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Guest Blogger Aletha of Pearls Events | West Michigan Event Planner |

So you just got engaged, now what? Well there’s the ceremony and reception venues that need to be booked, find the perfect photographer, order a cake, find a florist to make those breath taking bouquets, pick out and order invites, stationary, menus, programs, plan the decor and decorations for the day, hire a band orDJ… am I making you nervous. Yeah you probably never knew there was so much involved in planning a wedding. It’s so much more than finding a place, getting some pictures and eating cake. If I have you ready to run for the hills don’t worry I have an answer for you, an event planner. An Event Planner is someone who already has connections with the best vendors in town, knows all of the secrets and who’s job it is to keep you and your wedding on track. Maybe you don’t need a person to help you in the planning process but let me tell you from personal experience, having someone there on your wedding day making sure the menus are in the right spot, the marriage license isn’t lost in a car trunk and that everything from A-Z at your wedding will run smoothly is vital to having a stress free wedding day.  There are a few things that I really wish I could have had at my own wedding 5 1/2 years ago, the first was a videographer and the other was a day-of-coordinator. I spent 14 months spending hours planning and shopping around for the perfect items for my wedding. I had 2 friends play the part of Mistresses of Ceremony but honestly they didn’t know what they were doing, yes they had planned their own weddings a few years before and they both are organized but having a person there who knows exactly what to do and when, well that would have taken a lot of stress off of me.

Oh I guess I should say welcome to what I hope to be a series of guest blog posts from area vendors. My goal is to have a blog post from some of the industries most knowledgeable when it comes to everything weddings! I’m so excited to have the first guest blogger, Aletha VanderMaas of Pearls Events to talk about planning and coordinating weddings!  I guess you could say that I first meet Aletha about 6 years ago on The Knot. We were both planning our summer weddings and would use the local Grand Rapids board to help us plan our weddings. Aletha got married 2 weeks after I did and her son and my daughter Ella share the same birthday.  I didn’t actually meet her in person until a few years later at a get together for Grand Rapids area wedding vendors. It so fun to see how far we both have come in our businesses and our lives since we first meet online.  So I was super excited when Aletha agreed to be a part of my guest blogging series.

Founded in 2007 by Aletha, Pearls Events is an event planning boutique based out of Grand Rapids serving clients planning celebrations throughout Michigan.  They plan, design and coordinate Michigan events with a dedicated team of four planners and various assistants.  Aletha has helped coordinate some of the most gorgeous weddings in West Michigan! Their work as been published in The Knot Michigan magazine, Brides Michigan Magazine, My North Wedding Magazine, Elizabeth Anne Designs Blog, Style Me Pretty Blog, La Tavola Blog, and Ruffled Blog.

First meet Aletha, owner and Lead Planner of Pearls Events


©Kelly Braman Photography



Tell me a little about yourself

I’ve been married to Greg for almost 6 years and we have a son, who will be two very soon. When we are not working (or sleeping), we are gutting an old (new-to-us!) home and hope to begin renovations on it soon.


How did you get started in planning Weddings and events? Is it something you always wanted to do or did it just kind of happen?  How long have you been an event planner?

In 1998, I went to a local country club with my friend to get a job as a server. Her sister had worked there, so they hired us on the spot and we started the next weekend. I worked there until moving to Chicago in 2000 to start my sophomore year of college. I was always interested in the bridal industry, and my senior year I interned with a Chicago bridal designer and learned to run a business and work with brides one-on-one. In 2007, after spending four years in marketing at a Grand Rapids publishing house, I opened Pearls Events. 2013 will be my seventh wedding season – how is that possible?!


Why should a person hire an event planner or day of coordinator? What do you really do on a wedding day?

Hiring an event planner or coordinator is very helpful for most brides. Most of our clients live out of state and need someone in Michigan who can make & attend meetings with them, or on their behalf if they cannot be there themselves. We plan, design, and coordinate weddings without missing any details.

A typical wedding days looks like this:

  • It actually begins for me the evening before – at rehearsal. We attend the ceremony rehearsal for each wedding to coordinate.
  • Arrive on site early in the morning to start linen installation so florist can come at any time
  • Check in with bride, groom, families, and bridal party to make sure everyone is up and getting ready. Hair & makeup people have arrived. Everyone has the correct attire and ready to get dressed
  • Swing into the church to make sure everything is getting going there – flowers, aisle runners, candles, programs, musicians
  • Head back to reception to make sure things are going smoothly: flowers have arrived, candles are out, napkins are folded, menus are set out, all décor we have gets set, etc.
  • Head back to church and have a wedding! We light candles, make sure the ushers get everyone inside the sanctuary on time, line up the family members and wedding party, cue the musicians, get everyone down the aisle to the appropriate music, guide latecomers to the right seats, and then help with any special exits – sparkler, flower petal toss, etc.
  • Head back to the reception site and make sure candles are lit before guests begin arriving for cocktail hour.
  • Get the wedding party lined up for introductions and cue the DJ to make sure everyone knows when to enter, where to go, and then make sure the people giving toasts and the prayer know they are next.
  • Sit down for dinner. This is the first time I have sat down all day, except for in my car driving between locations J
  • Make sure the couple is ready to cut their cake and get on the dance floor for their first dance. Make sure Father of the Bride is on deck, and Mother of the Groom is near as well. Also, make sure photographer is done eating and near so nothing is missed on camera!
  • When the dance floor opens up, we start loading gifts, and any décor that isn’t used anymore – cocktail area, etc. We also make sure your personal cake cutter is put away, as well as those toasting flutes. We check with the bar to make sure everything is going smoothly there, and with the DJ to see if he needs anything.
  • We are always checking in with the bride & groom, and their parents to make sure they are all doing well. We pack up personal items – the wedding veil is usually off by now, as are the high heels (some brides change into flats when the real dancing begins!).
  • At the end of the night, we pack up all personal belongings, including gifts & cards, plus any décor. We take off all linens (if you rented them through us), and take them home with us.
  • We drive home and dive into a hot shower around 2am and on Sunday? We sleep in J


A photo from a recent wedding from Pearls Events

With the huge popularity of Pinterest do girls even need a planner? I mean they have all of these ideas right at their fingertips!

Lots of ladies love Pinterest, but how many of you using it actually DO the projects you’ve pinned?! I know I am guilty of not doing any of the fun things! Ideas are everywhere – but you may need some help in making them a reality for your wedding day. While I am not a crafty person, an event planner knows how to make things happen.


Speaking of Pinterest, do you think it’s a good or bad thing when it comes to wedding planning?

Keep it simple. It’s the first thing I learned in college and it rings true. While lots of details are the weddings we all see on blogs and in magazines, a wedding day that is full of family, friends and fun is really what people remember.


What inspires you when designing weddings and details? What are the trends that you are seeing for 2013?

Fabric & paper products are what inspire me. Flowers are a close second, but with so many fabric & paper designs available, it’s easier for me to jump right into those, and then design around them.

There are always trends – gray remains popular, and I seem to be seeing a lot of pastels, especially mint green, which I’m excited about! Many of our clients enjoy making the evening an experience – lots of fun little “extras” to really make their day memorable. I’m still seeing stylized candy tables, which I personally love, and photobooths – which are really fun! They aren’t “new”, but holding on because they are worth it.

How gorgeous is this! Just a little bit of what Pearls Events can do for your wedding. ©Jen Kroll Photography


How do you select the vendors that you work with? Would you ever work with someone you haven’t in the past? Is going with the lowest quote always the best option or a bad option? 

Guiding clients to the right vendor means knowing the client’s budget, style and wedding date. There is no secret formula for a wedding – one photographer is not going to be the right fit for every single bride. One florist isn’t going to work either. I’m ALWAYS up for working with new vendors – I actually love it when a client says “We hired a great new baker” and then I taste the cake and I am blown away!


If a bride doesn’t hire a planner/coordinator for her wedding what are three (or more) things of advice that you can give her.

  • Delegate DIY tasks to bridesmaids
  • Don’t set up your own wedding reception. Give clear instructions (possibly with diagrams…)to your banquet manager on what you want done.
  • Try to enjoy your day! You’ve planned this thing for a year.


I hope to feature a new vendor every week. Coming soon some will be guest bloggers talking about gorgeous Stationary from a local Paper Studio and some breathtaking floral and linens from a Fabulous local Florist. I can’t wait to share many more amazing vendors from West Michigan. We are so lucky to have to many talented people right here!!


Genevieve McKeiver Photography - I believe it’s Blue Dress Barn in Michigan

Leah Knight - I LOVE the picture of the big open barn on this site!! Where is that at??!!!

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Meaghan + Josh Married | Bay Harbor Resort Wedding Photographer |

You know I really should change my name from Genevieve McKeiver Photography to Genevieve McKeiver Photography, Florist, Makeup Artist, Coordinator, Chauffeur, and Problem Solver LLC. Because on a wedding day chances are I am more than just a photographer. I’ve done make up for the bride and bridesmaids, I’ve driven around countless couples, tied bows, sashes and anything else that needs to look pretty, kept us on the timeline, given the brides my shoes when it’s raining…. oh man the list goes on and on. I feel like I’m Jennifer Lopez in the movie “The Wedding Planner”. Maybe I’ll start carrying around a fanny pack with things like needles, pins for flowers, scissors, and little shots of alcohol (for me and the bride!).  But you know I love it. I feel like I thrive on the insanity of a wedding day. If things go smoothly, I feel like something is wrong. No really.  So it was no surprise when I showed up at Meaghan’s parent’s house on the gorgeous Walloon Lake in Northern Michigan that something was going to go wrong. Josh walked in with Meaghan’s cala lily bouquet and it was brown. Like dead as a door nob not saving these flowers brown (I think it was the weather, nothing to do with the florist). Thankfully Meaghan is one awesome girl because she just said “okay, no big deal”! No seriously she did!  But the crazy person I am sprang into action. No bride of mine was not going to have flowers to carry on her wedding day. Now this isn’t the first time I’ve had to make a bouquet just hours before a wedding so I knew just what to do. Her mom had these gorgeous hydrangeas around the house so I set out to make us a bouquet. A few snips later Meaghan had a bouquet and Josh now had a hydrangea boutonniere to match. Now I’m not saying I’m Wonder Women, I don’t wear a cape on wedding days, but I like to think that being a good photographer is WAY more than just taking a great picture. It’s being able to handle and find solutions to all of those little problems that pop up on a wedding day.

So back to the amazing Meaghan and Josh. They have to be one of the most relaxed couples I have photographed, and I loved it! They got ready at the same house, not really too worried about the typical traditions. They didn’t want a big stuffy stressful affair. And they didn’t, it was just perfect if you ask me. Well perfect other than the insane humidity at her parent’s house and the rain that decided to start falling as the ceremony ended. But you know those are the things that you remember from your wedding day. I had so much fun with Josh and Meaghan around the gorgeous Bay Harbor in Petoskey. It’s one of my favorite areas to photograph a wedding, oh how I love Northern Michigan.

Thank you so much Meaghan and Josh for being so relaxed, easy and just an amazing pleasure to work with. I hope you are enjoying married life in Chicago!Northern Michigan wedding invitationsblue Nina wedding shoesFirst look on a boat dockwedding pictures on a boat dock on Walloon LakeWalloon Lake wedding picturesbabies breath wedding flowers, Bay Harbor Sunset Beach weddingbay Harbor Sunset Beach wedding ceremony picturesThe Inn at Bay Harbor Sunset Beach wedding photographybride and groom wedding pictures at Inn at Bay Harborbride and groom in adironack chairs wedding pictures Petoskey, MIbride and groom Bay Harbor Golf Club course wedding picturesblue Nina wedding shoesBride and groom on beach of Lake Michigan in Petoskey, groom with dark suit and no tieBay Harbor Golf Club wedding photographyBay Harbor Golf Club wedding photography

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