Sarah Vanell is a professional musician here in Phoenix, Arizona, who performs for weddings and other special events across the valley. She's extremely talented and I’ve been lucky enough to work with her on a past wedding (and hope for many more in the future!). Sarah provides a beautiful ambiance to her events and adds so much to the overall guest experience. I picked her brain about having a live performer at a wedding and here is what she had to say!

Tells us a little about yourself! How did you find your way into performing and becoming a professional musician?

I knew I wanted music to be a focal point in my life at age 14, probably earlier, when like most little kids(maybe, ha, ha), I would perform in front of my mirror. I remember trying out for my first solo in the 8th grade.I went on to perform for several choirs at my high school for the next 4 years. In conjunction with working on my vocals in choir, I studied guitar because I always wanted to make sure I was a self-sufficient musician. Throughout high school I performed for my school’s talent shows and even began to gig locally for coffee shops and special events. Each gig fed into the next and I began performing for restaurants, larger events and festivals, and slowly but surely made my way into the wedding industry. I have been performing professionally for 16 years, and it is the only job I have ever had. My dad told me time and again to hone my craft, and that is what I did. He has been incredible support and, in fact, is my number one roadie and sound engineer for all of my weddings and special events.

I know you don’t exclusively perform at weddings, but when you are hired for a wedding what kind of couples do you usually find yourself working with?

I work with a wonderful variety of couples with different backgrounds, musical tastes, varying budgets, etc. I really aim to make having live music affordable as I think it adds such a unique touch to such an important day.

I personally think having live music at your wedding is magical and adds so much to the ambiance (I have a feeling you might agree)! What is your favorite part about performing for a couple’s special day?

My favorite part about performing for weddings is completely customizing their entrances. It is very uncommon nowadays for a couple to pick songs such as The Wedding March or Canon in D. The songs that each couple chooses says so much about them and I love being able to express for them the words/lyrics they in turn are expressing to each other and their guests about the commitment they are about to make.

Do you find yourself doing more ceremonies and cocktail hours, or receptions as well?

I mostly play ceremony and cocktail hour as these lend themselves nicely to live music. Most couples that hire me love having the more easy listening music at the beginning of the evening and then having the DJ take over for dancing, etc. I have, however, done weddings where I do every part of the evening from ceremony to cocktail, to dinner and dances. It really depends on the couple.

When it comes to selecting specialty songs for your wedding day do you have any advice for people?

My only advice to couples when beginning to select music for their wedding is “be you!” Don’t think you have to be traditional. Pick songs that really speak to the two of you, songs that are meaningful to your relationship and those you have invited to share in your wedding. You can’t go wrong!

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If you're interested in having a live musician be part of your special day I highly encourage you to reach out to Sarah. I can guarantee you and your guests won't be disappointed! 

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Jenny & Adam were married on a perfect Arizona fall afternoon. Everything about their outdoor ceremony and reception was pure magic, and captured perfectly by Tasha Brady Photography. They were such a fun-loving and easy-going couple who simply just wanted to get married and enjoy the celebration - and celebrate they did! I cannot rave enough about these two and found so much joy working along side them. Jenny and Adam, while I hope your marriage is even more beautiful than your wedding day was, I must say we put together quite the fete! xoxo

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Pinterest is one of those love/hate relationships in the wedding world. On one hand you don’t want to reproduce every image you see out there, but on the other it is a great starting point for gathering inspiration and ideas. When I was engaged I absolutely loved Pinterest (and my now-husband hated it) and was constantly wondering how people planned their weddings without it. I am sure there are plenty of brides out there who feel the same way and find themselves using the platform to define their wedding vision. If that happens to be you, and you’ve discussed your priorities with your fiance first and thought through your wedding budget, then read some of my tips below on how to get started using Pinterest to help define the look and feel for your event.

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Either start pinning images you love or start looking through what you already have pinned. If you’ve been gathering images for years and just recently got engaged then you may find your tastes have changed and developed. This may be a good time to go through your boards and delete images that no longer speak to you and begin gathering ones that do.


Aside from pinning images directly from Pinterest take some time to go through your favorite wedding blogs and pin from there. Or better yet, go to those blogs’ Pinterest accounts and start following their boards. Some of my favorites are Style Me Pretty, Once Wed, Southern Weddings, Green Wedding Shoes, and 100 Layer Cake.


Set aside some time to go through your pins and look for similarities and themes. The more cohesive they are the better. You may find that you’re attracted to specific colors, textures, outdoor settings over indoor, dress silhouettes, etc. These commonalities can start to form the overall look and feel for your event, and knowing what you’re drawn to will help you communicate with your vendors or potential vendors.

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It’s important to not become fixated on one particular image, pose, flower, bouquet, dress, etc. in your Pinterest boards. You want to figure out what it is you are drawn to overall and use that as inspiration to craft your wedding day, not copy it. If you can see your inspiration images as the “big picture” and trust your vendors to bring that to life you will be amazed at what is created.  


This is a hard one! But at some point you need to stop looking at Pinterest or else you’ll start to feel overwhelmed with the amount of ideas that are out there. When you’ve honed-in on your vision and are confident in the direction your design is going in, just. say. no.  

Personally, I believe in finding inspiration in other areas of life as well, whether that’s a book, being outdoors, or simply letting ideas come to you naturally. But you can’t deny Pinterest is a valuable platform! You can see how I use it to visually organize all the pretty things I come across on a daily basis!

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You may recall the sweet Mount Lemmon engagement session I shared of these two, and I'm happy to be back with their beautiful fall wedding at The Royal Palms. Lexi Moody Photography captured Annie and Jared's day perfectly, making sure to emphasize all the special details they poured their hearts into for their wedding. The day was studded with navy and copper accents, Arizona inspired florals and succulents, family heirlooms, and a just-right amount of do-it-yourself elements (hello, table numbers!) that perfectly complimented the aesthetic of the their venue.  It was such a pleasure working with them to make sure each of these elements came together. Annie and Jared, thank you again for letting me be a part of your wedding day. You two are one-of-a-kind! xoxo 

Reception Venue: Royal Palms Resort and Spa // Ceremony Venue: Redemption Church Arcadia // Planning: Wild One Events // Photography: Lexi Moody Photography // Floral: Butterfly Petals // Invitations: Minted // Caligraphy & Signage: Freed Hands // Hair: Harley Ann Artistry / Makeup: Heather N Artistry  / DJ: Got You Covered

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So you have come up with your wedding budget, the funds have been allocated across the board, and you’re ready to start planning (and purchasing) away! Let me be the first to congratulate you on reaching this point as I see so many people jump into wedding planning without truly understanding how much they have to spend. Couples who do this will face a lot of frustration later on down the road because they don’t set financial limits and expectations from the beginning. Check out my previous post on what to discuss once you're engaged to help set you in the right direction!

Now, if you are ready to roll I want to share a few budgeting tips with you. I think anyone can benefit from keeping these pointers in mind regardless of how much they have to spend on their wedding day. 



Having a small reserve of your budget set aside for those “just in case” scenarios is always wise. You can be extremely pro-active with your budget and situations will still come up that nickel and dime you along the way - it’s inevitable. Of course having a wedding planner in your corner will help avoid a lot of these financial annoyances, but I still advocate for a small cushion fund to ease the blow in case something unexpected does happen.


I’m by no means telling you to go into debt for your wedding day! But if you and your fiancé have set your financial limit and are responsible enough to pay things off as you go, then I highly recommend looking into a credit card with great travel benefits. The points you accumulate during your engagement can go towards your honeymoon airfare and that is a huge savings.

Not only can you make your vendor deposits and payments with the credit card, you can put other wedding related expenses on there as well. I was recently at a bachelorette party and one of our girlfriends on the trip was planning her wedding. She would pay for all of our meals and outings on her card (to get the points) and we would immediately divide the check and venmo her our share so she could pay it off. By the end of the trip we were all shouting, “For the points!” each time a waiter brought us our bill. It was hysterical but also a great financial move on her part!

SELECT A VENUE THAT DOESN'T BREAK THE BANK (So you can splurge elsewhere!)

In general, your venue, food, and beverage total should be no more than 50 percent of your overall budget. If the cost of a particular venue is going to blow the majority of your budget then you’ll inevitably have other areas that are financially neglected. I suggest keeping an open mindset during your venue search; with the right amount of preparation and vision you can transform a space into something completely unique and beautiful.

If you’re hosting an at-home or private estate wedding and don’t have a traditional venue cost you won’t necessarily be spending less, your budget will just be allocated a little differently to make up for the amenities and services a traditional venue supplies. While you don’t always save money going this route it does add a wonderful personal element to your day. Weddings at home or in unique spaces are always some of my favorites to work on with my clients!

I hope you find these wedding budget pointers to be helpful as you set out on your planning journey. As always, feel free to reach out if you are in need of wedding planning services! I love helping couples allocate their budgets!

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