Dear Auntie Gwen

I'm sorry to say it's time to love it less. The venue has those rules mostly because of terrible experiences with unfortunate vendors, making them unwilling to allow vendors they don't know on their property. It is a human reaction, but it is not good business.

You should never be penalized for other people’s misdeeds, nor should you accept being forced to choose a vendor based on someone else's criteria. Everyone who is part of your wedding team should be right for you, not the venue or anyone else.

If the venue is unwilling to negotiate using vendors of your choosing, there are ways to mitigate the risks through well-written contracts and certificates of insurance to protect all parties. Then no matter how much you love the place, walk away.

xoxo, Auntie Gwen
First, on behalf of my wedding colleagues, we are sorry to make you uncomfortable. Next, please be patient with us, changing the language and habits of an industry takes time; we are working on it.

Most of the wedding professional I know are good people with open hearts all they need is for you to tell them your preferences and needs if they can't accommodate you they will tell you upfront.

Either in your initial call or email saying something like "My partner and I are a lesbian couple (or however you prefer to identify), and we're only considering vendors who are open to serving the LGBTQ community."

I understand working with wedding professionals is new for you, and more than many professions the language of our work has had a decidedly heterosexual focus. With your help, patience, and understanding, we will change that.

xoxo, Auntie Gwen
First, let me say how lovely and thoughtful you are for wanting to thank your guests, in so kindly and taking their travel needs into account.

I would look for something that will be a memento of the trip, something unique to the destination. If there is a local delicacy you like, have a sample waiting in their rooms when they arrive, they will not need to pack it they can enjoy it then.

Not knowing your destination I can't give you specific ideas, I suggest you contact the hotel staff where you and your guests will be staying, or your wedding planner to ask them for ideas and resources specific to your location.

Bon Voyage, Auntie Gwen
I'm sorry you have to deal with this during your wedding planning. It is not what I would wish for you and your partner. That said you can't take on the responsibility of changing your Grandfather's biases.

All you can do is tell him how you feel that you love him and want him at your wedding. Tell him the truth about your fears, ask him if he can put aside his pain for one day so he can see how happy you are and share in your joy.

If he can't, you have to accept it; you want him to accept you which means you have to accept him even though it may hurt. Have faith in love, if you speak with respect and an open heart, his heart will hear you.

xoxo, Auntie Gwen
Music is a beautiful part of any wedding; it sets the mood, enhances the emotions, and fills empty spaces. I can't tell you if you should have a live band or DJ that is a very personal choice.

What I can say is you should take the time to figure out for yourselves which is best for your wedding. Never what anyone else tells you what you should do!

I recommend using an entertainment company; they have both bands and DJ, they are professionals. They will ask you great questions to help you narrow down what you want at your wedding; then they can give you demos of different bands and DJ's and make appointments for you to meet with your favorites.

Always meet the entertainers in-person when possible see them perform. Ask how much set up time they need, how often they will take breaks and what they will wear if you have specific requests, i.e. A particular song, to be sure the DJ has it on your wedding day or the band has ample time to rehearse it. Be sure those are put in the contract before you sign it.

xoxo, Auntie Gwen
Never assume anything. You have complete control over whom you invite to your wedding. Please never let anyone make you feel you are required to do anything that negatively impacts your wedding day.

You determine who is invited by how you address the outside and inside envelopes. It is customary now to include both names because many unmarried couples live together.

However, unless they are married, this is still up to you. Regrettably, sometimes people do not follow or understand the invitation addressing etiquette, so you may get replies for two when you only invited one. At that point, you have to either make an uncomfortable phone call or accept the second guest.

xoxo, Auntie Gwen
If you have a wedding planner, they can do this for you (another great reason to hire one - they handle tough conversations). Otherwise, a simple email inquiry to your venue representative will suffice. Try something like this:

"We're wondering if you can make a gender-neutral restroom available for our reception."

Ideally, you should make this request before you sign a contract with the venue, just in case they are unable to accommodate your request. If that's a deal-breaker for you and you haven't signed an agreement yet, you can look somewhere else.

xoxo, Auntie Gwen
The short answer is YES. Getting married and having a wedding is a big deal on many levels, it's a lot to take. It is perfectly normal to be nervous and apprehensive!

Take some time to do something non-wedding related that you enjoy as a couple. It helps you remember why you are doing all of this. No wedding talk allowed - have some fun!

Try to remember that a wedding is one day, albeit a significant and meaningful day, just one day. At the end of that day, you will be married to the person you love most in the world and will be sharing the rest of your lives. The wedding will be beautiful because of your love.

Relax and enjoy this time! If you're still nervous, remember it's healthy. If you were not at all nervous, then I'd be worried.

xoxo, Auntie Gwen


Once upon a time in the beautiful city by the Bay, a little girl was born to plan things. She planned tea parties in the sandbox and dances at school. All the while, she dreamed of helping people make beautiful memories. I am that little girl. My name is Gwen Semenero Helbush, you can call me Auntie Gwen, and this is my story. I've been planning celebrations for as long as I can remember. My parent's house was the gathering place for friends and family; preparing for all those celebrations was a huge part of my childhood. Growing up, I planned various school functions, and later, my career took me into corporate event planning.

When it came time to plan my wedding, however, I quickly realized just how difficult and stressful the experience could be. I decided to transform my experience into a way to serve others. I began researching wedding planning, reading everything I could get my hands on; I took classes and volunteered to assist established wedding planners. Where to Start, Wedding Management launched in 1991. My corporate world experience taught me the management skills needed to work with multiple vendors and get the best for my clients. My broadcasting and theater studies in college helped frame how I see weddings, playing an essential and unique role in event production.

I love getting to know my clients. Their unique stories mean so much to me; I'm genuinely interested in learning what makes my couples and their guests truly happy. I believe knowing what you love about life, and each other is the most critical aspect of creating a meaningful wedding. In the nearly 30 years since I started my company, weddings have changed in good ways and some not so good. The best way weddings have changed is that same-sex marriage is legal (yeah!). Legal but not new, I have the privilege of helping many couples celebrate their love in unique and exciting ways then and now. My company motto has always been Love is Love, and everyone's money is green. XOXO, Auntie Gwen

Where To Start, Wedding Management Office: (510) 795-9072 ext. 101 Web: