Flowers are a huge part of most weddings, but aside from the basics, a lot of brides look for help in this area. Whether or not you can tell a peony from a ranunculus, this blog will tell you everything you need to know about wedding flowers.
Flowers play such a major role in weddings, that the couples I work with, frequently have more opinions in this area than many others. Sure, the venue is important and I guess the wedding gown is kind of a big deal too…but couples
are intense really care about those flowers. Not only do they care, but sometimes brides are so passionate that I forget we’re talking about centerpieces and not politics.
One time, I was discussing the options of centerpieces and watched my bride have a stroke at the mere mention of low centerpieces. It was like we had stopped talking about her wedding flowers and started discussing North Korea. She had a huge aversion to mixing low and high centerpieces because she attended a wedding, was sat at a table with a low centerpiece, and took it personally.
To each their own…
The point is, brides (not really grooms, let’s be honest here) have a thing with wedding flowers. When I first start working with a couple, we chat about flowers without going into too much detail. We discuss the general look and feel of the wedding. As we move forward, questions get more detailed like:
Do they have a color scheme?
Are there any flowers they want to avoid?
What are their “must-have” blooms?
For those couples that are opinionated but clueless, I like to know about previous weddings they have attended. If you’re one of those brides that doesn’t know what she wants, but has to have what she wants, this is a good starting point.
One of the florists that we work with, chimed in on this as well. When I asked Chad from Carroll’s Florist how he works with couples that aren’t sure where to start, he recommends gathering pictures:
“By sharing photos of florals that appeal to you, a florist should be able to get a sense of style that you prefer.”
How To Find Wedding Flower Inspo Photos
It’s not necessary to know the difference between boho and rustic, so stop driving yourself crazy trying to label your wedding style. Instead of trying to use those types of words (that are completely subjective), use words that you actually know and understand. For instance, if you want the flowers to reflect the season you are getting married, use that for your search on Pinterest i.e. “Fall wedding”.
If you have an idea about your colors, use that when doing your search. Don’t forget to include gold or silver if you’re thinking about incorporating one of the two. For the brides that either don’t care about silver or gold, or want to leave them out of the search completely, try searching with your colors along with things like “clear holders” or “mercury glass”.
By using specific colors instead of vague flowery language, (no pun intended) you’re more likely to come up with inspiration you actually like. You also should avoid using catch phrases like “boho chic” when initially speaking with a florist. One person’s “boho chic” is another person’s “French vintage”. Let your pictures do the talking. After all, those alone are worth 1,000 words.
See what I did there? I know. I’m so clever.
Don’t restrict yourself to just Pinterest either. While that is seen as the place to search for wedding inspo anything, it’s not everything. Be sure to check out Instagram for wedding flowers and use hashtags like you would use on Pinterest to search with. Don’t ignore regular search engines either as you can use the “images” search feature to come up with more flower inspiration for your wedding.
Wedding Flower Lies
Oh they’re out there…new ones are being made up everyday. But the biggest
lie myth about wedding flowers?
“Asking for seasonal flowers doesn’t always mean cheaper!”
Amanda of Twisted Willow Flowers hears that from brides all the time. In reality, you aren’t guaranteed to save money just by using flowers that are in season.
I know, insane right? Your entire life you’ve grown up knowing one thing to be true: on your wedding day you will have seasonal flowers because they are less expensive.
Sorry to destroy your world.
It’s a myth that is reinforced not just by the moms and grand-moms of the brides getting married, (sorry ladies) but by the internet and countless wedding publications. In fact, some wedding websites allow you to search for flowers based on your season, while in another article they’ll tell you that it really doesn’t matter.
Why do they do this? To appeal to every single bride so those brides will keep reading, and so that advertisers will keep advertising. Because money. But that’s another blog for another day…
The bottom line is that it’s not as simple as picking in season flowers to keep the cost down. If it was, then brides getting married in Minnesota the month of January would have to resign themselves to holding a bouquet of snow.
Another myth about wedding flowers concerns the centerpieces. Some of my brides want the tall skyscraping centerpieces because they are hosting their reception with a ceiling in the stratosphere. It’s not necessarily that they want all tall centerpieces, but rather, that’s what they think they’re supposed to do.
“Many couples assume that with tall venue ceilings, all centerpieces need to be tall. Although a couple may be able to afford 20 typical tall centerpieces, that same budget can be used to create 10 stunning tall centerpieces accompanied by 10 shorter centerpieces.” -Chad, Carroll’s Florist
Just because your venue has a high ceiling, doesn’t mean you are required by law to have all tall centerpieces. When I work with my brides, we always discuss the option of having centerpieces that vary in height. When you look at your reception, the room will always look more interesting this way. Does that mean you have to include short centerpieces that make your guests feel less important?….Not at all. You can work with your florist to have tall centerpieces and ones that are shorter but not low and against the table.
And if your guests sitting at those tables feel less important, then you invited the wrong people to your wedding.
Wedding Flower Trends
I’m not a huge fan of following trends in general. I wore Keds all through high-school. But I’m a badass like that. A badass that had to look up if “badass” was one word or two, but a badass nonetheless.
The problem with wedding trends is that what is trending now might not be trending by the time your wedding date rolls around. I always advise my couples to stick with classic styles. You don’t want to whip out your wedding album for your kids and show them how mommy wore a crop-top dress down the aisle. Well the same is true for every other aspect of your wedding, including flowers. What’s on trend today may not be on trend for your wedding day and most certainly will not be trending 30 years from now.
The point is: don’t pick anything for your wedding just because it’s on trend. OK?
Now that we’ve covered that, let’s talk about what actually is trending and of course, what’s not.
Amanda from Twisted Willow Flowers is tired of seeing one thing: greenery garlands. Even if you just got engaged, or maybe you’re planning your “one day wedding” on Pinterest, whatever…you all know what those greenery garlands looks like.
With outdoor, barn, farm and generally rustic weddings taking over the past few years, this has been a super popular design. Typically draped down the middle of long tables, the garland would act as a centerpiece and could be accented with anything from candles to flowers.
Greenery was actually Pantone’s Color of the Year in 2017, which only made this trend that much more popular. This year, however, Pantone’s Color of the Year is ultra-violet. You can actually get ideas how to work that color into your wedding in another blog we wrote right here. We started seeing purple and even blues talked about at the end of 2017 and Twisted Willow Flowers is seeing purple color schemes starting to pop up again.
Another trend that should disappear according to Chad of Carroll’s Florist?
“Crystal everywhere. Every time I think it is going away, I get 5 brides in a row looking to drown themselves in crystal.”
With the rise of rustic weddings, it almost appears as if some brides are digging their rhinestone heels into the ground just to prove they are not that. Ironically, it’s easy enough to combine crystals with rustic and get a gorgeous upscale wedding look. But for some brides, that rustic thing is never going to happen for their wedding. Chad’s advice for them?
“Less is more.”
If Pantone’s “Color of the Year” isn’t your favorite (and believe me, I work with some brides that hate purple more than their future mother-in-law), but you want to incorporate some trends, all hope is not lost. When speaking with his 2018 couples, Chad says he is seeing plenty of textured flowers like dusty miller and that the color pallet with greens, grays, dusty blues and whites is on trend right now. Also making a huge comeback? Candlelight.
What You Need To Know About Wedding Flowers
Still feeling unprepared? Not sure how to take the next steps and find your wedding day florist? Having your event colors is a big help according to Chad, as he can help couples decide on a style, on a budget, on particular flowers, but “color is a personal selection”. Do your best to select colors before meeting with a florist, even if that means eliminating what you don’t like.
You know you’ve seen stuff you hate
at other weddings on Pinterest. Start there.
A word of caution with Pinterest: it can be overwhelming. It’s very easy to fall down the “it’s already 3am and I have to get up in 2 hours so just 5 more minutes but not really” rabbit hole that is Pinterest. Pretty soon you’re pinning random stuff through your squinted eyes and you have an inspiration board with dragons on a beach. Pinterest is chock full of inspiration but it’s not all for you. Keep your searches narrow and don’t rely on that “more like this” feature too much.
Another thing to keep in mind is that Pinterest showcases styled shoots. That means you are looking at wedding pictures that aren’t from a wedding, but from a properly timed and properly lit shoot. There are no guests, time doesn’t exist, and it’s not reality. In reality, your guests have to sit at the tables and eat. In Pinterest land, guests don’t sit because the couch is stuck where it is and they don’t eat because flowers are spilling over onto the plates.
So how can you use this site without getting overwhelmed?
“Find your trend through those photos you see and really focus on letting that inspire the theme/direction of the wedding.” -Amanda, Twisted Willow Flowers
That’s the key word: inspire. Think about it this way…if you take a picture of Kim Kardashian to your hairdresser and say you want to look like her, is that going to be possible with a pair of scissors and some hair dye? Or would you also need some plastic surgery to accomplish said goal? Pictures should be used to inspire, not to copy. Besides, why would you want the same
styled shoot wedding you (and all of your friends getting married saw) on Pinterest?
Be better than Pinterest.
Coping With The Cost
And now, what you’re all really here for: how to deal with the cost of wedding flowers. I know, your best friend’s cousin’s penpal had a 400 person wedding, used all tall centerpieces and only paid $2,000.
No she didn’t so stop listening to that noise. Even if she did, that is the exception and not the rule…and there’s probably more to the story that has been edited better than any episode of “Real Housewives”.
Flowers cost money. They do. Frequently, my couples will ask me why flowers cost so much. My answer always starts with “do you really want to know?”. Because, let’s be honest, no one wants to waste their time with an explanation only to be told they’re still wrong. So, if you really want to know, this is where you’re going to find out.
If you don’t want to know, then scroll for a bit to the next heading.
When I asked Amanda from Twisted Willow Flowers what the one thing was that she wished engaged couples knew, this is what she said:
“How much time really goes into the florals. From the start to the finish product.”
This includes meeting or meetings, proposals (there’s always more than one), edits, samples, flower processing, cleaning, arranging, set-up, pick-up and clean-up.
Now, as a wedding planner, one of the questions I get at every last consultation pertains to what I actually do. It’s a fair question, especially since every planner is different and none of us are J.Lo.
It’s a fair question to ask a florist too, but instead of asking that question, most couples just want the price to be justified. Well, everything that a florist does justifies the price. In addition to paying for the actual flowers, you are paying for the time of a professional…time that was spent with you or on your wedding and not with someone else or on anything else.
You are paying for the talent behind the bouquets and the labor that goes into it all.
Consider also that you likely don’t have experience with the cost of flowers. “Knowing” what your friend spent, what your mom thinks is fair, or what some wedding website has come up with, does mean you know what flowers cost.
That’s totally OK.
You’re not supposed to know what flowers cost and each proposal will be different depending on the specific details of the wedding. It is on the couple to work with the florist, communicate what they want and go from there. Have a number in mind? Great. Speak up before a proposal is put together.
Odds are you have a budget, and it’s in everyone’s best interest to share. I once worked with a couple that used the excuse they didn’t know what things cost, so they couldn’t give me a budget. Well, when the florist put together the sample of exactly what they wanted they loved everything…except the price. In fact, when they were told the price, they called it “ridiculous” and said they “weren’t willing to spend that much.”
Which meant they knew what they wanted to spend and simply kept it a secret assuming that the florist would come in under that imaginary number regardless of the details in the centerpiece. Makes sense right?
In the end, the couple ended up using a completely different florist who didn’t execute their vision and who they complained to me about all night. Me. The planner that brought in a qualified florist that did a sample for free and without a contract. My time and the florist’s time was wasted on not just the sample appointment but a meeting prior to that and countless phone calls, emails and inspiration board drawings.
Typically, you have to pay for that and that is just part of what you are paying for.
It’s best to be honest about your budget, just as you should expect your florist to be. Chad explains that he is open about costs:
“After reviewing their dream florals, which we discuss along with budget, I let them know what the cost will be. I explain how the majority of floral expenses comes from venue decor and then try to get a better sense of what they are looking to achieve.”
What happens if the vision is right but the price is wrong?
“If a couple’s vision and budget match, everyone is happy. If it doesn’t, I explain why and offer a series of solutions that can make them happy both with their wedding day and their wallet.”
Looking to keep those floral costs down? Of course you are. So if the incorrect rule of thumb about using flowers that are in season won’t help, then what will?
When meeting with your florist, they will be able to recommend flowers best for your overall design. If there are certain blooms that would push your budget, be sure to ask them for alternative options. Most importantly, you need to be open to their suggestions. Even if you are the bride that needs garden roses but can’t afford them and will die without them, listen to your options.
Once you have gone over all options and alternatives, as well as what the comparative costs look like, then you are in a position to make a decision. Maybe you’ll sacrifice your favors in order to afford the exact flowers that you want. Or maybe you’ll like what the florist suggests instead. The point is, you have to hear it all before deciding anything.
“Make sure you have a comfort level with your florist. Give him or her a sense of the style you are looking for and try not to tie him to particular flowers.” Chad, Carroll’s Florist
Ready, Set, Flower
It all comes down to open communication and trust. Amanda from Twisted Willow Flowers says it’s important to “be open to suggestions” during the initial appointment, and to have a general idea of the colors and styles you would like to use. Don’t feel like you need to be prepared to make some grand presentation using inspiration boards and excel sheets. An experienced florist will use with what you give them and will know how to create your vision. A vision you might not even have yet.
Working with a florist is no different than working with any other vendor. It’s important to trust the experience your vendors have, instead of challenging them with stuff you read on some wedding website. If your gut tells you to walk away from a vendor, do it.
Just be sure it’s your gut talking and not a bridesmaid that just got married and now knows everything in your ear.
What do you think about the tips and tricks shared by two of our favorite florists? Do you have any advice you’d like to share with other brides? Comment below with something you want every engaged couple to know before meeting with florists for their wedding!
Another year is coming to a close and with another year gone by, we are ready to look ahead to the next one and talk about 2018 wedding trends. We shared our interview with Bridal Atelier Montclair discussing 2018 wedding gown trends, but here we’ll discuss everything from floor to ceiling.
Here is the top 10 list of things brides and grooms can expect to see in 2018 weddings. Don’t forget to share in the comments what trends you love and will be using for your own wedding day!
Can’t decide between silver or gold? Mixing metals is one of our favorite 2018 wedding trends, so don’t stress about deciding. Pops of metal look amazing when paired with candles too!
Strapless dresses are taking a backseat to detailed wedding gowns. 2018 will showcase detailed backs, off the shoulder gowns and sleeves of all types.
An absolute favorite in general and part of the 2018 wedding trends, is the gorgeous succulent flower. These have been popular for a few years now, but brides are getting creative and adding them into centerpieces, bouquets and other unexpected areas. Available in a variety of colors and sizes, succulents are perfect for every type of wedding.
Speaking of unexpected florals, 2018 will bring installations that we haven’t seen before. Brides and grooms are getting more creative and bring flowers past the tables and onto places like the ceiling and banisters. Just make sure your venue allows your design and there is enough time to set it up on the day of!
Purples and Blues
With Pantone’s 2018 Color of the Year being ultra-violet, we expect to see plenty of this color throughout the year and into 2019. The past few years have been filled with neutral colors and shades of pink. We are so excited to see bold purples and deep blues make a return to weddings!
Not just for the altar anymore, couples will be using arches to create entrance spaces and substituting them for those popular flower walls. Enhance your walk down the aisle like our winter couple did here with a gorgeous arch in the ceremony space.
Searches for balloons are way up on Pinterest and we expect to see them as a big part of the 2018 wedding trends. We created this balloon ceiling display for The Knot Market Mixer a few years ago, so we’re so excited to see it trending now!
This look has been gaining in popularity ever since the rustic trend began. In 2018 we’ll see even more Boho Chic weddings complete with desconstructed bouquets, outdoor ceremonies and bolder colors.
Couples will get creative in 2018 with different types of guestsbooks and ways for guests to show their love. One of our favorites is this adorable box filled with hearts that guests wrote their well wishes on!
Our favorite wedding trend for 2018 is CoolSculpting which we talked about in another blog. You can literally eat whatever you want, not go to the gym, and still slay in your wedding gown. Without surgery. I know, right?!
What do you think of our top 10 list of 2018 wedding trends? Which will you incorporate into your wedding day? Share with us in the comments below!!
Our brides have rocked some of the most amazing wedding gowns we’ve ever seen (and we’ve seen a LOT)! Check out 10 of our favorite wedding gowns from the weddings we have planned over the years and pin your favorites!
These two wedding gowns were featured in the fashion show during The New Jersey Knot Market Mixer that we planned and designed. Between the ornate detail and intricate beading, it’s hard not to imagine making a grand entrance in either of these! Extra points for the illusion neckline and the three-quarter length sleeves that really make these two gowns perfect for the chic brides!
When you can’t find the exact gown you want, what do you do? Get one custom made of course! Our fairytale bride loved the top of one Reem Acra gown and the bottom of another, so she put it together to create this romantic vision. Complete with an illusion neckline, delicate straps and a long, flowy skirt, she was the absolute belle of the ball!
As if this fitted mermaid wedding gown wasn’t perfect enough with a deep sweetheart neckline, our bride rocked a bunch of bling and officially made it next level. The fit through the bottom showcased our bride’s knock-out curves, which we’re always a fan of! Wedding Planner Secret: This wasn’t the first gown our bride was originally going to wear…but we can’t even remember what the other one even looked like!
This fitted all lace gown was super dreamy for this country barn wedding we planned for this bride and groom. Of course that incredible veil made the whole look go from rustic to rustic chic…even if she was wearing cowboy boots underneath it all! You can see more of this gown and the entire wedding in the New Jersey Bride feature! Spoiler alert: Our bride grabbed the cover of the magazine.
When you get married in New York City, you have to rock something amazing! Our bride didn’t disappoint in this classic wedding gown with vintage touches and plenty of bling along the bottom. As host to Bridal Fashion Week, New York City is a great place to see what the best designers are showing and what dresses are on trend. You can come along with us to get a taste of the big week right here!
She is rocking “Dancing With The Stars” right now, but Lindsay Arnold really rocked this all lace wedding gown with scalloped details down to the bottom. Her rustic chic style came together with a crazy long veil, which we are always a fan of! For those brides that can’t decide between strapless or sleeves, check out these delicate cap sleeves on this Moonlight Bridal gown and don’t be afraid to try it on when you go shopping for the dress of your dreams!
Speaking of New York Bridal Fashion Week, this gown was designed by one of our favorite designers, Sareh Nouri. More than just a ballgown, look at the detail in this skirt and how the bodice hugs the bride! Romantic and airy, this gown was the perfect choice for a rustic chic wedding at a quaint bed and breakfast near New Hope, Pennsylvania.
When most brides look for a gown, they focus only on what they look like from the front, which can be a big mistake. From the walk down the aisle to each and every dance, most guests will see the back of the gown more than the front…give them something to talk about and rock out a classic corset like our Pronovias bride did here! Wedding Planner Tip: Leave plenty of time to lace this baby up so you can get to the ceremony on time!
When shopping for a wedding gown, it’s important to consider not just the train, but what the bustle will look like. This Grace Kelly inspired wedding gown, complete with three-quarter length lace sleeves had a super dramatic bustle. With plenty of tulle, this bustle was designed to go outside instead of underneath, giving the dress and totally different look after the ceremony.
We clearly love details on the back of a wedding gown and our last favorite has plenty of them! Just look at the beading and design on the bride’s back and the full illusion covering. This dress would be perfect in a ballroom, but it really rocks in the country barn setting. The super airy skirt only adds to the romantic style that designer Ever After Bridal is famous for. If you’re a bride wearing a gown with a detailed back like this, putting your hair up is a must, so work with your stylists to find the perfect look and grab some inspiration from our real weddings on our Pinterest boards!
No matter the style you’re looking for, there is a wedding gown out there for every bride. You might fall in love with two gowns and bring them together, or you might choose something you never thought you’d love. It’s important to take risks and trust your bridal consultant’s suggestions. Just don’t wait too long to go shopping and leave at least 9-12 months before your wedding date to find the perfect gown. Trust us, you will know when you’ve found the one that rocks.
If you’re engaged, or even if you’re not, you’ve probably visited a wedding website or 50 and come across their version of a wedding planning checklist. What you don’t know is why those wedding planning checklists totally suck.
You know the type of checklists I’m talking about: what to do first through what to do last and when to do it. They all start the same way telling you to get that gown and venue somewhere between 9 and 12 months before your actual wedding date.
But what happens when you have a 6 month long engagement?
How can you secure your wedding venue and your wedding gown 12 months before your wedding when your wedding is only 6 months away?
It’s basic wedding math.
Actually, no, it’s just basic math. Because 12 is bigger than 6 and that’s just 1 reason why those wedding planning checklists suck for 2 people getting married.
And I’m going to tell you all the other reasons these checklists suck in this blog. So get ready to delete those sites you’ve bookmarked and remove all of those planning checklist pins. This is what you really need. Straight up, no chaser.
To make this easy to apply to any wedding, I have listed some basic wedding planning “to-do” items and when to do what. I am also sharing my secrets that you might never have thought about. Because, yes, despite what those self-proclaimed number one wedding websites say, it actually does matter when you get married.
Those Standard 12 Month Out To-Do Items
The Wedding Gown
Picking out the dress is almost always done first when planning a wedding. Of course, this is primarily because it’s basically shopping. However, it’s shopping for the most important piece of wardrobe you will likely ever own. Getting the gown makes the engagement feel “real” for many brides.
Ideally you should purchase the gown a full year prior to your wedding date. Many designers will need upwards of 9 months to create and send the gown to the store. Then you have to account for any time needed for alterations. Personally, I like to add in extra time in the off chance that my bride either has buyer’s remorse or something goes wrong with the order.
Something frequently ignored by these wedding timelines is the very real time it takes to actually get things done. In this case, it’s important to consider the time it takes to actually find that gown. I mean, if it takes over 20 years to find the groom, then it’s not going to take 20 seconds to find the dress you want to wear when you marry him.
There are so many moving parts to consider when figuring out how much time you will need to shop for your wedding gown. First and foremost, weekend appointments book up quickly, and it can take up to a month to secure a date. You also have to consider the schedules of anyone you want to have with you when you shop. Lastly, if you think you’ll need multiple shops to visit, you’ll also need multiple days for said appointments.
These are just some of the reasons why the wedding gown should be ordered one year in advance. Obviously, that isn’t always possible if your engagement is shorter than 12 months.
It’s not hopeless if you’re engaged in January and getting married in June though. You should make finding your gown one of your three first priorities (the second one is next), but you don’t necessarily need a full year. Here are a few wedding planner secrets:
Purchase a sample or “off the rack”
When you go to try on wedding gowns, every gown you try on is considered a sample or “off the rack”. Many times these gowns will be available for purchase at a reduced cost. The three things every bride should be aware of are:
- These gowns are sample size i.e. 10-12 dress which translates to 6-8 real size. It’s a lot easier to shorten a gown and make it smaller than it is to add length and let it out. It’s also less expensive.
- Sample sales are typically final, so if you aren’t in love with it, don’t buy it.
- Since these gowns have been tried on, there will be imperfections and not all of those imperfections will be fixable. Sometimes this will be as minor as a hem needing to be re-stitched and other times it’s major like missing beading.
Set up your appointments on a weekday if possible or a weeknight as a second option.
I’ve already mentioned this, but weekend appointments are hard to come by since people, you know…have jobs. If you’re in a rush to say “yes to the dress”, a weekday appointment will be available sooner and you’ll likely not be rushed through the appointment and able to try on even more gowns.
Bring only 1 other person with you
I am 110% against entourages when shopping for any wedding wardrobe, but especially when looking for a wedding gown. Your bridesmaids aren’t “like that”…until they are. Opinions always fly and all they do is take up time during the appointment and delay your ability to make a decision. You also have to work around their schedules and pray you can find time when you’re all available. If you really need your crew (which many bridal salons don’t allow FYI) then bring them to show them what you’ve already chosen.
Look for designers that can turn a dress around quicker than average
Not every designer needs 9 months to deliver a wedding gown. Before you crack out on Pinterest and need to have a dress by a certain designer, find out what designers are available at your local salon and when their gowns come in by. Hint: Pronovias frequently can turn around a dress in under 6 months and I’ve also had luck with Moonlight Bridal.
Speak to the wedding salons about rush orders
If you’re really in a bind or fall in love with a designer that takes longer than you have, speak with the salons about paying to rush your order. Sometimes this can buy you as much as a month, but coupled with buying from a designer that’s quicker than the rest, you might be good to go.
Just like buying a sample, you can go the vintage route and pick up a pre-worn gown. I do not, like really do not, advocate buying your wedding gown online. However, you can find some really beautiful vintage wedding gowns at reputable small stores. In fact, there are stores literally dedicated to selling vintage gowns. If you’re wedding is incorporating this hot-never-going-to-die trend, then look around for a shop like this.
Attend trunk shows
Trunk shows are great for two reasons. The first reason is that you can get anywhere from 10-20% off of the gown’s full price. The second reason is that you can see an entire collection from a designer as opposed to the 3-10 pieces the salon currently has. This is perfect for the bride that wants a specific designer’s wedding gown as it takes away the need to bounce from store to store looking at options.
Your Wedding Venue
The second major priority when planning a wedding is finding the venue.
Sometimes, 12 months isn’t enough time to get this done though. With wedding season spanning the months between May-November and peaking in September and October, your dream venue might be booked up to two years in advance. I cannot tell you how many couples I have worked with that had to make the decision whether or not to extend the length of their engagement solely to get their venue of choice.
If that’s not an option for you, then it’s best to be flexible with your venue choices. Not just normal flexible either. More like Gumbi flexible.
The venue is also going to set your wedding date. I know, you thought you had control over that one didn’t you?
Believe me, most couples contact me with a wedding date picked out and don’t have a venue locked down yet. Then they have to decide if they want to see venues that aren’t available on their “date” or if they are open to that date solely representing the time of year they want to be married.
Because the venue essentially sets your date, you should always venue shop and venue book before going dress shopping.
When you make appointments to go try on wedding gowns, the first question they will ask you (besides budget) is your wedding date. Don’t make the mistake of giving them a date you’ve selected, only to purchase a wedding gown and then have to scramble when the venue you want isn’t available for that date. You might find yourself needing a second gown (like a sample) because the first one isn’t coming in on time if you end up booking a venue for an earlier date than your original date.
You know…the date that wasn’t real because you didn’t have a venue yet…
If you have over a year to plan, don’t sleep on getting the venue. Just like it takes time to shop for wedding gowns, you will need all the time you can get to find a venue. Odds are, you will need to coordinate schedules with your fiancé and possibly both sets of parents. Weekend appointments book up first and some venues won’t tour if a wedding is taking place on the same day.
All of that adds up to needing a ton of time to find the venue for your wedding day. Of course, if you can schedule tours on weekdays and look at venues that are in close proximity, you’ll need less time than normal.
Also helpful is to do as much research on these venues before committing to an appointment. It’s not always possible to get pricing from a venue without setting an appointment. In fact, one of the many reasons to hire a wedding planner is that we tend to have that information already or we can get it without much struggle.
Before you do anything past establishing your overall budget, if you’re going to hire a wedding planner, that is your Step 1 in the planning process. So, if you have 1 month or 1 year, do this before the rest of the tasks. A few reasons why:
Reputable and professional wedding planners book up to if not over a year in advance, especially for peak wedding season dates. Many planners, myself included, will not take on more than one wedding or event per weekend.
Hiring a planner for full service means they can do all of the work for you including finding the perfect venue and vendors. That’s right, you basically just have to tell them what you want and just like magic, options will appear.
A full time planner can speak with venues and vendors at the hours that you can’t. You know, like 2pm on a Tuesday. This means that more planning gets done in a shorter amount of time because planners have the same hours as venues and vendors. No back and forth voicemails and emails needed here.
If you’re only looking for someone to handle “Month Of” Coordination, many planners will not book that package until you’re under the 6 month mark. To be blunt, most planners would rather hold out for a last minute full service client than to lock up a weekend with a smaller package. The good part here is if you are a couple with a short engagement only looking for this type of help, you could easily have some solid options to choose from.
All that said, the number one way to get your checklist all checked off? A professional wedding planner…as soon as possible and before anything else.
The Big Ticket Vendors: Photo/Video, Music and Florals
Photo and Video
Always listed on wedding planning checklists around the 6-8 month mark are your photographer, videographer, music and florist. On average, most couples will have at least 6 months to plan. However, just because they have 6 months, doesn’t mean getting these vendors booked will always happen at that time. Remember how venue and gown come first?
Many photographers and videographers will only be available for one wedding per day unless they work like an agency. It’s very important to meet these people before hiring them. I know, you totally do not have time to do this, right?
Invent it if you need to.
Your photo and video team will be with you almost the entire day of your wedding. If you’re not comfortable with them, it will show in those photos and videos you get back. There are no do-overs and it’s not enough to just love the work or the product.
In addition to meeting/interviewing these people, I always recommend an engagement session with your photographer because that’s basically practice for the real thing. The real thing being your wedding day.
As a planner, I like to book photo and video 9 months to one year in advance. I know, that’s totally not what the internet tells you to do, right? Silly them…
If you plan to do an engagement shoot (I mentioned you should and I meant it), odds are your photographer will have more availability on a weekday. Since weekdays are a problem for many couples, then you will need a weekend and guess what tends to be a problem for wedding photographers?
This means that you could be waiting months to take your engagement photos and if you want them outdoors, you’ll have to leave time for rescheduling in case it rains. You also won’t be able to shoot outdoor photos for a handful of months if you live in a state where winter exists. Pretty soon you’re taking your engagement photos 1 month prior to your wedding and that is no bueno.
If you have longer than one year, start this process at the 9 month to one year mark. This is especially important if you are getting married during peak season since you might get a lot of “sorry, already booked” responses. If you are pressed for time, then shop for both photo and video simultaneously (a general rule of thumb anyway) and line up appointments via Skype if that’s the only way you can schedule a weekday.
It doesn’t matter if you have a band, DJ or both, sometimes 6-8 months isn’t enough time to book. Like the other vendors that you will need at your wedding, many bands and DJs book up peak season 9-12 months in advance. If you want something specific, such as an electric violinist or a DJ that can provide live musicians to accompany his music, then I recommend shopping 7-9 months prior to your wedding date.
While I know many people (and many planners) will probably disagree with me here, I am going to say that seeing these people in person is essential. If you want a live band, there is no better way to hear what they really sound like than to attend an in person showcase. Sometimes, there will only be showcases available once a month or every other month. If you’re not available on the one date they have, then you’ll be forced to wait until the next one.
If you’re going with a DJ, an in person meeting or interview isn’t mandatory but I wouldn’t recommend booking without a least a Skype or phone call. Any DJ worth hiring will be passionate about music and even more passionate about selecting the right music for your wedding. It’s equally important to know how the DJ works and to make sure the way they work is in line with what you imagine for your wedding.
For the couples with shorter engagements, it’s a good idea to get a hold of videos of past performances of bands and DJs. Showcases might not always be possible and you might not have the time to sit down and interview DJs. However, even if it’s 11pm at night, you should make the time to watch and listen to any recordings the music vendors can provide to you. Also consider looking into any bands or DJs you heard at weddings you attended and fell in love with.
As a wedding planner, I insist that my clients meet florists that I recommend before signing a contract. While it doesn’t matter so much that you’re vibing on a personal level, it is important to know that they understand what you want. It’s just as important that you are confident in their ability to create it.
You will never get that from an email exchange. Period.
However, most florists will only be available to meet on weekdays, which can make setting anything up totally impossible. If you don’t have 7-9 months before your wedding date (which is when I recommend securing a florist), then doing your homework prior to a meeting or in place of one is essential.
Before you go sending your 597 pins of centerpiece inspiration out to every florist within a 50 mile radius of your venue, narrow those pictures down. Way down. It’s more important for a florist to know your colors and the feel of your wedding. It’s less important for them to know the exact height you picture for each centerpiece and how if you don’t have peonies you’ll throw yourself off a bridge.
Another way to save time is to look at websites of florists and see if their work is similar to what your style is. If you find yourself drooling over a website but don’t see your style displayed, you can reach out to the florist and ask them for additional examples.
For instance, if you have a vision of greenery suspended from a tent, but don’t see it on a florist’s website, there is no harm in asking if they have done that before and if they have, could they share pictures. If you’re tight on time and having trouble choosing between florists, consider paying for a sample centerpiece to help make your decision easier.
Feeling overwhelmed yet? There’s a lot to this wedding planning stuff and knowing when to do everything can be a lot to digest. In order to avoid throwing anyone into a meltdown and running off to elope, I’ll continue the rest of this timeline in the next blog.
Be sure to follow me on Twitter and Facebook so you’ll know when to come back for the rest of the to-do list and when you want to get started on those items. In the meantime, share below if you’re on the fast track to the wedding day and what you’re doing to check stuff off your list!
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 way far 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 always come 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!