Wedding Planning Advice

Aisle Survive Wedding Planning Podcast - Episode 5: TAKE CONTROL OF WEDDING REHEARSALS

Take Control of your Wedding Rehearsals!

Get everyone lined up and ready to obey with tips from this episode of the Aisle Survive Wedding Planning podcast! The ‘script’ I developed when speaking to bridal parties helped prevent a ton of annoying situations from occurring, and I’ve got my tips right here. Establishing leadership of the big day starts at the rehearsal, and I tell you how.

Music by Michael Holowatch of The Replicas!

Wedding Rehearsal Meme.jpg

Aisle Survive Podcast - Episode 4: BRIDAL PARTIES

We put the "party" in Bridal Parties with the latest episode of the Aisle Survive: Tales of a Former Wedding Planner Podcast!  From groomsmen who chase planners across the dance floor to bridesmaids who break up bachelorette parties, do I have some stories - and, tips for how to help your clients manage rogue members of their squad.

I also have tips for how to handle bridal parties that have big responsibilities on the wedding day - to ensure they feel supported, yet set you up for success.

Music by Michael Holowatch of The Replicas!

Aisle Survive: Tales of a Former Wedding Planner Podcast | FAMILY THERAPY

Ever feel like you're a professional arbitrator or MFT?  When what you thought you were doing was planning a wedding?  When family drama gets too much and we planners are in the middle of it, it can make our job exhausting and stressful. Here's how to get everyone to behave and treat you not like a member of the family, but like the professional you are. Tips start at 4.57.  Music is "She's So High" by Michael Holowatch of the Replicas. They provide outstanding live music for any event and are simply amazing. Many thanks to Michael for letting me use this track.

Questions?  Stories?  Just want to talk?  Email me at dee@noworriesep.com!

Aisle Survive: Tales of a Former Wedding Planner Podcast | BAD DECISIONS

Hi all,

The transition to podcasts has officially begun!  This first official episode of the Aisle Survive: Tales of a Former Wedding Planner podcast is up.  This episode is about Bad Decisions - the client who wants their cousin to do the lighting, their aunt to take the photos - you get the gist.  How to maintain integrity of the wedding, and thus your role, at the event?  I'll explain all. Any questions, input, comments, or war stories? Email me at dee@noworriesep.com.

The music is "She's So High" by Michael Holowatch of the Replicas, one of the best bands EVER. If you need a killer band for your clients' wedding or event in Los Angeles and beyond, look no further!

 

 

 

How to hire the best wedding photographer for you

As you can imagine, often in my career as a planner, I'd have to recommend the best wedding photographers I work with.  And there I'd sit, having worked with about 200 or so wedding photographers - and knowing even more - and only sending out the same few names.  I'd say there are about 15-20 I regularly recommend, and a few more that fellow planners have worked with that swear by that I also hold in high regard.

Since digital photography became the standard, the wedding photography market became glutted.  Since people didn't need to buy costly film and spend hours in a darkroom, there was a lower barrier to entry in this segment of the wedding industry.

And what happens then? The pool of talent becomes very wide and shallow. How then to choose the best photographer for you?

Photo by  Brady Puryear

Photo by Brady Puryear

Don't be dazzled by just a few photos.

You'll see this advice a lot - look at ALL their photos from a few weddings, not just a handful.  In the old days, this was easy - you could check out their work in cohesive albums.  Now, they can just post a few photos per wedding on their website and show off the most beautiful. But, pro photographers will still have albums made (not just to show off their talents, but to let you see and feel an album in case you want to purchase one).

Experience counts.

Yes, just about anyone can pick up a professional camera these days and start snapping away with little risk - photo didn't turn out right? Just delete it! - so you need to make sure they have experience.  This doesn't mean someone 1-2 years into their business is not a good candidate- I've worked with a lot of newbies who had years of formal training and second shooting for other photographers before going solo, and can talk shop with expertise.  I'd rather work with someone with less years of experience but better instinct than photographers who have had years of experience, but still can't follow a timeline.

Photo by  Iris and Light

They must be familiar with timelines.

It's not just getting pretty pictures.  If they cannot manage a timeline, the photographer is going to back up and delay your entire day.  This is 90% of what makes a wedding photographer a good one - being able to get just about everything on the shot list (and making sure it's a reasonable list) while hitting deadlines throughout the day.  I've had lots of stories about this that I could share all day long about this. 

How can you tell if they know how to manage a timeline? ask for a couple coordinators' references and ask them directly if the photographer was able to manage the timeline without significant assistance from the coordinator's team.

Personality Counts.

A photographer with a gruff or wishy-washy personality will not serve you well. Someone upbeat, authoritative without being bossy, with a sheen of calm, is exactly what you want.  This comes out in the interview, and also via references from their past clients.

DONUTS! How to have the best Donut bar at your wedding

So like anything in the wedding world, you can't just have wedding CAKE any more, you have to have - s'mores, or lollipops, or pudding parfaits, or literally anything BUT cake, because of course you have to be super-duper unique.  There's nothing wrong with this (but guys, it's TOTALLY OKAY if all you want to have is cake. I love cake! and NO, wedding cake isn't dry or gross - I promise!)

That said, a great compromise between wedding cake and something more unique is the great American breakfast snack, donuts.  Having a donut bar at your wedding can be a great touch that does not have to be labor intensive and can be quite reasonable.  I personally believe heaven is a collection of 800 varieties of coffee and an all you can eat (where you never get full!) buffet of donuts. God, do I love them.  And while they have been taken over by 'artisans' like everything else these days, not even hipsters can ruin them.

Elegant presentation for powdered sugar donettes!  Photo by  Shani Barel Photography .

Elegant presentation for powdered sugar donettes!  Photo by Shani Barel Photography.

One client LOVES donettes, and had a candy bar with a donette display as the centerpiece, which was simple yet charming.  Another client had super-cool and tricked out donuts from California Donuts that their dessert vendor, Fantasy Frostings, picked up and assembled among the rest of their fabulous desserts.  Mixing in donuts with another dessert element (such as the ice cream sundae bar below), or keeping it simple with a donut bar, will delight your guests regardless of what brand or style of donut you use.

Combining a sundae bar with maple-sage donuts for a sweet treat at the end of the night.  Donut bar by  Heirloom LA  and photo by  Mi Belle Photography.

Combining a sundae bar with maple-sage donuts for a sweet treat at the end of the night.  Donut bar by Heirloom LA and photo by Mi Belle Photography.

 

There are the more unique donuts these days that don't even taste like donuts; I'm going to be honest, they kind of taste like bread and come in vegan and gluten free options, and can be pricey. If you use a new-fangled vendor for these more specialized offerings, be sure to taste them first. Offering a variety will be sure your guests will be fondly remembering your donut bar for years to come.

My Favorite Wedding Planning Blogs and Websites

When you're scanning the web for wedding planning advice, be careful - a lot of sites out there have recycled information, or just SO MUCH of it that it's confusing or overwhelming.  And it's super important to make sure experts are quoted in the articles.  When individual brides and grooms are giving advice in articles, remember, they've had experience with one (maybe two) weddings, and while they may have outstanding information to share, it's good to remember that wedding vendors have worked on hundreds to thousands of weddings.

  Here are our fave blogs for pragmatic, entertaining wedding planning advice:

Every Last Detail

This blog is run by an actual wedding planner, Lauren Grove, which I love, because a lot of wedding how-to content is written by editors and writers who, while they definitely do their research, may not have been elbow-deep in the trenches of wedding planning.  A wedding planner has seen so many situations play out, that they have a breadth of knowledge that makes planners like Lauren the top experts to follow.

The Budget-Savvy Bride

Jessica Bishop's website has tons of solid advice and real-world examples of how to save money but still have a great wedding.  Too often, budget advice is without context - but she brings in background information that makes sense. Also, fellow smart and practical brides bring honest feedback to what it's like to plan a budget-friendly wedding.

The Off-Beat Bride

This website is all about weaving a couple's personality into the wedding without breaking the bank.  It's the perfect antidote to the super-glossy, almost unreal glamour weddings you see online. (Not that I don't like seeing those, but it's nice to see something a little more unique.)

Streamline your Wedding Design for Less Stress

It seems these days, that more is more when it comes to wedding design.  Instead of a guest book, have a Polaroid station with glue sticks, scrapbook, markers, and tape.  Instead of a plate, how about 4 stacked atop each other, with a floral treatment?  Why stop at a few votives when you can mix in tall hurricanes and tapered candlesticks as well?

Adding "more" in these situations isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it's good to know when to stop.

Don't overstuff your tablescape.

Too much stuff on the table has become a trend - from lots of candles, multiple pieces of glassware, placemats, lots of dishes stacked up.   People can't even rest their forearms at their placesetting if there are too many items!  Consider the size of the table, rent larger tables if necessary, and treat it like putting together an outfit: the rule of thumb is, look at yourself in the mirror and remove one piece of jewelry so you don't overdo it.  Same thing with wedding design - if you've got tons of candles, lots of plates, 3 glasses...remove a glass, trim a few candles, and cut it down a bit. Consolidate - perhaps use table numbers that can fit inside the centerpiece, for example.

This photo by Brady Puryear features a floral centerpiece by Floral Event Production and a die cut wood table number that saves space on the table.

This photo by Brady Puryear features a floral centerpiece by Floral Event Production and a die cut wood table number that saves space on the table.

 

Consider the elements.

If your ceremony space is windy, you want a really stable arch versus centerpieces precariously placed on pedestals.  If your reception space is outside, escort and seating cards will probably blow away; consider a framed seating chart or tuck name cards in a folded napkin.

With a breathless view like this, decor isn't even necessary, and this space tends to be windy as well. Photo by Dave Richards. Venue: Malibu Rocky Oaks

With a breathless view like this, decor isn't even necessary, and this space tends to be windy as well. Photo by Dave Richards. Venue: Malibu Rocky Oaks

 

No more favors!

This blog post from the awesome site the Budget Savvy Bride features some great planners and event pros that say, 'nix favors'!  They're often unpractical, or hard to travel with (I've seen many a mini succulent left behind). Technically there is 100% no need to offer favors at your event, so no need to consider them when planning your wedding design - so don't bother unless it's something you're really passionate about.

 

The Best Recipe for Handling Too Many (Wedding Planning) Cooks in the Kitchen

This frozen expression of plastered-on polite smile is the look I have when a client mentions something that is 98% likely to go horribly wrong, but I DON'T WANT TO PANIC THEM.

This frozen expression of plastered-on polite smile is the look I have when a client mentions something that is 98% likely to go horribly wrong, but I DON'T WANT TO PANIC THEM.

How many family members involved in wedding planning is...too many?  Listen, I've worked with 5 different family members and it's been fine; I've also had to deal with just 1 maid of honor who almost ruined everything. It's all HOW you do it, not WHO does it.   For example, I am happy to work with parents, but I don't sign contracts with them - just the couple.  That draws a line, as if to say, "You may be paying for it, but it's the bride and groom's wedding!"

Here are a few wedding planning - slash - family therapy (???) tips for success.

If there's already drama, don't Collaborate.

If you already have a history with family that want to be involved - and it's not GOOD history - back away.  Get a second job, elope, do whatever you can to pay for the wedding yourself and keep them from hosting.  When a family member hosts, they can sometimes unfairly leverage that to control the event to the -inth degree. There was one wedding in particular that I planned, where the parents of one of the couple hosted, and whenever I spoke with them it was as if the bride and groom weren't even involved.  The mom dictated the wedding colors, I had to remind them to invite the bride and groom to a table mockup - it was bizarre.  On top of that, I had multiple people deciding on different things in several different emails - not an orderly 'decide by committee' way.  If a family member wants to get involved and is hosting, make sure they know it's not THEIR wedding!

Sisters lovingly drape a tallit over their siblings during this wedding at Calamigos Malibu. Flowers by McCann Florist.  Photo by True Photography.

Sisters lovingly drape a tallit over their siblings during this wedding at Calamigos Malibu. Flowers by McCann Florist.  Photo by True Photography.

 

Divide and conquer.

"Sis, you work on the ceremony music and flowers.  Mom, negotiate the venue and oversee rentals.  We'll choose the officiant and DJ.  Communicate directly with the planner or vendor and don't loop in all of us on every single email." That's called delegating - and it works!  Back-channel chats about taste and style among all parties works for decision making, then the person in charge of that one element emails the vendor or planner directly with the final call. Done!

Tell your peeps:  It's not a contest.

It makes me groan when I meet a friend or relative who tries to out-plan the planner. They're not a wedding planner, but they've done some parties and are really creative, and they go on Pinterest all the time, and now they try to take over at a walk-through or design meeting with a bride and groom. A good wedding planner has no ego and loves input, but not when it's bossy and it's a non-pro trying to throw their weight around. I had one maid of honor take over at a flower mock up and try to tell me and the florist she could "get that mercury vase at Michaels." We were like, "Yes, and we can get it and a dozen others like them at wholesale cost through our suppliers."  I don't know why some people get threatened by wedding professionals - it's really weird, but it's like trying to take over negotiations on a house purchase from a Realtor. Why go through all the trouble? Let the pros do their job!

How Much Does the Average Wedding Cost...Really?

Originally published on No Worries Event Planning.com

It's nearly everyone's first question when they start planning a wedding: How much is this bad boy going to cost me?  The idea of sinking many thousands of dollars in one evening is soul-sucking, and I totally understand this.   I tried to charge as little as possible when I first started and quickly realized there was a bottom line I had to meet, fee-wise or I essentially couldn't run a business. Like, as in, keep the lights on, pay my taxes, feed my family.

And that's what all other vendors and venues find too when they research initial pricing structures.  Their insurance, taxes, labor (that's a big one), cost of raw materials, etc - it all gets passed to you, the consumer.  Meantime, a good middle class income means low buying power these days, due to all sorts of shifts in our economy, so you can work hard, save your money, and still barely be able to afford a wedding.  But, don't get too depressed- let's work through some hard facts about budget, so you can be an informed consumer, and take control over the process.

Black crows on manzanita trees were DIY centerpieces that fit a Halloween wedding perfectly, were made in advance, and saved the clients money. Photo by Jenna Rose Photography, Jennajanellerose.com

Black crows on manzanita trees were DIY centerpieces that fit a Halloween wedding perfectly, were made in advance, and saved the clients money. Photo by Jenna Rose Photography, Jennajanellerose.com

 

Statistics: Read between the lines

The average wedding according to many statistics is about $26k - 30k.  But, in major metropolitan areas, you're looking at $35-45k to start, and towards $70-80k in cities such as New York City.  Guest count, type of food service, venue, and all sorts of other elements affect your total costs.  My advice is, ignore the statistics - the only way you'll know how much your wedding costs is to start researching.

Add it up: Tally total wedding cost first

Start researching venues, DJs, florists, etc., and collect pricing and quotes.  Don't do one at a time, i.e. research and price out venues, book the venue; and THEN price out caterers - you need a holistic, macro view of how all the costs add up before booking any single vendor or venue for the event.  Otherwise you'll book one element, and realize it takes up more of your budget than you thought, and severely crunches the rest of your budget.  Or perhaps trigger other costs that you didn't anticipate (like a venue that requires a generator at great additional expense, for example).

A beachside venue, just like a house on the ocean, will potentially cost more than an inland space.  Photo of Terranea Resort by Alma De Lumiere,

A beachside venue, just like a house on the ocean, will potentially cost more than an inland space.  Photo of Terranea Resort by Alma De Lumiere,

Consider unique alternatives

Food trucks, BBQ take out (nicely served and presented), cupcakes (instead of cakes) - these are all ways to save money on food by going an unconventional route.  Venue-wise, find a venue that's fresh on the market that may be willing to rent to you for an introductory fee. It's important to make sure the venue has proper rules and regulations and insurance, and to know of any specific additional expenses that come with out-of-the-box venues.

Hire the right pros

A caterer that specializes in small luncheons won't be ideal for your 200 person wedding.  A novice florist may not be able to construct that custom arch you saw on Instagram.  A planner who lists as her major experience waiting tables in college and planning her sister's wedding won't know off the top of her head how much a family style meal will cost.  Whether you invest a small hourly consulting package for a coordinator to assist in a venue search or order a drop off type service from a high end caterer, there are ways to hire top-of-their-class vendors without breaking your bank.