How to eat (and feed your guests) guilt-free

What’s the biggest portion of your wedding budget?

Wedding planning sites say that you should expect to spend about half your wedding budget on the reception venue and food. The cocktail hour, meals and open bar amounted to 42 percent of my wedding expenses, not including the cake and bubble tea.

Given the massive amount of money you are going to spend on food, let’s talk a little about the people who prepare and serve those delicious meals to your wedding guests, shall we?

Many of you might have worked in restaurants before (I have not), so you are probably already more familiar than I am with some of the problems that plague the restaurant industry. Do you remember if you were paid for sick days? Did (or do) you have an opportunity to advance? Were (or are) you paid adequately?



One way to eat and feed your wedding guests guilt-free is to contract with a gold or silver prize restaurant to cater your wedding! Alternatively, you could host your rehearsal dinner at one of these worker-friendly restaurants!

The Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC) recently released its 2013 national diners’ guide. ROC gave gold and silver stars to restaurants with strong ratings for paying tipped workers $5 or more per hour, for paying non-tipped workers $9 or more per hour, for providing paid sick days, and for promoting employees internally.

Check out the ROC 2013 national diners’ guide!

ROC rated the following five Detroit restaurants as “high road” gold or silver star restaurants for treating their workers with respect!

Avalon International (gold)
Baked goods, sandwiches, coffee, and more!
I went to Avalon’s new bakehouse grand “bread-breaking” opening on Friday. Congratulations to Ann, Jackie & the whole team! Check out MLive’s photos of the huge space. Who knew mixing bowls could be so ginormous?

COLORS Detroit (gold)
Contact Dan Jones ( for catering menu (breakfast, lunch, dinner, happy hour, dessert options available)! 
Minimum of 25 people for catering/special event orders.
Can host rehearsal dinners, up to 60 people.

Le Petit Zinc (gold)
Catering services available! Can host rehearsal dinners for up to 30 people.

Russell Street Deli (gold)
Specializes in vegetarian/vegan meals and has catered weddings for up to 240 people! No minimum or maximum for catering orders.
Can host informal rehearsal dinners up to 40 people.

Seva Restaurant (silver)
Can host wedding buffet receptions in the restaurant for up to 80 people or cater off-site for up to 500 people!

Okay, okay. So I know that list is short. There are certainly restaurants that simply weren’t evaluated and rated by ROC.

…And you are probably wondering how you can apply ROC’s principles as you prowl the city for the best venue and best caterer that meets your budget. You could ask potential caterers: “How do you support your workers? Do you give your workers paid sick days?”

If you don’t feel prepared to ask questions like those, simply clip out the tip card below and hand it to your catering representative!

ethical eating ROC

Stay tuned for future LoveintheD posts highlighting caterers in Detroit that you might want to consider. Feel free to leave a comment with a suggested “high road” restaurant employer!

Do you have a personal story about the restaurant industry to share with LoveintheD?

[real wedding] Michelle and Monique’s Belle Isle celebration

“Detroit is home.”

That is what Michelle and Monique Lin-Luse had to say about their love for Detroit! Although they now live on the East Coast, they come back to Detroit for the holidays and continue to call Detroit home. In fact, they plan to move back to Detroit in a few years! I met Michelle and Monique when they were juniors at the University of Michigan and I was a freshman. Michelle and Monique were more seasoned student activists from whom I was grateful to be able to learn!

On September 18, 2012, Michelle and Monique were married at the Belle Isle Casino. Take a look at these lovely photographs by Wendy Martin Photography!

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Michelle_Monique makeup Michelle

How did you incorporate Detroit into your wedding? What socially or environmentally conscious choices did you make during the wedding planning process?

  • We utilized mostly local vendors, prioritizing Detroit, then the state of Michigan. The only things we brought from outside of Michigan were the vodka (Pennsylvania-based distillery which was a reference to where we were living at the time) and the champagne.
  • We purchased local flowers that were in season.
  • DJ was a local who played Motown. He also helped lead a line dance routine!
  • We purchased local brands like Faygo, McClure’s, Better Made Chips for welcome packs.
  • We specifically asked caterer to not serve bottled water. Read “5 reasons not to drink bottled water.”

Michelle_Monique couple with fence in back

Michelle_Monique fist group pic

Venue: Belle Isle Casino
Photographer: Wendy Martin Photography
Caterer: Brown Bag Catering
Cake: Mrs. Maddox
Cupcakes: Just Baked – Faygo flavored cupcakes
Floral/Décor: Goodness Gracious, Inc.
Music/DJ: Miguel Mickey
Lion Dancers: Derek & Ying Gee
Favors: Custom m&m favor bags
Photobooth: Rock the Booth
Make-up: Mary Pryor
Hair: Self (Monique); Jenny Lee (Michelle)
Wedding Planner: Two-Foot Creative
Violinists: Judith Teasdle and Beth Kirton
Graphic Designer: Jee Chang
Officiants: Rev. Dominique Atchinson and Rev. Nora Shumake

Photo credit: Wendy Martin Photography

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Michelle_Monique centerpiece

Michelle_Monique faygo cupcakes

Michelle_Monique cake

What was your favorite moment of the wedding?

Our favorite moment was in between the “reveal photos” and arriving at the ceremony location. It was the moment when our wedding party joined us in downtown Detroit to take photos before the wedding. We felt safe; we were with our family. We were super excited about everything that was going to happen and it was the moment we could (had to) relinquish all control. We were able to enjoy, truly enjoy, the day. Everything was going to be okay!

Photo credit: Wendy Martin Photography

What words of advice do you have for those planning their own Detroit weddings?

Anyone who has decided to have their wedding in Detroit knows that the city is more than meets the eye. There are so many locations for wedding venues or receptions that are historic, beautiful, and one-of-a-kind. To plan a wedding in the city, you have to tap into the network of amazing network of small business owners, event planners, musicians, caterers, etc. Take advantage of the impressive creative ‘brain trust’ that is available to you. If you are having out-of-town guests who are unfamiliar with the area, remember that the D is different from other cities. Don’t forget to help them take advantage of all there is to offer (and the things we may take for granted) in the city we all love.

Photo credit: Wendy Martin Photography

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Happy Valentine’s Day from LoveintheD!

Below is one of my favorite first year anniversary photos taken by Ryan Southen Photography. I am not sure what we’re doing for Valentine’s Day 2013 but in years past, we have had dinner at Vicente’s Cuban Cuisine, enjoyed a “home-cooked” lobster tail meal together at home (okay, okay, Sean picked up the already cooked meal from the store), and enjoyed spoken word poetry at the Max M. Fisher Music Center.

Yes, Valentine’s Day is a “Hallmark Holiday” of sorts.

But I have to admit – it is kind of nice to be able to use it as a reason to get dressed up and go out to dinner or just to spend quality at-home time with a significant other. I happen to be the one in this couple who needs to work on making more time to spend with my loved one, and I make sure Valentine’s Day is one of those days when (at least most of) the evening is set aside for Sean!

I found this unscientific online poll in which 66 percent of the participants believed that Valentine’s Day is a commercial holiday, while 34 percent believed it is a romantic holiday. Where do you fall on that spectrum?

Valentines Day postPhoto credit: Ryan Southen Photography

Check back on LoveintheD on Monday for the next Real Wedding post!

Readers: What are you doing to celebrate Valentine’s Day?

Wedding photography by Ryan Southen

On our wedding day, Sean and I ran out of time before the ceremony to take photos at some of the locations on our list. [Psssst. Tip: Brides, if applicable, schedule your own hair or make-up for the middle of your bridesmaids list — do not put yourself at the end of both lists. Oops!] So, last fall, Sean and I decided to take one year anniversary photos.

Lucky for us, Ryan Southen had recently moved into our lovely neighborhood of Lafayette Park! After Ryan’s wedding photography website thoroughly impressed Sean, I checked out the website and was equally impressed. Ryan spent several hours with us and we were incredibly happy with our anniversary photos. And we had a blast!  Scroll down to see some favorite Detroit wedding photographs by Ryan Southen Photography.

Meet Ryan.

What inspired you to get into wedding photography?

I was shooting architecture and commercially but when the recession hit, those jobs disappeared on me and most other photographers in Metro Detroit. I was fortunate enough to have a friend who was in a similar boat. He had started shooting weddings and asked me to assist him. The first wedding he asked me to help him out on happened to be a destination wedding in Maine, so my very first experience with shooting weddings involved flying on a plane and shooting an amazing couple on the Atlantic Ocean! Not a bad way to start and from there, I was hooked. It didn’t take me very long to fall in love with wedding photography. I have met some amazing people, many who have become great friends, and I have been able to travel and photograph some amazing places.

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Describe your photography style or approach.

I like to think of my style as modern or contemporary and I’ve been told that people can see my architectural background in my photographs. It’s that perspective that helps me be more creative and deliver a unique product to my couples. I feel that weddings should be fun from start to finish so I would say that I have a relaxed approach to shooting, with an emphasis on having fun! I like to get to know my couples and joke around with them. It ends up making the experience more enjoyable and the fun shows up in the photographs.

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Tell us about your move to Detroit. How did you decide to move downtown to Lafayette Park and what do you love about Detroit?

Before I became a photographer, I had dreams of becoming an architect. That dream began with family trips to Detroit when I was young. I became inspired by the buildings and built environment. Detroit fueled my passion for architecture and when I decided to go a different route in life and try my hand at photography, it became the backdrop for my photos. The city has had an unbelievable impact on me from a creative standpoint, so it was a no brainer for me to move down here. I chose to live in Lafayette Park because I love mid-century architecture and design. There is no better place in Metro Detroit than Lafayette Park for that! The neighborhood is wonderful, the people are wonderful, and i love being steps from downtown, the riverfront, the Dequindre Cut and Eastern Market. I really can’t think of a more perfect place for me. It feels great to be a part of Detroit’s renaissance!

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What are your three favorite Detroit wedding venues to photograph?

Orchestra Hall – The staff is incredibly accommodating and the mix of the old theater with the modern addition makes for some really great photographic opportunities.

Colony Club – It’s a stunning venue for anyone who wants a classic look.

Detroit Institute of Arts – Although I was told the wedding I shot there in 2011 was the last one to use the Grand Hall, it is still an amazing venue with many possibilities both inside and out.

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What are your three favorite Detroit spots for engagement photos?

Belle Isle, the DIA, and the riverfront are all pretty popular spots for my engagement photos. I think my favorite engagement shoots are the ones where we just explore downtown or Midtown without any real plan. The city has so many cool spots for photos that people don’t realize are there. There is potential on every block, which is one reason I enjoy shooting down here so much.


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Any predictions for Detroit wedding trends in 2013?

I predict that Detroit venues are going to get tougher and tougher for people to book. I have been doing this for five years and in that short period of time, I have been amazed by how much earlier brides and grooms are booking vendors and venues. With all of the positive things happening in downtown and Midtown, I think it will be tougher for people to book the venues they want.

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If you could give one piece of advice to Detroit brides & grooms who are trying to choose a wedding photographer, what would it be?

Sit down and meet with your photographer. Depending on how early you book them, it is a relationship that can last years! It is important that you not only like your photographer’s work, but that you like the photographer as well. A good relationship with your photographer can be the difference between natural looking photos and uncomfortable ones.

Readers: Which is your favorite of the beautiful shots above?

[real wedding] Mahima & Shane’s Detroit wedding weekend

Are you excited? It’s the first LoveintheD “real wedding” blog post! 

Mahima Mahadevan and Shane Bernardo are both activists and Detroit lovers. I am lucky to say that these two warm and passionate people are friends of mine (and Sean). Their interests and personalities were evident throughout their August 21, 2010 wedding weekend! Mahima and Shane followed three principles in planning their wedding: “We wanted to be resourceful and money-conscious, we wanted to minimize waste, and we wanted every part of the wedding to be unique and creative.”

In addition to the ceremony and lunch reception at the Scarab Club, Shane and Mahima also arranged a trivia night, group bike ride, dance party on the rooftop of the Park Shelton, and kayaking trip on the Detroit River! Sean and I had a blast attending their wedding and a few of the fun post-wedding activities. Scroll down for more delightful details. Enjoy!

Mahima & Shane's wedding ceremony and reception at the Scarab Club.Photo credit: Charles Saadiq, Introvert Images, LLC 

Mahima & Shane

Mahima & Shane

Tell me about your love for Detroit.
Mahima:  I feel our relationship grew out of our interaction with the city. I’m not sure we would have gotten together if we lived in another city!
Shane: I love Detroit’s cultural identity as a creative, resourceful and resilient city. That history has helped define who I am as a person so I appreciate and connect with others (like Mahima) who identify with Detroit in the same way.

Mahima & Shane's wedding ceremony and reception at the Scarab Club.Photo credit: Charles Saadiq, Introvert Images, LLC 

Mahima & Shane

Mahima & Shane

Mahima & Shane's wedding ceremony and reception at the Scarab Club.Photo credit: Charles Saadiq, Introvert Images, LLC 

Mahima & Shane's wedding ceremony and reception at the Scarab Club.Photo credit: Charles Saadiq, Introvert Images, LLC

Venues: (Wedding Ceremony & Lunch Reception) Scarab Club Detroit;
(Evening Reception) Rooftop at Park Shelton
Photographer:  Charles Saadiq at Introvert Images, LLC
Caterer:  Detroit Evolution
Cake:  Sugar Kisses Bakery, Berkley
Flowers:  Greening of Detroit – through the “Grown in Detroit” collaborative
Favors:  Detroit cubes made by Shane!
Band:  5-piece Latin jazz band, Aaron Barndollar and Friends
Make-up:  Mahima’s sister
Dress & Shoes:  Rachel’s Place
Hair:  Curl Up and Dye
Wedding Planner:  Lynn Jovick at the Scarab Club
Outdoor tent, grill, dinnerware:  C & N Party Rental, Royal Oak

Mahima & ShanePhoto credit: Charles Saadiq, Introvert Images, LLC

Mahima & Shane's wedding ceremony and reception at the Scarab Club.Photo credit: Charles Saadiq, Introvert Images LLC

Mahima & Shane's wedding ceremony and reception at the Scarab Club.Photo credit: Charles Saadiq, Introvert Images LLC

How did you incorporate Detroit into your wedding? 
We planned a whole weekend of events for our guests to let them to experience firsthand why we love this city so much (and not think the casino was the only way to spend an evening).  On Friday, we had a dinner at Shangri-La and reserved the top floor (perfect for a group of 30).  After dinner, we planned a trivia night and feather bowling competition at Cadieux Café.  We opened this evening to all our friends and their friends to have a good mix of locals and out of towners getting to know one another.

For our wedding, we only looked at venues in the city and wanted to support a non-profit if possible.  The Scarab Club was the perfect find.  We used a local caterer that bought food from local growers.  We made our own party favors that displayed iconic images of Detroit on a handcrafted, wooden cube.  We bought native wildflowers for the centerpieces that were grown in the city.  Finally, we hired a band comprised entirely of local musicians.

After our wedding, we organized a bike tour of our favorite spots around the city. We rented bikes from Wheelhouse Detroit and biked along the Detroit River Walk, Earthworks Urban Farm and the Heidelberg Project.  We finished at Supinos Pizza in Eastern Market for dinner.  For our evening party, we asked friends to bring Michigan beer and wines.  On Sunday, we arranged a kayak tour along the Detroit River.  We rented kayaks from Riverside Kayak and toured the canals on the eastside of Detroit!

Mahima_Shane collage

What socially or environmentally conscious choices did you make during the wedding planning process?
• For our invitations, we bought bulk cardstock and created our own design using the scarab image, and printed and assembled the cards.  We asked guests to RSVP online so we did not have to create an RSVP card.
• I bought my dress and shoes from a second-hand vintage store.  I had it altered from a local seamstress.
• We did not want any food to be wasted.  We took the leftover food trays from lunch and put it out for our evening party.
• We did not use any disposable dishware
• We made our own centerpieces.  We took second-hand vases and broken dishware and created brickolage vases.  All our friends who made a vase took it home as a keepsake after the wedding.  Check it out here! 
• Buying flowers directly from a local grower was much cheaper than going through a florist. In addition, this option was more sustainable because the flowers did not have to travel from afar. Plus, we wanted to support the local economy!

What was your favorite moment of the wedding?
Mahima: My favorite part was seeing the slideshow my friend put together.  I liked watching as the pictures progressed from us being individuals to becoming partners.  It really captured what I was feeling inside and the importance of that day.
Shane: I actually had two favorite moments of the wedding. One was seeing Mahima and her father at the end of the procession ready to walk down the aisle together. She looked absolutely radiant! The other favorite moment was seeing Mahima’s close friend, spoken word artist and match-maker, Alana read an incredibly thoughtful and moving poem that she wrote especially for the ceremony.

Mahima & Shane

What words of advice do you have for those planning their own Detroit weddings?
Most likely, you’re going to be inviting and hosting family members, friends and other guests from out of town that have never been to Detroit. This is your time to shine as an ambassador to this great city and counter a lot of the hurtful “murder capital”, “blank slate” and “ruin porn mecca” narratives about Motown. Spend the extra time making your guests’ stay one that they’ll remember but also will encourage them to say good things about the city and the people living and working here.  Find them fun events and places to visit during their stay like renting a bike and take a tour of Belle Isle or the Eastern Market on a Saturday. Turn your wedding into one extended cultural experience that they’ll remember long after your wedding is over.

Love in the D.

Welcome to LoveintheD! I am thrilled to launch a socially conscious Detroit wedding blog!

Why did I start LoveintheD?

Thanks for asking! I married my husband Sean on October 14, 2011 at the First Unitarian Universalist Church. We celebrated our reception at the gorgeous Colony Club. I enjoyed planning and, of course, had lots of fun on our wedding day! However, mid-way through the planning process, I realized that I wasn’t having much luck on mainstream wedding planning websites finding many vendors based in the city or vendors owned by women of color. I also wished that I had started thinking earlier in the process about making the wedding a socially responsible one.

I looooooved looking at the plethora of wedding blogs already existing in the blogosphere, but became frustrated that hardly any of the wedding blog posts I saw (of course there are exceptions – some blogs do include great Michigan weddings!) were from Michigan, let alone Detroit.

I love Michigan. I love Detroit. I grew up in a suburb of Detroit and have lived in the city for a little over seven years now. Detroit is where I met my husband, have continued to grow as a woman and as an advocate and organizer, and have learned many things about struggle, hope, and love. Sean and I plan to raise our family in Detroit. After we got engaged, there was no question where our wedding should be held. Of course it would be in Detroit!

In the months after the wedding, I had some thoughts about starting a Detroit wedding blog, because I figured: “Well, if no one else has done it yet, I might as well start one!” A year and some change later… here we are!

Photo credit: Orris Photography

What do I mean by “socially conscious” and why is that important?

Social conscience. An attitude of sensitivity toward and sense of responsibility regarding injustice and problems in society. [Source:]

Basically, a socially conscious bride or groom might consider the workers that prepare or serve the reception meal, the effect of various aspects of a wedding on the environment, same-sex couples who may not be able to enjoy the benefits of legal marriage, or small local businesses in the city. Of course, it is probably impossible to be conscious of all these things and pull off a perfect wedding that is 100 percent socially responsible. But one could try, right? Here on the LoveintheD blog, I plan to blog about weddings that include at least a few socially conscious elements.

I decided that if I were to start a Detroit wedding blog, it would have to have some element of social consciousness in order to stay true to my passions.

What will I blog about?

LoveintheD posts will include: real Detroit weddings, local vendors, ways to incorporate Detroit into your wedding, style and music (occasional posts from my husband), Detroit happenings and social justice topics from the frame of “lovin’the D.” This is all new for me, so we’ll see how it goes! I would really appreciate your comments, feedback, and ideas.

Thanks for stopping by! Check out LoveintheD this Thursday for the first Real Weddings post.

What kind of stories, tips, and resources would you most like to see on the LoveintheD blog?