So you think you can plan: Realize that you need help

Who’s going to help you run your wedding day?

Unfortunately it’s a question that many brides don’t give much thought until its too late. I often ask this question to brides that I meet at bridal shows. They either wrongly assume that their momma/auntie/sister/cousin is going to help them or they proudly proclaim that they will do it all themselves. However, many mistakes that I see made don’t just occur on the wedding day. They happened when you purchased the wrong sparklers for your sparkler exit. Or when you decided to have your friends and family RSVP to your wedding via Facebook. Those mistakes that are made during planning will show up in glorious fashion on your wedding day. The truth is, you don’t what you don’t know and you don’t want to find out what you didn’t know on wedding day.

If planning is or has been stressful, that stress isn’t going away anytime soon. Depending on family and friends to help coordinate is just not a good idea. What you are basically doing is transferring the stress you have felt during planning to them. I don’t know about you, but that’s not exactly how I want to thank my friends and family for being a part of my big day. Truthfully, they don’t want to help coordinate your wedding. A full day of wedding coordinating for me usually means a 12-14 hour day in comfortable shoes and clothes with an assistant or two. My emotions are in check and I have one job and one job only: To make sure that you get to see all of your months of planning pay off in the most beautiful day that you could have ever imagined.

If you have friends and family that have been helping you plan, do them a favor by letting them see all of their efforts and hard work come to fruition.

Not only can a great coordinator execute a well organized wedding day, they are an endless resource for selecting vendors. They have worked with the best and the worst in the business and can help you put together a rock-star vendor team. No guess work on your part. I will talk more about vendor selection in my next post.

If you are thinking that you are going to try to pull it all together yourself…don’t. If you want to begin your happily ever after, well, happy, don’t attempt to be your own wedding coordinator. You will not be able to relax and enjoy yourself.

You need an experienced professional to walk you through the planning process and take over to make sure that you have a flawless wedding day that your friends and family can enjoy with you.

Real Wedding: Michael and Andria

Andria and Michael were a California based couple looking for help for their October destination wedding to be held at Saguaro Lake Ranch. Not only were they looking for a wedding coordinator, but they really needed help with securing additional vendors for their wedding. When we first spoke via Skype, they had secured their venue, photographer and caterer. We had 10 months to secure the remaining vendors that would make up their 15 member vendor team.

Both Michael and Andria were very involved in the planning of their wedding. They knew exactly what they wanted and what they didn’t want to spend money on. As soon as they gave me an idea for a concept that they wanted at their wedding, I set out to find the appropriate vendor to help bring it to life. Since they didn’t have any connections to the valley, they trusted me to refer them to vendors that I trusted. It was something that I took very seriously. In the end we had an amazing team of vendors that delivered their products and services flawlessly.

Andria and Michael were both very specific about the look and feel that they wanted on their wedding day. Andria really wanted to make her guests feel welcomed and comfortable. She though of details like welcome bags for her guests, whom all of which were from out of town. During cocktail hour there were yard games, cocktail tables and a comfortable seating area for guests as they enjoyed beer and wine away from the reception area. It is important that if you want your reception area to remain undisturbed until dinner that you provide additional seating or another area for guests to mingle in. As guests were seated for the reception they were greeted with a sweet thank-you message from the couple on their place setting. During the reception as it got chilly, there were comfy blankets for guests to keep warm with.

It was really important for Michael that his Jewish heritage was honored during the wedding. They said their vows under the traditional Jewish Chuppah. They sealed their vows with the breaking of the glass and a hearty shout of “Mazel tov!” Before the reception got into full swing Michael’s grand father honored the tradition of cutting the Challah. I worked with the caterer and venue to make sure that there was a knife and small table ready for this part of the reception.

The Venue- Saguaro Lake Ranch provided tables and chairs for the wedding, however the bride and groom decided to rent chairs that were more aesthetically appealing. The reception and ceremony area were literally a blank slate. A lot of rental items needed to be brought it in to bring the venue to life. Mother nature provided breathtaking views and it was really important to Andria and Michael that the scenic setting was the focal point of the day.

A dance floor was rented along with bistro lights over-head. The cocktail tables and additional seating were also brought it. All of the rental item were delivered and set-up by event professionals. I was there first thing in the morning to meet all of the vendors as they arrived and to oversee the set-up and placement of all of the items.

The Decor- The wedding decor was a collaborative effort by Andria and the florist that I recommended to her, Gods Garden Treasures. There was a large tree in the middle of the lawn that we based a lot of the decor around. The trees served as a divider of the cocktail and reception spaces. We the gift, cake and sign in areas were all under the tree. The wooden guest seating chart was handmade by Andria’s father. He came out on wedding morning and hung it under the opposite side of the tree. Andria really wanted an ethereal feel for her wedding. The team from Gods Garden Treasure meticulously hung clear globes and tiny mason jars filled with flowers and tiny lights from the trees. The result was a tree that looked like it was a glow with fireflies. Simply magical!

Photo Credit: Alyssa Campbell Photography

The Details- There wasn’t a detail that Andria and Michael didn’t think of. They wanted their guests to be comfortable and wowed the entire day. For their ceremony and cocktail hour they opted for a string duo to provide the music while the DJ took over for the reception. Speaking of cocktail hour, Diego the Beer Burro made a special appearance serving up beer and plenty of photo ops. At the close of the evening a taco truck came to provide late night eats to their remaining guests while they sipped beers and listened to music under the stars. It was the perfect end to an amazing day.

I am so grateful that Andria and Michael trusted me to help them plan their day. Even though they hired me in January, we didn’t actually meet until we did our venue site visit in September! We had monthly planning calls and tons of emails. This would have been very stressful to plan had they questioned every recommendation that I gave. I had their best interest at heart during the entire planning process. The result was an amazing day full of friends, family, great food and music. We could not have asked for a better day.

Special thanks to our vendor team:

Beauty: Amanda Victoria Beauty
Cake: Lesley’s Creative Cakes
Catering : BBQ Daddy Catering and Event Management
Food Truck: Jamburritos
Ceremony Musicians: Ocotillo Music
Beer Burro: Haul N Ass
DJ’s: Impact DJ’s
Floral: God’s Garden Treasures
Photography: Alyssa Campbell Photography
Chuppah: Arch De Belle
Rentals: Classic Party Rentals
Lawn games: AZ Board Source Game
Venue: Saguaro Lake Guest Ranch

How to Work with a Planner

Say Something- Communication and honesty are a must. Your wedding coordinator should not have to beg you to plan your wedding. Most wedding coordinators will state in their contracts how much or how little communication is required. In some cases, failing to provide the information that they request or being non responsive in general can be considered a breach of contract. You could even get fired by your wedding coordinator with no refund of monies paid! Being busy is no excuse to ignore emails or phone calls. Planning a wedding takes a lot of time. Even with a wedding coordinator, you still are responsible for making some decisions. If you are notoriously indecisive or get easily overwhelmed by having to make a lot of decisions, my advice is to choose an all-inclusive wedding package where most of the decisions are made for you or your options are very narrowed down.

Money Talks- Be transparent about your budget and expectations and expect to receive that same honesty back. In other words, don’t expect caviar on a tuna fish budget. Be open to your coordinators ideas for how to pull off the look that you want. On the other hand, if you don’t have financial constraints, you should know exactly how your money is being spent. Your wedding coordinator should demonstrate how he or she plans on being transparent with you before you sign the contract. If your budget changes midway through the planning process, you shouldn’t be ashamed or embarrassed to tell your coordinator that you are going to have to nix the farm tables. Wedding Coordinators are resourceful. A good one will have several tricks up their sleeve for helping you achieve the look that you want without making you feel bad for having to make changes due to budget issues.

Contracts- Be specific with what you are looking for before you sign a contract. Sign a contract. An invoice does not cut it. The contract should specify what your responsibilities are as a client and what the coordinator’s responsibilities are. Just because he or she seems sweet, not having a contract is a recipe for miscommunication, unmet expectations by both parties and a host of other problems.
Take the time to get to know your wedding planner before you sign on the dotted line. Keep in mind that you will be working closely with this person for months and in the process, handing them a large sum of money. Every wedding coordinator will deliver their services differently based on their experience and how they have structured their company. Choose a coordinator who’s business structure is one that you feel comfortable with. For example, if you don’t want to read contracts then choose a coordinator that signs all of the vendor contracts. This coordinator likely has a lot of experience and a rock solid team of vendors that have consistently delivered a high level of service. If you want to be more involved and sign all of the contracts then find a coordinator who will do that as well. There is no right or wrong. It’s a matter of preference for you and the potential coordinator you plan to hire.

Make a Decision- Choose the right service based on your needs, not price. If you pay for package “A” but you are continually asking for things not included in your package, don’t be surprised when your wedding coordinator suggests that you move up to a package that offers a higher level of service. They may even present you with some a la carte options to customize your existing wedding package.
Your wedding coordinator is not a magician, a mind reader, fairy God mother or God. Even though a lot of us wish we were, well maybe not God, but you know what I mean. We really do want to please your socks off. After all, we are in the service industry, but no one wants to be taken advantage of. We know that it’s your wedding and your day and all that, but you can catch more flies with honey. Being a bridezilla is never cool and is a sure fire way to have your wedding planner wishing “your day” was over and done with.