .

Weddings take a lot of planning, so it’s good to get as much help as you can! Take a look at some more wedding tips and tricks here.

How to create your own wedding website

How to create your own wedding website

Isolated computer display for mockup. Office interior with windo

Creating your own wedding website gives your special day that added touch of uniqueness. Think of it as an extension to your wedding invitations – updating your guests on transport, accommodation, weather and any extra links or photo galleries you’d like to share. MW chatted with wedding website designer Sophie With Love who helps couples create their very own wedding.com.

Workspace

What exactly is a wedding website?

A wedding website is a unique “www” destination for your nuptials, which includes unlimited pages, text, videos and images. Just like a normal website, this is specifically for a couple’s big day. I offer custom websites, in which I create a unique website from scratch, or a template that the bride and groom can edit themselves.

How did the idea come to you?

I am a website designer by trade and I had always wanted a wedding website for my big day. I thought, if I want one, surely others would too! So, I started creating a wedding based website instead of my usual business based sites. I made it more focused on replacing the invitation, as opposed to a wedding business.

How does this differ from a regular wedding invitation?

The website differs in that a person can put everything on the website about the big day. The invitations are limited to whatever you can fit on the paper and fit into the envelope. The website allows you to put endless amounts of information and update the details too. Once the paper invitations get sent, it is nearly impossible to easily update your guests, so this allows you flexibility on your big day.

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What can you have on a website?

Practically anything you want! That’s what I love about it. You can put text, photos, galleries, maps, links to the venue, accommodation and travel, and ways through which people can RSVP (like online forms and links to an email address). It allows you to completely remove the use of paper.

Can the website help with planning?

Yes, it can. I have created pages (in the templates) for each stage of the wedding process, so couples know what invitations and communication they need to give their guests. Telling your guests too little information is frustrating for them so this helps you tell them every little detail you want them to know.

Do brides need to know how to code to create a website?

Absolutely not! I have used a program called WIX and it is a drag and drop design suite. I also provide every bride with detailed instructions to help too!

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What are some features brides can include on their site?

Videos: the program loves Youtube and Vimeo, so you can include videos of your favourite music or funny clips
Social media links to your accounts
Gallery of images: I love the idea of using the site to share pictures after the big day
Google Maps
Blog: you can post little articles and updates for your guests

What happens to the website after the wedding?

The couple have the choice to leave it up or take it down whenever they are ready. I plan to keep mine going, so that I can put up the photos from the wedding. Maybe use it to announce other big things in the future as well!

“My fiancé wasn’t sure about a wedding website. Completely unconvinced, I bought the template, used the directions and showed him the website with our images and words in it. He fell completely in love with it and now we are just a day away from sending our guests the link! SO HAPPPYYYYY!!”

“I love the template!! I have had so much fun putting my images in and my details in and cannot wait to share it with my fam and friends!! And thank you for the easy instructions too!!!! I would have been lost without them!”

Should You Have An Unplugged Wedding?

Should You Have An Unplugged Wedding?

An unplugged wedding encourages your guests to capture the joy and emotion of the day without the distraction of technology. Find out if an unplugged wedding is the right option for you – and how to ask your guests to go tech-free.

What exactly is an unplugged wedding?

An unplugged wedding results when couples ask their snap-happy families and guests to turn off their phones, iPads, cameras and other digital gadgets so they can be fully engaged when witnessing the bride and groom exchange vows on this very special day.

Couples would rather people simply watch, smile, shed a tear, listen and remember, not from the photos they download to their computers, but from their own memories.

The tech-savvy couple

While some couples are asking their guests to switch off for the day, others encourage their friends and family to snap as many photos as possible. There are strong arguments on both sides. A fully plugged-in, hyper-documented wedding makes perfect sense for couples who won’t feel complete unless they have digitally documented every second of the day. Couples who are on a tight budget may want to ‘crowd-source’ photos and are happy for guests to take as many pictures as possible, and thereby can dispense with a professional photographer altogether.

Be nice, turn off your device

For the couples who prefer to keep their wedding low-key, instead of banning cameras and iPhones all together, they might request that they simply refrain from taking pictures during the ceremony. Remember, if you have 150 guests there could be 150 iPhones snapping away! Another reason for couples wanting an unplugged wedding is the unauthorised images that may circulate on social media sites thereby spoiling the big reveal for the groom and guests. Also, what bride wants unflattering images posted on Facebook or Instagram of the bridal party getting ready, or inappropriate images of tipsy relatives behaving badly?

Photo-bombing guests

If you have gone to the expense of hiring a professional wedding photographer it is quite possible they will miss key shots because of photo-bombing guests getting in the way and compromising the professional pictures. This is another reason for an unplugged wedding.

Asking guests to keep mobile phones and social media usage to a minimum is not an unreasonable request especially at the ceremony and big reception moments, like cutting the cake and the bride and groom’s first dance.

Here are some ways to get your message across:

Warn guests in advance: Send a note requesting “no photos please” together with the invitation.
Put a note in the wedding program: “We ask you to kindly turn off your phone during the wedding ceremony and refrain from taking photos. We have a professional photographer on hand to capture all the special moments”.
Ask the celebrant to make an announcement: “The bride and groom have asked that you put your phone and camera away. Sit back and enjoy the ceremony!”
Put a sign on the reception tables: “We encourage you to share your selfies with #dotanddavewedding but please refrain from posting photos of the bride and groom on social media.”

In the end, this is your day and the decision is up to you. To ban all photographs is unrealistic but it is reasonable to ask guests not to post them until after the ceremony. However, if you and your partner are looking for more face-to-face connection with your guests, an unplugged wedding could be good for you.

Why You Need A Wedding Planner

Why You Need A Wedding Planner

Contrary to popular belief, wedding planners and wedding stylists are very different professions with distinctly different roles. We share the insider scoop from wedding planners Kerrie Wood at LUXE-Unforgettable Events and Kelly-Louise Phillips at Kelly-Louise Weddings.

A wedding planner takes all the stress out of planning a wedding: cue collective sighs of relief from brides the world over. “A wedding planner is a creative source, professional, good value for time and money, up to date on all the latest trends and themes, and there for you through all your wedding needs,” explains Kelly-Louise Phillips at Kelly-Louise Weddings

Planning your own wedding used to mean endless hours of research, running around and becoming stressed. Now, with the growing popularity of wedding planners, it is possible to plan your dream wedding without all the negative implications. With the help of a wedding planner the wedding of your dreams can become a reality.

The average wedding takes up to 250 hours to plan. This significant amount of time is spent sourcing, meeting and negotiating with suppliers from every imaginable wedding field, including reception venues, stylists, hire companies, florists, caterers, musicians, photographers… the list goes on. A wedding planner simplifies the process by managing every meeting and ensuring that every vendor is fully briefed prior to the wedding. On the big day, the wedding planner is the director of the entire event and ensures that every vendor successfully executes their assigned task.

“In short, wedding planners take care of all the logistics,” reveals Kelly-Louise. “They take the guesswork out of the process, making planning a wedding as seamless and smooth as possible.” Kerrie Wood of LUXE-Unforgettable Events notes: “For couples that work long hours, or who have little spare time available, a professional who assists with the design, planning and management of the wedding can be a god-send.”

One of the biggest concerns shared by brides-to-be is finding reputable and trusted suppliers, hence the allure of the wedding planner. Planners are your PA and fairy godmother rolled into one. “A planner will keep track of your budget and handle all the logistics,” notes Kelly-Louise.

“A good planner will also save you money, utilising the relationships they have with wedding vendors and services, they are able to get discounts nobody else would. Our aim is to save our clients more than the cost of our fee.”

While wedding planners organise the logistics of the event, wedding stylists are consumed by the aesthetics of the wedding day – the theme, colour palette, flowers, decorations and lighting. In many cases, the wedding planner will work with the stylist to ensure the wedding style is fulfilled to the couple’s requests and stays within budget. “Specifically, a wedding planner is a professional who you partner with to ensure the practical and contractual planning process is seamlessly developed and delivered from start to finish, whereas a wedding stylist works with you to assist and determine what your unforgettable day will look like.

Indeed, each and every wedding planner has a little black book of suppliers: the best in the business. Experts at efficiency and detail gurus, they’re renowned for their organisation skills. Yes, every bride needs a wedding planner. As Kerrie Wood says, she, like many other wedding planners, work for the couple and on their behalf. “We ensure every aspect of your special event is uniquely tailored for you. We work with our couples to design a custom package to suit their exact requirements and budget and personalise their wedding every step of the way, paying particular attention to bringing your vision to reality. We answer questions, brainstorm ideas, negotiate with vendors on your behalf and manage the unexpected.” Essentially a wedding planner is the couple’s aide: guiding them every step of the way, doing all the leg work, answering all the phone calls (no more voicemail alerts during work hours!) and chasing all those last minute necessities.

However, there is a misconception that wedding planners only work on big-budget weddings. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Both Kelly-Louise Weddings and LUXE-Unforgettable Events, like most Australian wedding planners, have a range of packages available, from partial planning, on-the-day management, venue sourcing and full planning, but they can offer bespoke packages tailored to suit the requirements of the client, no matter the budget. As for involvement, the level is entirely up to you. “We work with the couple to ensure that their personal input is exactly as they require,” notes Wood. “It is, after all, their day.”

Top Tips for Time-Conscious and Stressed Brides

1. Write a list of all the things that need to be done, with dates of when you realistically plan on doing them by. Keep your list up-to-date by ticking items off and amending it as you go. The biggest priorities should be at the top of the list so you can work your way down to the least important elements

2. Prepare a guest list so you know how big your wedding will be

3. Prepare a realistic budget for your whole wedding

4. Decide on the style and location of your wedding

5. Hire a planner who knows which suppliers are reliable, available and will provide you with the perfect service within your budget

6. Consider, and budget for, an on-the-day coordination service to ensure that all of the fine, last minute details are coordinated and managed on your behalf

This article was originally featured in Modern Wedding Styling Handbook, for more wedding planning advice, decorative inspiration and unique ideas, pick up a copy of the magazine in Coles, Woolworths, newsagents and online.

Tips to save you money

Tips to save you money

The average wedding now costs over $30,000 but it is possible to have your dream wedding without breaking to bank. The key is to work out your priorities and then allocate most of your budget to them. On all other items try to save as much as possible. Here’s how…
Plan and plan some more

The clearer your ideas are and the more organised you are, the more you will save. Each hour you spend planning exactly what you want before you visit a supplier the more likely you are to save cash and time.
Get the timing right

The time of day, time of week and the time of year you choose to get married will have a direct impact on your budget. The most expensive day to get married is a Saturday during peak wedding season, like Spring. You can save quite substantially by having a winter wedding on a Friday.
Cut the numbers

Fewer guests and a smaller bridal party will free up some cash to use on suppliers. Although try to keep suppliers to a minimum also to save even more. The same budget will allow you to organise an average wedding for a large number of people or an absolutely stunning wedding for a smaller number of people.
De-formalise

Often formal weddings are more expensive, so if you opt for a more casual affair you will find that there are savings to be made.
Be original and creative

You don’t have to follow the age-old traditions and rules. The more original and creative you are the more opportunities there will be to save – you will also have a personal and different celebration that friends and family will talk about for years.
Tone down the biggies

The biggest expenses you will come across are the reception, engagement ring, wedding gown, photography and video and the honeymoon. These normally make up 75% of the wedding budget. If you keep these under wraps the rest should look after themselves.
Pay attention to reception details

Taking up around half of the budget, the reception is the biggest area you can save on. Take at least a third of your organising time choosing the reception location and which package is right for you.
Sweat the small stuff

The old adage that if you take care of your pennies the pounds will look after themselves has never been truer than when you’re organising a wedding. Pay close attention to every cent of your budget. Each small saving you make in one area will help you achieve the bigger picture and the wedding of your dreams.
Speak up!

Now is not the time to be timid! Try to negotiate a discount where you can. You may not get what you want every time, but a beautiful bride is hard to resist. Also now is the time to cash in on all those lovely offers of help. Your friends and family will be flattered to help and be a part of your big day.
Prioritise

You may not be able to have all you’ve ever dreamed of at your wedding and still stay on budget. It will come down to priorities. Which three elements of the wedding matter to you most. With your top three you can then cut back on the other areas. Your own priorities are what makes your wedding unique and special to you and your groom.