I recently wrote a blog about wedding contracts and the importance of reading every last word. If you didn’t catch the details, make sure you read all of them before continuing here. This blog will cover the vendors I didn’t talk about yet and how their wedding contracts can affect your wedding plans.
Side note: This isn’t meant to freak anyone out or send brides and grooms on a scavenger hunt looking for the “traps” in wedding contracts. We’re all friends here and as a friend (and a wedding planner), I want to make sure you know what you’re signing before you sign it.
Moving down the list of vendors you’ll typically encounter when planning your wedding…
The Stationery Contracts
Doesn’t matter if you are the type to get custom invitations or order simple stuff on the web. You sign a contract either way, whether it’s handed to you by a person, or you simply check off that you agree to all of the terms. And if you didn’t read those terms, then it will catch up with you down the road. What could I possibly be talking about?
Invitations, menus, programs and all other paper products have one thing in common: wording. You will have to get the correct wording to the person (or computer application) designing all of this stuff. This basically means getting slightly important details like your wedding date, time and location, all 100% correct. There will also be a deadline as to when this information is needed by. If you delay on doing your work, then the stationery designer will have to delay on doing theirs. Signing a contract here implies that you understand what happens when you don’t get the information sent in on time.
Another agreement you make when you sign this wedding contract is getting what you pay for. Revisions can be made but there’s always a limit unless you’re willing to open your checkbook. Don’t ignore the lines in the contract that tell you how many revisions you are entitled to. Otherwise, you’re bound to get pretty angry when you’re asked for additional funds because you can’t make a decision.
The Hair and Make Up Stylist Contracts
Quite often, brides will hire a professional team of hair and make up stylists for the big day. The stylists usually take care of the bridesmaids and mom figures as well. I book stylists for my clients at least 7 months prior to their wedding. This means they have to know how many people are getting hair and make up done wayfar in advance. I’ve seen brides ignore this contract entirely. Not good and here are two reasons why:
Every contract is different, but the information the stylist asks for, helps them create the quote and proposal as well as prepare for the day. Odds are, you will have to commit to the amount of people being booked and what services you will need. Right down to airbrush versus traditional and false eyelashes versus mascara, decisions need to be made in advance. Is there flexibility for a changed mind on the wedding day? Potentially. But it’s not owed to you since you signed off months earlier.
Prep details are included in the wedding contracts and these helpful hints often end up in the trash. Believe it or not, there is a reason that stylists want you and your ladies to read what they wrote. Included in these guidelines are mentions of how hair cannot be wet, that flatirons should not be used prior to hair services, and that anything more than moisturizer on a face is no bueno. [tweetshare tweet=”You’d think that much of this would be common sense, but I’ve seen things, let me tell you… ” username=”RothweilerEvent”] I’ve also seen a bridesmaid lose her mind when she was charged a fee for showing up without blow drying her hair. Yup.
The Hotel Block Contracts
If you’re setting up rooms at a hotel local to your wedding venue, you will enter into a contract that is duller than a book on tax law. Doesn’t matter because why? You need to read it anyway. Not only does this wedding contract affect you, but it also affects your guests. And this just in: guests tend to complain about wedding issues. Don’t give them ammo by ignoring this contract and especially these points:
It will be very clear in the contract when the rooms are no longer available. This doesn’t mean that your guests can’t still get a reservation, it just means that there are no guarantees anymore. So if a hotel releases the block of rooms to the public and Uncle Sal calls after the release date (that you agreed to), he might be out of luck. Trust and believe that you will hear about this and then expected to fix the situation. That will also happen less than a month before your wedding and ZOMG do you really want that kind of stress? Memorize that date and share it in your invitations so that you can ask Uncle Sal why he didn’t read everything, instead of him asking you.
Believe it or not, a majority of hotels will put in their wedding contract that outside alcohol is prohibited. That means no poppin’ bottles post reception in your penthouse suite. Nope. Not allowed. Can you get around this? Of course. Don’t make a bunch of noise on the balcony and party like it’s 1999 and things will probably be cool. The reason things go left is because the couple didn’t read that fine print and guests are calling the front desk to report the noise. Read the fine print to know what rules you’re about to break.
The Photobooth Contracts
Most times when working with a DJ, there will be a photobooth add-on option. There are also companies that exclusively handle your photobooth needs. Between the two, you really can have anything you want in terms of set up and photos delivered. Photobooths seem simple though so what could possibly be in a contract that even matters?
Remember in the last blog when I said that the wedding contracts affect each other? Here is a classic example: the photobooth. Just as you might think this contract is no big deal, this vendor is viewed as lower on the totem pole by industry people. Probably because everyone and their mom has one now and it’s not considered an essential wedding item like you know, food. That doesn’t make the contract any less legally binding, so read it and pay attention to anything regarding a power source and table. Odds are, you will be asked to make sure there is a certain amount of electricity and that it’s only 20 feet away from their set up location. Photobooth vendors always ask for a small table as well, and it’s your responsibility (because you agreed to do it when you signed their contract) to make sure it’s there.
Photos from a photobooth can be delivered hundreds of ways. You will have the option to decide on the size of the photos, how many copies are printed, and if you want them all on a flash drive at the end of the night delivered via giraffe…Kidding, I just put that in there to see if you were still reading.. Before you even decide which company to book, you need to know what your options are. Once you agree and sign, there is no “Oh I thought everyone got a copy” on the day of the wedding when you and your 20 bridesmaids pile into the booth. Wording can be tricky here so don’t be afraid to ask for clarification until you’re all on the same page.
Those are the vendors involved in most weddings and some highlights of their wedding contracts. Depending on the details of your wedding you might hire others including an officiant if you’re outside a religious house for your wedding. The contract with an officiant is generally simple, but just as important as the rest. [tweetshare tweet=”Because if the officiant doesn’t show up because you moved your ceremony time and didn’t tell him, then ain’t no one getting married that day.” username=”RothweilerEvent”]
For anyone getting married at a location that doesn’t provide catering, those couples will enter into a wedding contract with a catering company to handle food and beverage. Yes, this does also mean alcohol, so read that contract twice. Common things brides and grooms have said “but I didn’t know that” about on their actual wedding day? Oh, just little details like how they were supposed to provide ice, or that they were responsible for getting the food orders from their guests before the wedding day.
No matter the vendor or how long and boring the wedding contract is, read it and read it again before signing on the dotted line. Nothing is worse than arguing with a vendor and having them quote the contract that you didn’t read. It’s a pain in the ass and watching paint dry is more entertaining, but if the booze is warm, the DJ doesn’t have enough electricity to play music and the venue refuses to let a vendor in because they have no insurance, you will remember your wedding day for all the wrong reasons.
And since we really are all friends here, be sure to share that time you signed a contract without reading it? What about those of you that did read the contract but were surprised by what you read? Share in the comments below and let’s see even more reasons why reading a wedding contract is mandatory.
Be honest. You have signed a contract before that you didn’t read. Or maybe you read most of it, but then figured it was just standard legal stuff to ignore. Too often contracts are treated like those annoying “terms of service” boxes where you just scroll down, click OK and get on with your life. But the simple reason behind why you want to not only read, but understand the contracts you sign while wedding planning, is because they all affect one another
I cannot tell you how many times I have been hired in the middle of the wedding planning process. A couple has picked the date and the venue and perhaps a handful of vendors. Maybe they were getting overwhelmed or just tired of planning, but quite often I have been asked to put on my planner hat halfway down the aisle.
The first thing I ask for when working with partial planning couples is to see a copy of every contract they have entered into. I can’t change what has already been agreed to, but I need to have a foundation for the house I’m trying to build. Too often, I have said to couples, “Did you read this?”
And I already knew their answer.
So if you’re getting ready to plan the details of your wedding day, then this is mandatory reading material. No, you won’t have to sign anything and there won’t be a quiz at the end. But you can bet your sweet little white dress that once you realize why reading is important, you’ll be more likely to actually do just that. I’ve broken this up into two parts, so make sure you read both in order to be fully prepared to do battle…or…um….plan your wedding.
Here we go!
The Venue Contract
The venue will have the longest contract and is almost always the first item checked off the list when planning a wedding. After all, you can’t really give anyone a date if you aren’t even sure what is available. [tweetshare tweet=”As easy as it would be to assume it’s allowed if it’s not written, make sure to discuss it with a sales or venue coordinator first.” username=”RothweilerEvent”]I’ve worked at and researched thousands of venues both locally and internationally, and regardless of location, many contracts are similar. Here are a few major details to look for in a venue contract and the reasons why you need to know them:
How many other events might take place before, during and/or after your wedding? Most brides don’t want another wedding going on while they are having their own, but they almost never think to ask about what happens before that. If a venue can host an event prior to your own, they are likely to do so unless you purchase a “buy-out” of the entire space. If an event doesn’t get booked for the earlier the same day, there is still a chance that your venue will not be open until the 2 hour mark before your wedding begins. This means that not one vendor, including your florist, will be able to set up until that time. So if you’re going crazy and pinning elaborate floral displays, slow your roll since there might not be enough time to get that done. If a buy-out isn’t in the budget, keep reading. Regardless, make sure you know how much time you really have.
Speaking of vendors, the rules that a venue has alwayscome first. Sometimes that grand entrance complete with dry ice isn’t going to be allowed. If you have your heart set on anything that will take place at the venue, look and see what the contract says. As easy as it would be to assume it’s allowed if it’s not written, make sure to discuss it with a sales or venue coordinator first. It’s also worth mentioning that the answer from the venue is the final answer. Even if you hear from someone that got married there or a vendor that has worked there in the past, and they say that what you want can be done…if the venue said “no”, then take them at their word. A few things that are “pin-worthy” but not always venue friendly: dry-ice/smoke, hanging anything from the ceiling, candles that aren’t covered, and wish lanterns.
Another issue that tends to come up when I get brought on mid-planning is the set up for the day. Your florist is responsible for their stuff, but for items like pictures you want to display or any signage, it’s important to discuss if the venue will handle that or not. If the venue will take care of things like placing 250 chair covers, double and triple check if a labor fee will be added on with your final bill.
While it varies in terms of amount needed and which vendors need to provide what, the venue will always ask that insurance is provided. At a minimum, your florist, photographer, cinematographer, all music and your photobooth will have to provide what is called a “Certificate of Insurance”. If you’re bringing in outside food and beverage, they are in the same boat and lately, many venues are asking that all outside vendors provide this document. It sounds scarier than it is as every professional vendor already carries this. Just make sure you know what the venue’s requirements are and ask for this document as soon as you book your vendors.
The Photographer/Cinematographer Contract
Selecting someone to capture the details of your wedding isn’t always easy. There are countless photographers available at the click of a google search, and separating the professionals from the wanna-bes can leave you too tired to read the details of a contract. Even though you now know better than to skim and sign, here are things to look for first:
The amount of hours that a photographer and/or cinematographer is on-site can be anywhere from 6 to 14. While it’s not always possible to decide the exact amount of time you will need until you’re closer to the wedding date, you want to factor in for possible overtime costs. 8-10 hours usually is just fine, but if you can land a package of 10 hours, I’d suggest doing just that. Always confirm if travel time is included and what the actual per hour (or half hour) overtime fee is.
While your BFF may say to not sign with any photographer that won’t hand over all raw images and the rights to your photos, that is something you won’t always get. In fact, many photographers refuse to deliver raw images to their clients as they don’t want any modifications made including 500 different Instagram filters. Don’t even ask about owning the rights. Listen very carefully to what is included and then read about it twice.
Pay close attention to how your photographer is your only photographer for the day. There are variations with this clause, but the main point is that there will be no one else taking photos or shooting video. Couples generally glaze over this because they cannot imagine how this would be an issue. Let me tell you where the issue is/why photographers put this into their contract: DJs. You’ve been to the weddings where photographs from earlier in the day are shown on big ass flat screens, right? Well, sometimes the DJ brings a “photographer” for those images. This is a whole different subject to delve into, but just know that this is why the issue exists. Respect it and handle it before you sign a contract with your DJ.
Like any other vendor present during your reception (wedding planner, music vendor and photobooth usually), the photo and video crew will get hungry. These people are human (except for a few I’ve dealt with) and the human body requires food and water. Most contracts will state that a vendor meal must be provided and even if it’s not written it still has to happen. Because common decency. Yes, it’s an extra cost, but it’s for food not a brand new Prada shirt, and plenty of vendors will bounce from your reception to pick up pizza if you don’t feed them…and it will say so in their contract.
The Florist Contract
Picking a florist is usually a fun task for my couples and usually they go with one that has similar floral designs on their website as the ones they want for their wedding. However, there is more to think about than if someone is good with peonies or not. While a contract will not be the first piece of paper you receive from a florist, it will be second only to the proposal. That proposal will be put together after a consultation where you will discuss what you want and the rough quantity needed. [tweetshare tweet=”It’s important to know from the florist if they can accomplish your vision and if they will need extra staff (AKA: more money) to do it.” username=”RothweilerEvent”]A common misconception is that the first appointment will include a sample centerpiece, so don’t go into that meeting expecting to see one. Here is what you can expect to see in their contracts though:
The payments you will make will be broken up, but that last payment could end up being a full 2-3 weeks prior to your wedding date. Flowers get ordered at different times, and many florists need 14 days to make sure the order comes in correctly. Some florists will let the final payment go until the wedding day, whereas others will want the money before they make the order. Either practice is fine, but make sure you know when your payments are due.
Going back to the venue dilemma and having limited set up time, make sure you clear with your florists during the consultation exactly what they are working with. If the venue has a set of rules for florists, make sure to provide that along with any timing restrictions. It’s important to know from the florist if they can accomplish your vision and if they will need extra staff (AKA: more money) to do it.
The DJ, Band or Both Contract(s)
No matter if you have a DJ to handle all of the music, or a band to handle the reception with a bunch of violins for the aisle walk, these contracts are just as important to review before signing. Just like the vendors mentioned above, all of these people will have to provide insurance documents, guaranteed. There are differences between their contracts, but here are two similarities to look for and talk about:
A major reason that insurance is required from your music vendors is that they could potentially use a ton of electricity. Once you are under contract and in the music planning stages, there will be a discussion of where the band/DJ is placed and where the closest power source is. Even if you are in a standard banquet hall, it’s really important to look over the contract in regard to how close your music vendor needs to be and what happens if they are too far away. Bands and DJs do not bring extension cords or generators with them, and adding stuff on like that last minute is going to cost you.
Pay careful attention to what is actually included and what will cost you more. As a planner, I know what will be needed and what the right questions are. Brides, however, do not. A question to ask here (should it not be outlined in the contract) is: what microphones do you include? It’s a thought that doesn’t cross a mind until no one can hear the vows or any of the toasts, but by then, it’s too late. Don’t wonder or assume anything about microphones. Check the fine print because it might be addressed while you weren’t looking.
The Transportation Contract
If you need shuttles for guests or a bunch of limos and party buses, you will probably work with one transportation company. A big “however” here though, is if you are setting up a hotel block (addressed in the next blog) and they provide a shuttle service. There probably won’t be a contract here, but an invoice and some fine print is typically what you would receive. Whatever you book, read what you are given and look out for this:
Overtime hours and costs associated with any transportation provided outside of the standard 3-3.5 hours should be considered. You might not think that this will be an issue, but when you’re running late or sitting in traffic or take more time with photos than expected or….or…or….. No one likes paying bills after a wedding because that’s like dealing with student loans. The party is over, the bills should go away, right? Make that happen by putting together a package for the time that you need and be realistic about it.[tweetshare tweet=”Ask about this before you book as it won’t come up (probably) and then it will be buried deep in the invoice…so deep that you won’t see it. ” username=”RothweilerEvent”]
You won’t ask because everyone assumes, but 9 times out of 10 you cant eat or drink in the limos you book. That’s right, no champagne on that party bus is a total possibility. The thing with this is that no one realizes the reality of this situation until the bride is jumping into the limo with her bridesmaids and a bottle of bubbly and the limo driver says “no drinks allowed”. Ask about this before you book as it won’t come up (probably) and then it will be buried deep in the invoice…so deep that you won’t see it.
The contracts I spoke about above are ones that pretty much go with every wedding, no matter the guest count, location or style. In “Part 2” you’ll see the other things to look out for including a deadline in stationery contracts that most couples never read. Until then, please share your thoughts in the comments section! Did you ever sign a contract without reading it and, if so, what happened? What language in your venue and vendor contracts are you glad you saw before you signed? Tell your story and come back for more in the next blog!
“Everything’s got a moral, if only you can find it.”
-Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Chapter 9
This has been quite a year. I don’t know about you, but on my personal Facebook page, my newsfeed is littered with comments about how everyone has hated 2016 and is ready for it to be over. Truth be told, 2015 was pretty damn annoying for me, and I was feeling better in 2016. But, looking back, well damn…this year was a challenge plenty of times- both personally and as a wedding planner.
There were times that I stopped and wondered WTF was going on and if Mercury was in retrograde for like the 900th time, but I am a firm believer that you have to learn from everything and that experiences help you grow in life. You may not be able to find a reason for things happening, but sometimes you don’t find out the reason for years. And sometimes the reason is that some people are just stupid and that’s that.
So here we are, creeping up to Christmas and on the express train to 2017. I close my office the week between Christmas and New Year’s because generally it is a quiet time of year and frankly, I want to see my friends and family members that I haven’t seen since like February because work. As much as I love my job and am a self-proclaimed workaholic, even I know that you have to take time away and spend it with people you love. After all, my job is all about love, so I would be an idiot not to cultivate it in my own life.
2016 has been a rollercoaster and here I am, still in love with my job, still in love with love, despite the crazy that was this entire year. This, is my year in review…
This year began quietly as for the first time the bulk of my weddings and events were slated for early Fall and through November. Typically, I am booked with weddings from April-October and have other events sprinkled in between. Most of my couples have engagements that last anywhere from one to one and a half or maybe two years. That means that I start working with them exactly that far in advance.
Not in 2016 though.
I am about to share with you something that I have never shared with any of my industry colleagues:
I went into 2016 with 1 booked wedding.
You wanna know what panic feels like? That.
Let me give some context as to why that was terrifying to me…
For close to a decade now, I have booked anywhere from 10-14 full planning weddings per year and, as I mentioned before, those were booked anywhere from 1-2 years in advance. This meant that as I went through a wedding season, I already had weddings lined up for the following year and a handful for the year after that. But this year, I had one. One single wedding for 2016 as I entered 2016.
Here I was, the most experienced I had ever been, countless publications under my belt, national recognition and a celebrity client roster and I had one couple book with me to plan their wedding. Something wasn’t adding up.
I reached out to people in the industry that I consider friends, and very talented ones at that. Turns out they were all in the same situation and getting booked by clients that wanted to get married within the same year.
None of them were worried. We were in engagement season and pretty much all of them were chill with the weird AF situation. No one was trying to offer deals or negotiate their prices, even though they were all getting hit with unreasonable requests like full planning for $1,000 (that’s unreasonable by the way so yeah).
But I was nervous because this was (and is) my full time job and has been for quite some time. There is no side hustle, there is no anything other than this. My inquiries were few and far between and many that came in wanted me to work for next to nothing.
This is why 2016 became the year that I started caring about demographics and sociology in general. I’ve heard and used the word “millennial” more times than I can even believe. And why? Because it’s real and because the big wedding names like “The Knot” and various publications had already realized it was a factor to consider. The thing was, they realized it before the rest of us did, and then they capitalized on exactly what that generation wanted, or at least what the internet told us they wanted.
This led to a late night (until 4am) couch conversation with my husband about how I was ignorant to think that demographics didn’t apply to me or my job. It also led to reading a ridiculous amount of articles about this group of people that statistics say make up over 90% of the engaged population.
As I changed my advertising tactics and learned about a group of people that on paper I couldn’t relate to (even though I’m not that much older than them and in fact fall into their category in certain studies) I started booking more clients.
Before I knew it, I was back up to my normal numbers. And since I increase my rates ever year, I reached my annual goal and then surpassed it as per usual.
What wasn’t usual? That didn’t happen until mid-March.
That’s right. Every single wedding I planned this year, aside from one that booked in December of last year, was a full planning client and they all got married this year.
The challenge with signing new clients at the same time, is that they will all have the same needs at the same time. There are ebbs and flows in wedding planning and sometimes you need to make 5 decisions at once. Sometimes you don’t have to do anything. But when everyone books you within a 2 month period, and you have under a year to plan all of these weddings, well…let’s just say that caffeine and I went from casual to exclusive really fast.
Since I had “nothing” to do until the first weekend of September (you know, since wedding planners don’t do anything until the day of the actual wedding, right?), I did what I always do: fill my plate with a ridiculous amount of things like styled shoots and new projects. You know. Cause why be bored?
My clients were all pretty different from each other in what they wanted for their weddings, if they even knew what that was. Priorities ranged from food being creative to everyone being on the dance floor all night. A common request I heard from most?
The millennial couple is characterized as not wanting to waste anything and the two categories that applied to were food and flowers. This year yielded more requests for the ability to donate food not eaten than all my other years as a planner combined. When that request couldn’t be fulfilled (seriously, the hoops you have to jump through are basically on fire) the answer was always to limit the amount of food being served. That was a direct conflict of what the parents wanted which was an open top shelf bar and enough food to feed the entire planet.
The idea that flowers “just die” was one that I heard on loop all year as well. It was very difficult for the majority of my couples to wrap their heads around the cost of the flowers that they wanted. As a planner, I generally will explain everything but with limits. Frankly, if I feel you’re going to argue with me, the professional you are choosing to pay because you don’t know zip about wedding planning, then I’d rather just not have the conversation at all.
Realizing that waste was a major issue for couples this year and knowing that donating food is rarely possible due to minor inconveniences like food safety lawsand all that, I frequently suggested that they consider donating their flowers at the end of the night to a company like Repeat Roses . Initially, they were all interested, until they realized they had to pay for the service. The concept of paying to be charitable (which meant you got the tax deduction) was ridiculous.
To all of them.
Meanwhile, this is a group that comes to your wedding once it is over, breaks down all of your flowers, and then repurposes and styles them before transporting them to places like nursing homes and children’s hospitals. So, yeah, you have to pay for it. But I digress…
As with most years, the couples that hired me were ones that wanted a creative wedding and generally wanted to stay out of the ballroom. Creating a one of a kind wedding that reflected them was what they all wanted and I’m good at stuff like that. While it would take some time to learn the idiosyncrasies of this new generation, I was pleased that I had in common (mostly) the one thing I need to have in common with all of my couples; and that is the understanding that a wedding is the celebration of the fact that there are over 7 billion people on this planet, and you found each other.
I can think of no better reason to throw a party than that.
Not unlike other years though, there are stories from a handful of weddings that would shock normal people. During conversations I had with trusted members of the industry, and even chats with good friends with normal and less dangerous jobs…like police officers and electrical power line installers…I would constantly get told “I don’t know how you do it.”
I mean, we all know Jesus turned water into wine when he was at a wedding, right?
All wedding planners are different, and for me, my emotions are deeply invested in every wedding I plan. I’m protective of my couples and I want them to know that I am there for them and them only. When I say “goodbye” to them, even if it’s more like “see you later”, there is a piece of my heart that I give away and never get back.
This year I was challenged more on my experience than ever before, to the point that I wondered why I was being paid when there were so many “brilliant” wedding websites out there not to mention best friends that just got married and now know everything. My patience (which doesn’t exist) was tested by a bride that sent upwards of 30 emails a day and then said to my face, “for the amount of money we are paying you, you should be kissing our ass.”
I had a bride that I was on the same page with until her mother swooped in and took over. Of course, I found out that same bride was badmouthing me to all of my preferred vendors on the wedding day, despite the fact that I had brought 6 huge umbrellas to shield her and her wedding party from the rain that her photographer kept her in for hours.
There was the wedding of a bride I adored that was called off with less than a week to spare, which shattered my heart. I’ve had weddings called off, but never so close to the wedding date and never with a bride that I connected with on such a deep level.
As with any other year there were difficult vendors that don’t know how to play nice in the sandbox, fires to be put out and the usual stuff that comes with the job. In between all of that were two styled shoots, the launch of my You Tube Channel, a celebrity baby shower covered by E! News, and an industry market mixer pulled together in under 4 weeks.
I am happy to say though that there was still a lot of love and I love that even though the “millennials” shook the wedding world this year, when it comes to love, they are no different than any other generation.
If you’re still reading, here are some highlights from each event…
Styled Shoot: Lamb’s Hill
Early in the year, I was doing my typical “new venue research” and came across a property that overlooked all of Duchess County, New York and basically the entire planet. Extremely rustic but very chic, the owner of the property had aspirations to have her venue featured in a well known publication. She already had the photographer she wanted but when she offered to handle the flowers, I took over in that department since styling is a huge part of what I do. We also brought in some vintage furniture pieces and I assembled the rest of a very talented team.
Using Pantone’s Colors of the Year we created a rustic chic and very romantic vibe that ended with a sunset straight out of the movies. BEAUTINI provided hair and make up for our gorgeous models that were dressed in gowns by EA Bridal. Alicia King provided photography and our friends at NST Pictures captured the day on video. Working with Darling and Pearl on all of the stationery pieces and Design Masters NJ for florals, the setting was purely beautiful. It was a long day (and a long drive) but the images are ones that we all swoon over still!
Styled Shoot: Through The Looking Glass
I am in love with the story of Alice in Wonderland. For years I have wanted to put together a styled shoot, but finding the perfect location and assembling the perfect team was not easy. I am happy, no, thrilled, to say that it all came together in late August this year. Behind the lens was a favorite photographer of mine Justin Tinapay and once again, Darling and Pearl provided the stationery, BEAUTINI handled hair and make up and NST Pictures put it all together on video.
As the summer came to a close, we moved into Labor Day Weekend and our events were full speed ahead.
Angela Simmons’ Baby Shower
As can be the case for a celebrity event, we had a little under 2 months to plan from top to bottom a baby shower for Growing Up Hip Hop star, Angela Simmons. With a Labor Day Weekend date selected, we went to work with the team at Sugar Factory NYC to create a royal themed shower for a prince on the way! E! News was there to see it all
Just one week later, we spent the weekend in NYC again, this time for a wedding that would take place at The New York Botanical Gardens. Originally wanting a wedding at home, plans quickly changed once the bride realized what an undertaking that would be in just 6 months time. With only five months to plan, we switched gears and started from scratch.The result? A wedding with 175 guests that took place at The New York Botanical Gardens complete with a string quartet for the ceremony and a lively band for the reception.
EBE Talent kept the crowd on the dance floor all night and Gabelli Studios was there to capture the details in both photographers and film. We worked with A Touch of Elegance to compliment the garden vibe at the venue and lush white florals and plenty of greenery could be seen throughout the space. Starr Catering provided the amazing food and the couple even stayed late for an after party with close friends and family members.
Meghan and Vinny
This wedding was all about fun and partying from the moment she said yes to the dress and even before that! Looking for a fairytale bash where they and close to 300 guests could cut lose all night long, Meghan and Vinny knew The Tides would be a perfect choice! Music being their number one priority, we knew that Adam Saber Entertainment was the right company for the job. Bringing in not just a DJ and Emcee, Adam’s set up was complete with plasma screens and a photobooth, as well as two live musicians that brought the concept of having a band and a DJ together as one. With such a huge guest list, we trusted RPD Limo to shuttle the guests safely to the wedding and then back to the hotel at the end of the night where the after party is probably still going on!
New Jersey Knot Market Mixer
In the middle of Fall-A-Palooza aka Wedding Season Madness, we were contacted by The Knot Magazine to design and plan their market mixer. We had less than four weeks to get together a team of vendors that we knew could rock the house and make this mixer extra special. Working in an industrial warehouse for a venue was something I always wanted to do and even though this was the craziest time of year for everyone, I was determined to make it unforgettable! Flowers from floor to ceiling, hot pink chairs and black lounge furniture, balloons, sparkle, a fashion show and so much more made it a night to remember. I still have no idea how it came together but make sure to come back and read the blog to get all of the amazing details and full vendor list!
Alexa and Michael
A true Cinderella and Prince Charming couple, these two were surrounded by an incredibly loving group of friends and family at The Ashford Estate. With an eye for design, the details were Alexa’s biggest priority and it was a dream working with someone so creative! From the bookmarks that served as escort cards to your Disney book table, to the four foot tall centerpieces, Cinderella carriage card box and spectacular custom linens, there was no detail overlooked. Make sure to check out the blog we wrote to see just how amazing everything was and why these two are totally living happily ever after.
Julie and Ry
Closing out the season is always bittersweet, but that’s even truer with a couple as wonderful as Julie and Ry. I will never forget bringing my bride to the limo before the ceremony and asking her if she was ready…to which she tearfully replied “I’m so ready”.
You’ll have to come back to the blog to hear the rest of her sweet words and see even more amazing pictures by Justin Tinapay. This woodland dream wedding took place at The Stone House at Stirling Ridge and we love working with their team. A Touch of Elegance created an incredible ceremony backdrop and put together three unique centerpieces for the reception. The bridesmaids wore an incredible fuchsia colored dress and the bride was a picture of radiance right until the last goodbye.
And Then There Were None…
I meant it when I said it is bittersweet to end a season. With each wedding or event that ends, I give away a piece of my heart that I will never get back. But when the season ends, it is the end of a year long journey. This year was a whirlwind of short engagements and super fast planning. I’m not sure I’d ever wish for a year like this again, but I hope that 2017 will have just as much love as these couples did…and maybe even more.
When I first met with Alexa and Michael, we sat in my office for over two hours.
I knew there was something special about this couple the minute we met. Their conversation flowed like they were already married and they had a connection that brought a huge smile to my face.
Huge Disney fans, they wanted to create a magical wedding at The Ashford Estate. Alexa had several hundred pins on her Pinterest page (seriously more than I’ve ever seen from a bride like ever), and we got to work right away.
Details and design are my favorite part of the job, but they can get crazy really fast. The thing that my couples struggle with the most is how to bring their vision to life without it looking like a Pinterest fail. A lot of my brides love different styles that just won’t work together, so it’s about making decisions and eliminating any inspiration that just won’t fit.
Alexa and Michael had their colors set and they were working with whites, creams, antique blue, purples and lots of greens. Carroll’s Florist did such an amazing job with their engagement party, that they were the obvious choice for their wedding.
Golds, pearls and crystals were incorporated into the design and there were three different style centerpieces for the 23 tables at the reception. The Ashford Estate has these incredible high ceilings, so skyscraping centerpieces were totally in order. In fact, when it came time to schedule the sample appointment, Chad of Carroll’s Florist suggested that we take it outside since my office ceilings were “too low” to accommodate what he was putting together. That was a first for me, but he wasn’t kidding!
The florals selected for this wedding are the ones that I have dreams about but rarely get to work with. They included amnesia roses and antique blue hydrangea. One of the wonderful things about working with this couple was their willingness to get creative and not be afraid to take the design up a level (or 20).
I’m a strong believer that your décor and design should be present in every room your guests enter. This includes each area they will be in both inside and outside. The Ashford Estate has multiple rooms within the main building, as well as a barn on site and the ballroom is actually separated and in its own space. This meant walking all of the spaces and discussing the details and what we could do.
What I mean when I say that we have to make your design “present” in every room, I mean things like florals in the fountains. Because why not? Alexa and Michael (especially Alexa) loved flowers and when I think “Disney” I think about flowers being everywhere.
We didn’t stop at the fountains though, because that would be ridiculous. Each mantle was adorned with different florals as well, and the couple included pieces they had either purchased or made. The tables held the centerpieces and a floral bunch was placed at each setting on top of the napkins we rented.
But design isn’t just florals, and Alexa and Michael had secured Papertree Studio to handle all of their stationery from invitations to programs. A beautiful invitation, worthy of a royal ball, was sent out to all of the guests but we were stuck on what to do for escort cards.
Foregoing the escort board option (because hello huge guest list and early RSVP date that would be necessary), Alexa had the idea to name each table after famous Disney couples. She wanted to have each table “number” be a book, so we came up with the idea of using “bookmarks” for escort cards. Then they added a quote from each story at the bottom.
The font had to all be the same to create a specific look, and their logo was no exception. Playing with lighting colors right up until the month before the wedding, Alexa and Michael chose a blue-purple hue to illuminate the reception space and placed their logo above the mantle. Candles were used inside the fireplace and throughout the room to up the romance factor.
Each table was draped in white linens and lavender napkins. I love drawing attention to the sweetheart, gift, escort and cake tables by putting different linens on them. Working with the placement of the tables is really important because it’s essential that the linens don’t “clash”.
Their “card box” was a Cinderella’s carriage that Alexa had painted gold, and that Carroll’s adorned with flowers. Because of it’s size, we needed a 6 foot table and it would have to be placed behind the sweetheart table. This means that the sweetheart table, card table and cake table would be very close to each other.
Going through a book of swatches, we selected linens with the couple that would be different from each other, highlight anything being placed on the tables, and that would work well together. A combination of sparkles and solids were selected and the newly married couple sat in vintage chairs that I stumbled upon months earlier. (Actually, I was at a floral meeting for another wedding I was working on, when I spotted them in the building and immediately snapped a picture and texted them to Alexa with nothing more than “how about these?” The rest was history and not only were they beautiful, but damn comfortable too!)
I loved working with Alexa and Michael and it was such a beautiful wedding that truly reflected their style. It is really hard for me to pick a favorite detail or moment from this one. Their cake, designed by Michael’s sister was just stunning, the music was sensational and their wedding party was so friendly that I felt like I was in a movie. This was also the wedding where I heard what is (and probably always will be) the best father of the bride toast ever. Seriously, other couples should hire Alexa’s dad to toast at their weddings.
Congratulations to Alexa and Michael and thank you for working with me! I am so happy we met and know that you will live Happily Ever After….
(yes…this was the only font that didn’t “go” with the rest…but it was a good call….)
I am always searching for the newest “off the beaten path” venue. You know the ones: the barns, the farms, the estates, and the vineyards. Those beautiful locations that no one ever thought to have weddings at…until recently.
I was born and raised in New Jersey and to many people that means that I must wear lots of animal prints and sequins. Truth be told, I own one or two pairs of leopard print heels and only break them out every once in awhile.
Being a non-traditional bride myself, I wasn’t “typical Jersey” when I was planning my own wedding. New Jersey has countless ballrooms to choose from and they all have the bling everyone sees on the Jersey based reality shows. The menus are standard Italian and there is always way too much food. Not knocking what some brides and grooms want, but it was never what I was looking for.
My style has been described to me (because I don’t really know what to call it myself) as very “California”. I love boho chic, but I’d hang a chandelier in a tree in a heartbeat. I’ve done the barns and farms before they were what everyone suddenly wanted and thus, I am over the burlap, lace and mason jars filled with “wildflowers”. What can I say? I’m just not basic ballroom bling.
I love vintage furniture and have a pretty sweet collection that includes dressers, couches and plenty of china. I rent the pieces out when I can, but not many couples realize what the expense will be (hint: a lot). Therefore, anytime I can use the pieces, I jump at the chance.
Over the summer I designed a styled shoot in New York State. For those of you that don’t know what a styled shoot is, it’s basically a bunch of creatives in the wedding industry getting together and showing off their talents. This shoot incorporated plenty of vintage pieces from my collection as well as a horse or two.
It wasn’t my intention, but while designing the colors and theme for the shoot, I kept going back to Pantone’s “color of the year”. 2016 was all about the watercolors of rose quartz and some light blue color. Honestly, I was never crazy about the colors or the combination for wedding inspiration, but I loved (seriously L-O-V-E-D) using them for this shoot.
We were fortunate enough to have not just photography but a videography team in place too. In fact, you can check out their amazing video right here: Video Coverage
The location was the highest point in Duchess County, New York, which made dealing with the light a little difficult. It was basically full on sun for the entire day. There were a good amount of reflectors and flashes being used to battle the summer sun and zero clouds.
For any farm or barn wedding, if there are animals around, I always want to incorporate them. I mean…come. on. How gorgeous does this model look draped over this stunning horse? This wedding dress was an airy ballgown with a crystal bodice and we designed a eucalyptus wreath for the horse.
As a designer, I fully believe in complimenting your surroundings and not competing with them. It would’ve looked ridiculous to have used bold and dark colors and over the top tall centerpieces.
In order to keep the natural feel without being too nature, nature, nature, we worked with long gray-brown farmhouse tables and a simple deep blue runner. I wanted to keep the rest of the table exposed to showcase the vintage china. Place settings are a huge deal to me and if you can work it into your budget, I highly recommend a floral and/or custom menu on each plate. It really is that extra touch and it “finishes” the look of the table, much in the way a charger would.
The runner was scrunched to give that “I woke up like this” look and the flowers were placed in a vintage silver holder. In keeping with that natural but beautiful wedding vibe I was going for, figs and artichokes were included in the design. Remember, if you’re on a farm, a great way to work with what you have is to use what they have.
We luckily had the entire day to shoot and were able to use the barn on site as well as the entire grounds. Even though the sun never hid from us, the light changed enough to give some serious contrast to the photos. You can also see some behind the scenes fun over on our YouTube Channel here: Behind The Scenes
Styled shoots are a crazy amount of work, but the end result is always amazing. When you’re looking for wedding inspiration, you’re most likely going to be pinning pictures from more styled shoots than actual weddings. It’s a great chance to see what vendors can really do and just how creative they can be. For more wedding inspiration from this shoot, make sure to visit our Pinterest page: Romantic Wedding Inspiration
Ok, today is ridiculous. It’s not even like Mercury is in retrograde, it’s like the whole planet got swallowed by the sun.
This industry, the wedding industry, can be a little like high school or community theatre. Now, I’m sorry if you don’t understand that reference, but it’s the best analogy that I can come up with. Everyone has their table in the cafeteria, there’s an overrated diva running the stage and some underclassman who’s way more talented is overshadowed constantly, while everyone else is in detention because the teachers are on strike and random frick and fracks are running the show.
This article is for everyone. The vendors, the venues, the wedding websites, and every single person about to or currently planning a wedding. You all should read this, you all should share this and you all should comment, question and make a statement.
Because the crazies are the ones with the money and they are not only running the asylum, but they are opening up new wings in the building every day. Slap a straight jacket on me. I’m over it. Here I am, cans of kerosene and a blow torch to burn bridges that I never want to cross again and that no one should even think about. Buckle up bitches.
There are two major wedding websites ruling the universe and you know who they are. They are the sites that cater to brides and grooms and help them find the best people to plan and hire for their wedding. There are countless articles on how to incorporate your colors, vision and style boards, and pages of message boards where you can commiserate with everyone else the pain in the ultimate ass it is to plan a wedding.
And if you’re getting married it’s like “damn, this site is helpful.” Because how on Earth would you have known when sunflowers were in season without sites such as these?! And their advice is free! Hot dog, every couple has hit the damn jackpot.
“She’s a life ruiner. She ruins people’s lives.”
The best part of these sites is that anyone planning a wedding can find the ultimate best people ever to work their wedding. Every planner within a 20 mile radius of your venue, right there, for you, on the home page. And squeeeeeel there are four featured planners, which clearly means they are the bestest in all the land, right? I mean, why else would a wedding website, one that is about helpingthe coupleand being on their side, shove these planners to the front of the line?
Because money that’s why.
Oh yeah, you think those planners, DJs, photographers and other vendors that have profiles with shooting stars and glitter and the word “featured” on them are better than the rest? Not the case. They are just paying this wedding website more money to make sure they are front and center and you see them first. Eventually, this is going to be known as caveman style SEO, I’m sure. But whatever, the point is, I have booked jobs (I am not alone on this) because I had the word “unicorn” next to my name. (Not “unicorn”, but you get it, right? Cool.)
Over the years these sites have evolved to include helpful articles for the “clueless” couples. How do I make calla lilies work? My sister sucks, do I have to make her my Maid of Honor? Articles like these were, and still are, on these sites, and they used to outweigh any articles that talked about how to save money while planning your wedding.
But now, the 60 inch round tables have turned and it’s all about how to have a wedding like The Duchess of Cambridge for five cents. These sites, that exist on the money they are taking from vendors like planners, are now talking out of the other side of their mouths on how you can basically DIY the whole damn thing and come out looking like a princess. This industry has got to be one of the only, if not the only to trash most of their advertisers in order to get brides and grooms to visit their site.
I currently advertise with two large wedding websites. That ends this year.
“She doesn’t even go here!”
Ever heard the phrase, “consider the source”? Sure you have. But right now, we’re in an age that if someone shared a doctored video of flying orangutans taking over China on Facebook, we would share that to death as if it were Gospel. Why bother to take two seconds to check out Snopes? THERE ARE FLYING MONKEYS IN CHINA DAMN IT! SHARE SHARE SHARE!
And these wedding websites know that. These sites that are all pro-bride and pro-groom, basically think you’re stupid. You believe everythingyou read. You won’t take the time to go all FBI and figure out that an editor of a magazine actually has no wedding knowledge and is a glorified yoga instructor. Why would you do that? The article is telling you what you want to hear! Because you want to be Kate Middleton, and you now know how to have her wedding for like, a dollar.
Do any of these sites ever show any math? Even like 2 plus 2? What result do they come up with? Antelope? The average floral bill and decor for 250 people in NYC is $897? Please tell me who the wholesale provider is here, or share whatever drug is being injected, because this is insane and incorrect. These sites never show you the math, they never breakdown the items into something as simple as what is ineach centerpiece and what it will cost. Instead, they tell you the average cost of florals and decor as if they know, or as if they could tell you the difference between a garden rose or a hydrangea.
So now these sites, these “best friends to the bride” are making money off vendors and venues that are advertising with them, and then pulling couples in by telling these couples that, guess what? They don’t have to hire a single one of these people! Yes! How is that not a win for the site? Grab a glue gun and some glitter and BOOM, centerpieces for days! Some florist telling you that your bill is going to be $10,000 for your 350 person guest count wedding, plus 7,893 bridesmaids, as well as that bouquet that you had to have because it’s so on fleek? Screw her! What a LIAR! She’s just jacking up the price of those phalaenopsis orchids because how could anyone with 15 years of experience know more than Bambi, the latest wedding consultant on these websites?! No way. Not even remotely possible. Bambi says that orchids cost 5 cents. The gospel of Bambi. Team Bambi.
That’s right. These wedding websites are now offering the services of a wedding planner. For free. No strings attached.
Yeah. You know what? No strings, just a big rope to hang yourself when you follow the advice of Thing One and Thing Two to plan your wedding, and then you trip at the finish line with the wrong flowers, bad vendors, a crap venue and more. This cute little service popped up on the scene a year ago and drove (like getaway car on fire drove) the most established planners to another site to advertise their services on. Some of us got tired of the (to be frank) bullshit that these sites were feeding brides and grooms. Education takes a long time and none of us that do this planning thing as a full time actual job, have time to educate thousands of people that are listening to the words of someone that can handle “downward facing dog” but couldn’t plan her way out of a paper bag.
Consider the Source
Ever hear that saying? Start using it again, because it’s really important. When the articles you read are written by someone that “OH-EM-GEE” was in 17 weddings and therefore and thereby thus are a wedding planner, start questioning what you are reading…because it’s nonsense. Let me ask you something, are you going to take marriage advice from someone that’s divorced 3 times? What about make-up advice from someone who, when they contour, look like a Pinterest “nailed it” version of Kim K? No, you’re not. Because you aren’t an idiot. You go Glen Coco.
Then why are you listening to these “wedding planners” being touted by these wedding websites? Why? That’s like going to Web MD and totally not dealing with an actual doctor. You. Get. Cancer. Every time. And now, your centerpieces look like dumpster fires.
“Did you drink awesome shooters, listen to awesome music, and then just sit around and soak up each others awesomeness?”
But it’s so tempting right, because these sites are free, you can create a super cutesy water-color wedding website and it’s adorable how you and your fiance look! Sah-woon! You didn’t have to pay a dime and got all of that for nada! Where’s “bad”?
Everywhere. And nothing is awesome either.
Today, two things sparked this insane rage of “are you actually for real?” in me. Everyday I struggle with making sure that I understand my client and that I understand the current demographics. Millennials are this, millennials want that…fine, whatever. But are millennials dense? Because how is such a large portion of this group falling for what they are told and never questioning why they are told these things?! Ya’ll need to get it together because I just can’t deal with this mess anymore. I can’t. This is me can’ting.
“Don’t have sex, because you will get pregnant. And die.”
I really hope Millennials have seen “Mean Girls” because if not, I sound like a writer with Touretts. Don’t go all PC on me, you know what I mean. Anyway…
The first thing to make me want to asphyxiate myself, was being notified that complimentary wedding planners were being offered by a site that I advertise with. Advertise on. I pay this site to advertise as a wedding planner. This site is now offering couples wedding planner advice for free. I pay the salary of these random people, and they give free wedding advice to couples that went to this site to possibly look for a wedding planner and then hire them.
To rub salt into the wound, these two (yes, two) people are listed as “wedding planning consultants”. Girls, bye. You are the consultant of Jupiter and turf grass before you are a consultant of wedding plans.
Oh, and in case the salt in the wound wasn’t enough, this site was super clever to play to every couple signing up, by selecting three “wedding” pictures: one of an inter-racial couple, one of a gay couple and one traditional running through the forest get married in a barn couple.
But wait, there’s more! You’re getting married and you are brought to this page and wonder what the details are behind Door Number 1. Well, I’m glad you asked, because here’s what you get from this site now…for free:
Assistance finding the best vendors to make your wedding day possible
Assistance with everything from your guest list to your wedding website and “more”.
Assistance making decisions…because this free planner is “just a neutral person to help you decide” and they “get it”.
The site then goes on to introduce the entire team! All two of them! Complete with headshots and bios that don’t say anything other than being in a bunch of weddings and working for a wedding website, which totes mcgoats makes them qualified to be your wedding planner guru. And one of the experts really likes cheese.
I can’t even.
This is then followed up by Frequently Asked Questions (how frequent are these questions coming in when you just launched this 24 hours ago?). They confirm in this section that yay, they are real and it’s so free like wow! To put the cherry on top they are so there for like, you, and they are going to be mega-besties the entire time, braid your hair and help you narrow down your vendor search.
Best part? You can call them anytime!!!!!**
**Please note that anytime will be defined as 8:30am-5:30pm, but you can email like whenever**
Let me tell you how many of my clients can meet with me at 8:30am. Or 11am. Or 3pm. Or 4:30pm.
Here is another question: how are these people/”planners” helping you select your vendors? Because, let’s not be stupid here, these recommendations are only vendors that already advertise with the site (and you could’ve found on your own). If the vendors recommended aren’t on the site, then the ones paying to advertise might be a bit annoyed. But how do you (you being “just add water instant planner) recommend a particular vendor?
Well, there’s another major site that did this first, and here’s how they did it:
Vendor and venue recommendations made to couples planning their weddings based off the vendors and venues already advertising with the site…and willing to pay to be on the list…and willing to pay a percentage off every package booked this way.
In English? Your “free and costs nothing” hack job wedding planner from some website, was recommending someone to you based solely upon how much money they were going to receive from said someone. But these sites are pro-bride and pro-groom, right?
How about pro-money? Let’s call it what it is.
“Boo, you whore.”
Depending on which site you like to play on, most brides (sorry grooms) do have an allegiance to one wedding website over the other. At a time when a bride is flying high about marrying the love of her life, she is not going to be worried about a site lying to her. No one actually believes they can be the victim of total lies on a website, and many don’t take the time or even have the time to understand the motive to lie in the firstplace. Furthermore, why would any bride question how she is being told to save money on a wedding? This is how you save because the website said so.
Doesn’t add up, now does it?
Of course, the second issue that came up today which has me spinning, is an article that published revealing “true” wedding costs. There is one person, one organization cited as the source for the article. That source is pretty much the equivalent to Web MD, which means not only do you get cancer, but your centerpieces are wilted too. The article has been shared hundreds of thousands of times already and probably got a few couples to believe they could do their wedding for so much less, even though that’s not the case.
But these articles, much like this one, are in writing. So therefore, they must be true. Until they’re not and you’ve received wedding planning advice from a college drop out that doesn’t care about anything because her father invented Toaster Strudel.
I guess what I’m saying here is to realize that you get what you pay for. If you pay nothing, then that’s what the advice was worth in the first place.
And if you’re a wedding website taking money from established planners, and then turn around to run a “beta-test” on your “couples consulting program”, maybe you should start using those words and stop sending cut and paste emails to the subscribers that make your site exist in the first place.
A good magician never reveals his or her tricks, and a wedding planner is a lot like a magician. There are some smoke and mirrors, and on the day of the wedding, the disasters that happen are fixed by the planner before the couple even notices. My favorite question to get from my clients when they return from their honeymoon is, “What went wrong that we didn’t know about?” Here are my Top 10 answers.
1. The entire set up was delayed by four hours.
Putting together the “day of” timeline is a very long and tedious process. Every planner works differently, but I personally like to construct the day with the vendors I am working with. This means I speak to the caterer about when food is served, the venue about set up timing, the DJ about dances, the photographer about their schedule and so on and so forth. I like to work this way because the timing has to work for everyone working that day. So, if the make up artist tells me that she needs to start at 6:00 a.m., that’s what time we start.
Of course there are adjustments that can be made the day of the wedding, and the timeline is put together to allow for lateness and mishaps. But one time, the set up was delayed four hours because the venue coordinator didn’t check the calendar to see that another event was in the exact same room earlier that day, despite confirming that we had the room to ourselves. Needless to say, it made everything very difficult and we worked with the florist to set up in a different location. With some major hard work and hustle, the set up was completed on time and done before the couple and any of their guests got to the building. I was extremely thankful that this was a “full planning” couple and that we were working with my florist that only books one event per day and was able to stay on site instead of going to another wedding to set up!
2. None of your guests got on the shuttles that you paid for.
Many of my clients want to book enough shuttles to bring guests from the hotel block to the wedding and back at the end of the night. The more locations, the more my couples want this service so that they don’t have to worry about their guests getting lost or not showing up on time. In order to set up this transportation, the couple has to decide how many people they need it for in advance of the wedding date, and we make sure to ask guests when RSVP’ing to the wedding to check off if they will be using the shuttle.
But the problem is, many people will say they are taking the shuttle and then decide not to, and vice versa. Shuttles aren’t inexpensive though and you end up paying for them even if no one uses the service. At one wedding, the shuttle company called me to let me know that of the 75 people they were waiting for, only three showed up. If they didn’t leave right then, they would be late, so we gave them the green light. Of course, it was nerve wracking to think if the other 72 guests were going to find the venue and show up on time. My assistant waited by the entrance of the venue to guide those guests inside, and we moved the bride’s entrance to a different part of the building so that she didn’t see three people getting off the shuttles instead of the 75 right before she walked down the aisle.
3. Your florist didn’t set up what you think she did.
Whether we are handling the flowers and decor, or we’re working with one of our preferred florists, it’s always crystal clear as to whom is setting up what. But there are plenty of weddings we plan where the clients already have certain vendors locked in, which means they have already had the meetings and signed the contracts. We play some catch up and get as many details as possible, but sometimes we’re not told everything, or we’re given conflicting stories.
In one instance, we were on site for a wedding where you simply rented the space and brought everything else in. While we were handling our set up work, the florist approached me about certain areas where flowers were supposed to be placed, including the cocktail area and directly on the cake. After confirming the details, she handed myself and my staff a bucket of roses and indicated that they should be enough. When I mentioned that my team and I were handling other issues, I was told by the florist that she “wasn’t paid” to handle that set up (Ok, but neither were we). Biggest issue? The flowers weren’t in water (so we had to locate a water supply) and they all needed to be cut. Thankfully, I have flower shears in my emergency kit, and we were able to put the flowers our client had paid for to good use. Otherwise they would’ve been in a bucket on a floor. Needless to say, half of the set up was taken care of by us and the bride was happy with everything she saw.
4. Over a dozen people showed up that didn’t RSVP.
One wedding we designed and planned included a large surprise of more than 12 people walking in that never RSVP’d. These people all needed seats at tables and of course, food. When you’re in a venue with in house catering and there are one or two extra people that show up, that is difficult, but manageable. At this wedding, it was another venue where we brought in everything including tables, chairs, serveware and yes, food.
When over a dozen people show up needing all of these “basic” things, it’s hard not to look at them without shaking your head. I mean, my staff is good, but we can’t just build tables. Plus, while we do rent extra plates and such, full place settings for that many people would increase the bill that our client would have to pay. In this particular case, we called the emergency number of our rental company, and got them to bring the extras that we needed, and the caterer we were working with made adjustments to get everyone fed. During the set up of the extra tables (and linens and chairs, etc.) we brought the non-RSVP’ing guests to a different location so that the couple didn’t see them hovering in the hallway and worry about if they would be taken care of.
5. Your rentals arrived an hour late.
Part of the timing of the day includes when each and every vendor is going to arrive and how long they need to set up. Occasionally, my company is hired for “month of” coordination which means we’re just handling the logistics of the day and executing them. We don’t bring in any vendors, and sometimes that means working with people that we would never have recommended in the first place.
One wedding we worked on had an extensive list of rentals attached to it, and that included linens. We set up a timeline to make sure that the florist knew what time the linens were going down, because that’s when they could place the centerpieces. For this wedding which included several hundred guests (which translated to over 30 tables), the linens showed up an hour late, resulting in the florist getting delayed and they were designing directly on site. When the linens arrived, we grabbed them all and helped the rental company get them all down to save some time. One of our team members was constantly checking on or with the bride to make sure that not only was she enjoying getting ready, but that she didn’t come out to see the florist in a panic. When the bride and groom were escorted to see the full set up, everything was completed instead of only halfway done.
6. Your groomsmen started a fire.
We can’t control wedding guests or wedding parties, and sometimes things get a little crazy. On one wedding day, the groomsmen had a little too much to drink and got behind the wheel of a golf cart. This golf cart went directly into the tiki torches that were set up, and then those torches went down and caused a fire. Thankfully, we stay on site until the last wedding guest leaves, so we were able to get the fire out without anyone ever finding out. Including the bride and groom. Bonus? We got the fire out quickly enough so that there was no damage and the venue didn’t have to charge the bride and groom for anything.
7. The shuttle company got into a car accident. With your guests aboard.
Another couple that we worked with that wanted to transport their guests everywhere didn’t want to hire one of the companies that we recommended. As I mentioned before, using shuttles for all of your guests can come with a hefty pricetag, but it’s one of those things that you don’t “cheap out” on. Take this one couple we worked with that wanted to shuttle all of their guests because the wedding was located so far from where everyone lived that it was practically a destination wedding. When they found out what it would cost to hire a company we endorsed, they went out on their own and brought in someone else.
The day of the wedding, we were called by one of the drivers and were told that he was in a car accident with all of the guests on board. While no one was hurt, this is obviously not a good situation. The timeline we created allowed for some wiggle room and none of the guests were going to be late. However, we instructed the driver to make an announcement to the guests that under no circumstances were they to call the couple or the wedding party to let them know what happened. We also went straight to the best man and maid of honor to give them a head’s up and ask them to please make sure everyone stayed away from their cell phones, just in case a text came through about the accident. The couple did eventually find out, but not until well into the reception… which is when they came up to us to ask if we had heard about it.
8. Your flowers caught on fire.
Candles and flowers are on almost every single table where the guests sit at weddings. Many times, couples will put the most amount of people that they can at each table, which results in cramped spaces as well as a tight tablescape. While 14 people might fit just fine around a table, pile on 14 place settings, a centerpiece, candles, and then whatever the guests put on the table during the evening, and it can get tricky.
During one wedding, we had tall centerpieces that included a lot of white flowers, and that centerpiece was surrounded by tall candles. The candles were pushed very close to the centerpieces because there were the maximum amount of people at each table. As the candles were lit, I could smell smoke and raced around to figure out where it was coming from. There were five tables with flowers on fire, which meant reconfiguring the centerpieces, and removing some flowers that were now a crispy black. Thankfully, nothing was noticeable and we cleared the smoke smell before guests entered the room.
9. The catering company didn’t clean up anything.
One of the benefits of hosting a wedding at a banquet facility is that there is typically an on-site caterer that handles not only the food, but set up and breakdown… and clean up. When we work at creative spaces, we like to bring on our recommended caterers that also can handle these responsibilities. It’s a disaster when no one is quite sure what everyone else is responsible for, and it’s never good to hear “that’s not my job.”
At a wedding we were hired for “Month Of” Coordination, the bride and groom had selected a caterer that owned their favorite restaurant. When we first touched base with this caterer we found out that this would be their first wedding ever, and they asked us for some guidance throughout the process. What they didn’t mention to us is that they were just hired to cook and serve, and that they wouldn’t be clearing any of the plates, or cleaning up for that matter. Needless to say, we spent a good amount of time cleaning up the cocktail hour area, as well as running to the store at 11:00 p.m. for garbage bags (because the caterer didn’t have any extra) to clean up the dirty plates so that our couple didn’t get hit with a multi-thousand dollar fine from the venue the next day.
10. Your DIY stuff didn’t work/fell apart.
Ahh, the DIY Pinterest inspired decor. This stuff always makes me nervous because there are so many things that can go wrong, and the bigger the project, the better chance it has to fall apart. We don’t typically work with couples that want to DIY their entire wedding, centerpieces and all. The reason for this is simply that we can’t fix everything and don’t want an arts and craft project on our hands the day of the wedding. However, many of our couples do add some personal touches that we can and will set up.
Thankfully, in my emergency kit is a whole lot of super glue, safety pins, double sided tape and frankly, the contents of an art supply store. For more than one wedding we have glued “bling” back onto frames, safety pinned table numbers to the linens because they were too thin to stand on their own, and taped, stuck and hammered things back together that fell apart as we were setting them up. Usually when this happens the venue coordinator or another vendor will ask us “what would happen to these things if you weren’t here?” Our reply?
We have no idea.
There is my Top 10 favorite “crisis averted” moments, and trust me, there are hundreds more. This is not to say that a wedding will fall apart without a planner, but really, why even take the chance? Hire a Houdini, sit back, relax, and just get married.
I recently read an article that told brides not to worry about rain on the wedding day and their dress getting ruined, because they can just send out a bridesmaid to pick up a bunch of golf umbrellas, on the day of the wedding…. and maybe even in the wedding colors.
Because it’s that easy.
Reality? The bride and her bridesmaids are probably in hair and make up and there isn’t exactly time to have someone from the party run out and pick up coordinating umbrellas. It’s also probably very early in the day and many stores aren’t even open. And where exactly are you getting golf umbrellas? Did you also know that only bright colors show up in photos, i.e. white, pink, yellow and so forth? Golf umbrellas tend to be black, or have logos or designs on them, and all of that photographs horribly. But hey, send out a bridesmaid to fetch a few and just like that, photo magic just like you’ve seen on Pinterest!
And that was just one piece of advice in one article from one website. With more and more couples planning their weddings from their smartphones, it is no wonder brides and grooms are confused and overwhelmed on a daily basis. Hundreds of sites are competing for couples to visit their site over the rest so that they can get advertisers to spend money with them. Advertisers will take their money off the table if they aren’t getting new brides and grooms. So how does a site get the brides and grooms to keep coming back? By telling them what they want to hear.
Who is even writing half of these articles? Anyone can be a blogger, but who is writing the articles for wedding website hotspots? Ever google an author’s name from an article with brilliant advice like the golf umbrella nonsense? Would it surprise you to find out that many authors have little to no wedding background and that their full time and real jobs include anything from bartender to yoga instructor?
As long as couples are relying on the internet for inspiration and answers to their questions, there will be piles of outdated answers, half-truths and flat out lies. And while it’s impossible to educate everyone with real facts, it’s irresponsible to not even try.
So here are the top 10 “helpful hints” you are reading that are complete and total crap.
1. What to Book and When Treating weddings like they are all based on some mathematical formula is insulting and flat out stupid. Just because you give an app your wedding date and it spits back when you need to book your venue and all of your vendors, doesn’t mean it’s correct. Yes, there are basic parameters including booking your venue at least a year out and purchasing the gown at least nine months before your wedding date. But what happens when you get engaged and your wedding is three to six months later? How about the fact that certain wedding gowns can be ordered nine months out and some only need six months? If you have a Fall wedding date in mind (think: September-October), there is a strong possibility that you will need more than a year out to book your venue. These “wedding planning timelines” are, at best, full of suggestions. Kind of like speed limit signs.
2. In Season Flowers and BYOC There is this “thing” about only having in season flowers at your wedding in order to save you buckets of money. In reality, if you want a certain flower and it is in season, but I can get it somewhere else (Columbia, Holland, whatever) at a wholesale cost for less, then that’s what I’m going to do. This means going into a florist and demanding only “in season” flowers is a waste of time. A better idea is to go to a florist with pictures, ideas and the budget you are working with. Let the professional tell you what can and can’t be done and go from there. Also, ignore that bit about renting or buying your own containers and giving them to the florist to work with. Many times this won’t save you money and you’ll spend weeks and weekends looking for containers that measure the exact height and width necessary for your florist to work with. Plus, wedding professionals have relationship with wholesale companies (flowers and containers) and can absolutely get a better deal than you could. So, let them.
3. “Wedding” is a Four-Letter Word Do not waste your time arguing with every venue, caterer and vendor about what their costs would be if this was just a birthday party with 250 of your closest friends. Despite what these blogs want you to believe, just because you say it’s a “wedding,” doesn’t mean the cost is going to triple. A peony costs the same no matter what the event. The flower doesn’t know it’s an engagement party and not a wedding. I cannot give you a lower price on pipe and drape because it’s not for a wedding… Why? Because the fabric costs what it costs, and the team I have charges the rates they charge to set it up. Plenty of times my set up staff doesn’t know (or doesn’t even remember) what kind of event they are even prepping for. Why? Because it doesn’t matter. So, being snarky to the baker with cute questions like “what would this four-tier cake shaped like a rose cost if this wasn’t a wedding?” doesn’t make much sense. Plus… I’ve seen plenty of birthday cakes cost double and more than certain wedding cakes.
4. Barns, Museums, and Other Creative Spaces Save You Money It is trendy to get out of the ballroom and into a creative space. Barns are hugely popular and now plenty of couples want someplace different, including mansions, museums and private homes. Blogs will tell you that spaces such as these will save you so much on decor because there is so much to look at that who needs centerpieces? Um, well, let’s just say that’s true (it’s not, but let’s say that it is). These spaces are creative. Creative is an industry way to say “cool, unique and raw”. Raw is slang for “you are bringing everything in”. So, how much are you really saving here on decor? Minimal to no flowers needed on the table because the surroundings are just that good, but hey, you actually need to bring in those tables. And chairs. Ceremony and reception. And. And. And. Another industry term? “Estate Fee”, which translates to “the cost of walking in the door and using the space”. Some creative spaces have $30,000 estate fees attached to them, making them not exactly the best way to save you money.
5. Buffets Are Less Expensive Than Sit Down Dinners This was pretty much true for a very long time and if you show this to your parents they will say that it still is. As the wedding industry has grown and evolved, this too has changed. Buffets absolutely can be less expensive, but there are plenty of times where that simply isn’t the case. For instance, if your venue is one of those creative space types and you get to bring in your own caterer, there is a strong chance that a buffet will run you more money. Think about it: when you’re invited to a wedding, your RSVP card frequently will include your food choices and you will select one and send it back. A catering company then knows exactly what to prepare and the quantity of each dish. This means less waste and a lower cost. While a caterer can absolutely estimate how much of everything they will need based on your guest count, they know they are going to waste more than if it was a plated dinner. Sometimes this can save you money but it is not the rule anymore, so you have to ask and not assume.
6. What Things Cost, Especially “Too Good To Be True” Numbers The same websites giving out that super handy planning timeline based on formulas, are the ones telling you what everything costs. Here’s the deal: the national average cost of weddings is a very easy number to find. However, the national average is just that: national. That number (roughly $29,000) always has a little note next to it like this: *, and you’re supposed to go to the bottom of the article to find out that areas such as the NYC Metro area are about $20k higher. Many times, no one sees that little piece of information because they are being (mis)directed to another part of the site where your entire budget can be broken down by category. How helpful! I also hate to bring up that other word, but I’m going to: average. Do you want an average wedding? What’s an average wedding anyway? And where do these statistics come from? Ever wonder? I can tell you: Various areas such as magazine submissions that ask the couple what they spent, surveys that pop up on social media sites, and so forth. It’s a very flawed system to get to that $29,000 number. This brings me back to sites telling engaged couples what they want to hear and encouraging them with stories of how couples just like them planned a fabulous wedding for only 2 dollars. If the number seems to good to be true, it just might be. Keep an open mind when vendor shopping. 7. Substitute Candles and Decor Instead of Flowers To Save Especially helpful for couples that don’t like flowers or want to use something else, there are plenty of articles touting this as a great way to save money. First of all, not all flowers are the same price, and there are plenty of options. If you want flowers, get flowers, and work with an experienced florist and designer to create the look you want for the amount you can afford. But, if you don’t want flowers and prefer rental pieces, candles, or anything else, don’t let anyone tell you that this is a money saver. A trip to a craft or home good stores (online or in person), will illustrate just how much money you will actually need to budget. A side by side comparison of a centerpiece using affordable blooms versus one using vases and floating candles can yield similar numbers. If you buy these items yourself, then keep in mind that you will need to store them before the wedding, pack them up once the reception is over, and then be stuck with them. Forever. Because, let’s be honest, while selling them on websites seems like an easy way to make your money back, it’s not always a guarantee and it’s a lot of work too.
8. A Day Of Coordinator/Month of Coordinator, Same Difference Hiring a full planner for your wedding can be expensive and you might not have it in your budget. Websites that are already putting together your planning timelines for free are always going to suggest a “day of” coordinator as an alternative. They will define a “DOC” as someone who is there just on the day of the wedding to make sure everything runs smoothly exactly like you planned. The problem comes up when a couple starts reaching out to planners only to find out that “day of” is a media myth and “month of” is more realistic. However, a “month of” coordination fee could be higher (and is higher) than many couples expect because the words “day of” are engrained in their minds. I have been contacted by dozens of brides telling me they just needed me there on the wedding day, not two months before organizing a timeline with their vendors and so forth. The thing is, if a coordinator agrees to just show up to your wedding day without doing work beforehand (you know….coordinating work) then they are a hack job and you’d be better off just setting your cash on fire.
9. This Chain Store is AWESOME It’s typically painfully obvious when a website is trying to sell you something, which is why people are getting slick about it. Sure, you have your banner ads and features, but embedded in some articles are cute little advertising tactics. There are plenty of huge chains that partner with wedding websites and bloggers, and the angle of the articles is to get the couple to shop with them. In fact, plenty of times a write-up might have nothing to do with the store or even what it sells, but rather a funny wedding story or just some advice. Chain stores serve their purpose, but a couple would be better served at a boutique store where they will receive personalized attention and be working with someone that has been in the industry for a long time. When you shop at a chain store for anything (not just wedding related), you never meet the “owner”, and your salesperson could have started yesterday and be on to the next job by the time your wedding date rolls around. One of the best parts of the wedding industry is that it is filled with amazing small businesses to choose from. They might not be in those articles you’re reading, but they are the better choice.
10. Details Don’t Matter Be honest, you’ve looked at real weddings for inspiration. You’ve probably noticed that the majority of the pictures include shots of the invitation, the rings, the shoes, the table numbers, etc. They throw in a handful of people pictures, but that is never the focus. Why? Because the details pull the design of a wedding together. A cost-cutting tip spreading faster than poison ivy right now is to ditch the details. You don’t need the letter press invites/calligraphy/altar decor/cufflinks/sequin cake table/whatever, according to the internet, and just like that you have extra money in your budget. Look, maybe you don’t need that stuff, but maybe you want some or all of it. It’s OK to love the details, and if you want your wedding published, it’s mandatory to focus on them (and have a photographer get the right shots). Details can be affordable and they can also break the bank depending on what they are. All it takes is a little research and creativity, and you will find the details that are right for you (if you want them).
It’s a scary new wedding planning world out there with more and more couples relying on what they find online. Less in-person appointments are made, and more Skype and phone call consultations are happening to book vendors. There are millions of articles out there, and plenty of conflicting pieces of information. Truthfully though, if planning a wedding was just as easy as surfing the web, then planners, including yours truly, would be out of a job. Don’t get hypnotized with everything you read. Do your research, Google the authors, and watch out for hidden advertisements.
Whether you are in the wedding industry or you are engaged, there is a question that if you haven’t heard it already, you will hear it thousands of times in the near future:
“What is your budget?”
This is a question that every vendor either wants to ask prospective clients, or simply does ask. In fact, many vendors will not entertain a consultation without knowing what the couple has decided to spend on the big day. On the flip side, couples can react negatively to this question seeing it as a trap. There are plenty of brides and grooms that think the reason this question is even being asked, is so that the vendor can come in right around that number as opposed to giving a lower number.
While it doesn’t surprise me that couples think vendors are simply trying to take advantage of them, that is not (usually) the reason we’re asking for this information. Of course, there are so many “helpful” articles out there on wedding websites advising couples how to save money by being vague when speaking with vendors (or sending a mass app request to every vendor in their area asking simply “what do you charge?”) . Thus, many couples assume that vendors are the devil looking to shake them down. Shout out to all of the blogs, articles and talk shows for painting vendors in an negative light and making it impossible for couples to trust anyone with the biggest day of their lives. My favorite of these, of course, are the sites where vendors pay thousands of dollars to advertise each year on, only to basically be “wedding-blocked” by the same site. But I digress…
Frankly, I ask what the budget is from every prospective client that is looking to hire me for full or partial planning, as well as design and decor. This isn’t because I’m looking to just take 10% off their entire budget for my fee, but rather, it’s to figure out if that number and what they want is realistic and a good match for my company. When I’m not given a number, I hear one of these two responses:
1. “I don’t know.”
What do you mean you don’t know? How do you manage your finances for anything? I have gotten this answer from parents of couples, couples themselves and even couples planning their second marriage. When you buy a home, are you jumping onto Zillow and not putting in a range of pricing that you can afford? Nope. You are typing that you can a. either spend from “x” to “y” or b. that your maximum to spend is “y”.
When you’re asked what your budget is, a flat number isn’t necessary, and a range is perfectly acceptable. It is impossible to be respectful of your finances if no one knows what they are. I do not have a crystal ball in my office, but what I do know is “I don’t know” really means, “I don’t want to tell you.”
As I stated earlier, I understand (and many vendors do) why couples are on the defense. However, couples need to understand that complete transparency is necessary to not only secure the right vendors, but to have a solid relationship with these people throughout the process. If you’re shady about your numbers, we are going to wonder if you’ll be dishonest down the road, right up to the point where we have to worry if the review you write will be positive, or if you’ll write what bothered you even though you never brought it up to the vendor at any time.
I have been contacted many times as just a designer to handle things including florals, rentals, linens and decor. When I’ve been told by someone that they didn’t know what their budget was, I’ve asked to see pictures of what they want and hear about their ideas. From there I put a proposal together along with a quote, and believe me when I say that designing a proposal like that isn’t a two minute job. Many times, I’ve then gotten back comments along the lines of “that is more than I wanted to spend!”
Oh. So you DO have a budget. I mean, obviously you do if the number I am quoting is too high. What’s ridiculous about that situation is the amount of time and energy I took and my staff took getting inspired and putting something together for you. For free. The better way to handle this situation is for the couple to know their budget, know what they want and approach vendors with “this is what I want and this is what I can spend, and I need you to tell me what you can do for me.”
Now, if you truly don’t know what your budget is, then you are putting the cart so far in front of the horse that it’s in a different country. You simply cannot start planning a major (yes, major regardless of guest count and details) event like a wedding without knowing what you can afford. As a planner, once I know what the total budget is, we can then figure out what to spend and where. But before that, nothing can be done.
And for the other answer I receive…
2. “I don’t know what anything costs”
You don’t need to. What does what something costs have to do with what you can afford? Think of it this way: you’re going car shopping and you know what you want down to color, how many doors, and how much you can afford to put down and spend per month for payments. What you don’t know is the make or model that you are interested in, so you shop around. While you’re shopping around, you don’t know how much a Mercedes E Class car is…or who knows, maybe you do, but I drive an Outlander and know nothing about luxury cars mostly because every car I’ve ever owned has had to carry flowers, design pieces, my dogs, children and I don’t really care about cars but whatever…Anyway, the point is, it doesn’t matter how much any car is, it only matters what you can afford. If you start realizing that you can’t afford a Benz, then understand that there are other cars out there.
While shopping around for vendors, odds are that you will get quotes that are all over the place. This can be extremely confusing since you really don’t know what anything costs, and you feel you are getting quotes from A-Z for the same exact service or product. At the end of the day, if the price seems to good to be true, then it probably (aka absolutely) is. I have seen vendors undercut others just to get the job, full knowing that the job would be less than perfect for the client. It’s sad and pathetic, but some vendors in the industry don’t really care about anything other than the money, and it’s those vendors that you are being warned about that are out to get you, and your checkbook.
The other situation is when you are receiving a lower quote from someone newer in the business that might work very hard for you, but won’t have the experience that could prove to be necessary on your wedding day. This is why it’s especially important while “price shopping” to not go back to vendors and let them know that you received a quote for the same thing but for less. Experience costs more, as it should and thus, you may think you are getting the same thing, but you’re really not. Buyer beware.
In any event, what things cost is going to vary for reasons like location, experience, quality of service and product and so forth. The only number that matters is what you can afford and that is the number that you need to communicate to your vendors in the beginning. It’s only a game if you make it one, so ignore those basic articles you’re reading about vendors who only want a number so that they can take the entire thing. Most of us are looking to work with you and let you know what can and can’t be done. But it’s disrespectful to expect any vendor to jump through hoops and design any type of proposal for free based on the budget you said you knew nothing about, but actually did.
Step 1: Know your numbers Step 2: Start planning
Everyone has a budget for a wedding, no matter what the number is. If you don’t take care of that boring but very significant detail before starting the process, the honeymoon will be over before it starts…if you can even afford one by then.
A wedding planner seems to be the easiest job in the world. I mean, it must be for so many people to just throw it on their signature lines. Girl gets married? Instant wedding planner. Recommended peonies to your sister for her wedding? You’re a wedding planner too! To go all Oprah in this article, “You’re a wedding planner, and you’re a wedding planner, everyone’s wedding planner!!” Just add water, and boom: wedding planner.
This stuff is ridiculous now and the industry is saturated enough without these people running around claiming to be a wedding planner. It’s not fair to actual wedding planners, and guess what? It’s really unfair to those couples that are looking to hire a real wedding planner. Why? Because sometimes it’s hard to tell a Prada from a Canal Street Knock-Off. So, I’m going to make it a little easier for everyone right here, right now.
The following people are not wedding planners and need to stop pretending that they are. I’m blowing away your smoke and shattering your mirrors.
1. Recent Bride I hear this all the time! What made you want to be a planner? “I had so much fun planning my own wedding!” Forgive me for rolling my eyes. Of course you did. It was your wedding. Many people have fun planning their wedding and yes, some then decide they want to plan for others. However, the ones that are successful go on to actually learn something about the business. This doesn’t mean joining every wedding group imaginable, getting certified, networking and living on Pinterest. Those that are serious start by working for another company or someone else, and learning what they don’t know. Let me ask you this: would you drive over a bridge that was designed by someone saying “I’m an architectural engineer”, didn’t actually have a degree, but was really good with their Lego collection? While I don’t believe that certifications or degrees (though I have a handful) are necessary to be a wedding planner, I do believe in experience. After years in the business, I learn something new every single wedding I plan. Why roll the dice with a planner who only learned what she knows by planning her own wedding? Continuing education is important in this field, but actual education in the first place is step 1.
2. DJs Jack of all trades and master of how many? DJs are responsible for music. Planners are not responsible for music. As a planner, I like to work with my vendors and defer to them when it’s their area of expertise. But more and more, I am hearing about DJs offering their services as a “wedding planner”. I know not one DJ that is going to find your gown or know how to bustle it on the day of the wedding. I do not know any DJs that will do venue visits with you to discuss a possible flower installation on the ceiling, or what a good floor layout would look like in a blank space. I partner with DJs that can vibe with my clients and create a phenomenal party atmosphere. I trust them to work on the music with them and the timing of the evening with me. Not once did I ever ask a DJ what time the bride should start hair and make-up, because that is not their area. It might be tempting to let your DJ be your wedding planner, because it’s only a few dollars more, but don’t go down this road. Your money is better off set on fire.
3. Venue Coordinators You don’t need a planner, right? Have you heard that from your venue coordinator? How about “we handle everything”? It is not the job of a venue coordinator to handle the logistics of your first look including the timing and location. Nor is it their job to give directions to your rental company that can’t find their way. A venue coordinator is never going to be a point person for your vendors and guests the entire day of the wedding, especially if anything takes place outside their playground aka the venue. Many venues don’t like planners because many planners don’t know how to play nice in the sandbox and will be in the kitchen telling the Chef how to prepare the salad. The answer isn’t to not hire a planner, it’s to ask your venue for planner recommendations. If they don’t have any, then while you are interviewing planners, make sure you ask how they communicate with venues and vendors during the planning process. If a planner says that they put together a timeline without speaking to anyone, you need to run.
4. High School Prom Planner This person has planned their high school prom, their alumni dinner, and some baby shower for a friend. What do all of those events have in common? They were volunteer jobs. Things change when there is a paycheck on the line and money is the ultimate motivator. Most planners want what is best for their clients, but you can guarantee that they will really want what is best if they are being paid. Look, planning is fun most of the time, and designing a space can be amazing. However, money talks, and sometimes it says “you’re not good enough to do this for a living”. If you are serious about wanting a planner, then it’s best to find a professional and not a hobbyist. While many planners found out that this is what they wanted to do by starting out planning random events, a true professional will have a client roster full of clients that paid for their services.
5. Pop-Up Planner/Photo-Stealers This one is hard to spot….maybe the hardest, and that’s really sad. I, personally, am aware of people that have put together profiles on wedding websites using photos that don’t belong to them. These photos include tablescapes, florals, brides, full landscapes including tents, and more. Sometimes, to jump start a planning career, a planner will advertise using stock images. These images are available on the internet to be used in portfolios, and are perfect to grab the unsuspecting bride and/or groom. After all, it’s not very likely that a bride or groom will grab an image from a website and throw it into a google image search to see where it came from. However, I have seen images from vendors and venues that clearly were not theirs, and after doing a search, have found the same images on various famous wedding blogs (this is totally illegal and not the same as using stock images, by the way). These people are easy to spot because they suddenly appear, or “pop-up” on the scene and have countless reviews and a portfolio to rival any of their competition. But reviews can be faked and photos can be stolen. Again, this is a tough one for newly engaged couples to spot, so my advice would be to step back and even though what you see might excite you, do your homework and interview multiple planners until you find the “real deal”.
6. Wedding Websites Free venue assistance. Free inspiration. Free vendor matching. “Free” is appealing, especially when weddings can be so expensive. But “free” comes with a heavy price tag when you are drowning in bad advice given by people that have no experience as a wedding planner. Just because the wedding website you are signed up with is just that, a wedding website, doesn’t necessarily mean that the people working with it have a background in anything wedding related. Most of the time, you won’t know whom you’re speaking with, and a wedding is a personal thing. In fact, many of my clients have used the word “personal” when discussing what they want for the design and decor of their wedding. You can’t plan a wedding using some app, and there is a reason for that! For instance, I’m an accountant fan, not a Turbo Tax fan, because I like dealing with a real person that I know has real experience. Not saying that taxes and paying the government isn’t important or anything, but I’m pretty sure planning a wedding is right up there. Websites are great, forums are fun, but chatting through a computer or phone isn’t how you design the day of your dreams or get the real questions answered. Might be free, but it’s not worth it.
7. Your Friend, The Great Pretender I’ve been challenged, more than a few times, by the sister, maid of honor, mother, brother, father, sorority sister, best friend, you name it, that they knew better than I. I’ve been told by the sister that she would be developing the timeline and that’s why I wasn’t needed. To all of these challenges, I’ve shrugged my shoulders and walked away because those weren’t my clients. These brides were never going to hire a wedding planner because they already had a “planner” in their lives. Of course, when that friend went to try and negotiate a contract and never got a discount, or attempted to design something the bride saw on Pinterest but couldn’t afford, or failed at doing anything that a professional would succeed at, then I’m sure the bride wasn’t too happy. The point is, that person probably had another job, their day job, and that’s what they should be focusing on. Hobbies are cute, but while I love me some competitive karaoke and have some serious theatre experience under my belt (along with my AEA and SAG/AFTRA card), I’m not the next Beyonce or Meryl Streep. It’s ridiculous to think that any bride or groom would be getting the true “wedding planner” experience with their cousin that does it “on the side”.
Wedding planning is not easy, and the job can be viewed as something that anyone could do. The reality is, my job as a wedding planner is a real job that requires real work and real experience. There is constant education, and the wedding world is evolving everyday. Sometimes it’s not always easy to spot a good wedding planner from a fake one, but if the stitching is frayed and the zipper doesn’t zip, you might be holding a knock-off.