A proposal is one of the most exciting times in a person’s life. An engagement is one of the most overwhelming and scariest times. Between not knowing what to do first, what magazine to read or when to stop pinning, it’s a confusing time and can result in lots of stress and even more bottles of wine. As a wedding planner, I know how to tackle the planning process from start to finish, and in this article I will share my top 10 tips!
1. Figure out the Budget
This will be the most important thing you do, and it is critical to do this first and to know your numbers. Whether you and your fiance are footing the bill, or you have outside help including parents, friends and family, I cannot stress enough how serious this is. Once you have an overall number, then you can start breaking it apart into categories depending on what is most important to you. Big hint: do not allocate more than 49% of your budget to the venue and catering. If you do, you will find yourself in trouble trying to book vendors that you can then afford.
2. Be Transparent with your Vendors
When a prospective client contacts me to plan their wedding, I always ask what their total budget is. Most of the time I am answered with “I don’t know what anything costs.” I like to treat this like buying a car. For instance, when you are car shopping, you already know how much you can put down and how much you can spend per month. Therefore, it doesn’t matter what a Mercedes costs (unless you can afford it), but what matters is what you can spend. Do not be afraid to reveal the numbers to your vendors that you are interviewing. Tell them what you want and what you can spend to save everyone plenty of time.
3. Have a Timeline
My clients receive from me a comprehensive timeline that includes what we are doing and when. While wedding websites are stuffed with template timelines, those are never realistic because they aren’t personal. If you have a 6 month long engagement, then what good is it to know that at 8 months out you should secure your photographer? Look at the calendars of the people involved in the decision making, and lay out everything from venue visits to vendor consultations. Keep in mind any vacations or parties where you won’t realistically be able to plan.
4. Meet with People
As tempting as it is to just hide behind a computer, it’s important to interview vendors face to face. What you get in an email might not be what you get in person, and finding that out on your wedding day is never good. While the initial contact might be via email or over the phone, you can really only get general questions answered, and most vendors will not give out or go into depth about their pricing structure without meeting you first.
5. Limit your Reading
Between the countless wedding websites out there along with all of the magazines and blogs and more, there are hundreds of pieces of advice for engaged couples. Plenty of this advice is wrong and/or contradictory. The reason for this is just about anyone can start a blog, and almost no one googles the name of the authors. For instance, how would you react if you found out that a magazine editor actually had no experience in the wedding industry and was a full time yoga instructor? Would you still take wedding planning advice from them? Probably not. Try to only read a few articles here and there and make sure the sources are reputable.
6. Invest in a “Month Of” Coordinator
Not everyone can afford a wedding planner and full planning services, and some people even if they could, would rather handle most of it on their own. In these cases, the best investment to make, is a “Month Of” Coordinator (MOC). While the term “day of” gets thrown around a lot, that is actually incorrect. To put it simply, if a planner showed up on the day of the wedding and didn’t prep the month beforehand, they will know nothing more than your cousin, three times removed, who is attending the wedding. A “MOC” will work with your venue and vendors the month leading up to the wedding to construct a comprehensive timeline for the day and handle all of the logistics. They will also be the point person for all of these vendors and be there on the day of to handle the details. It’s a less expensive alternative for those that cannot budget for full planning, and will give you, your fiance and your guests the change to enjoy themselves.
7. Don’t Assume Anything about Flowers and Decor
The most popular article that pops up for couples planning their wedding revolves around flowers and decor. One of the biggest myths that is still perpetuated is that you should only use seasonal flowers to keep your costs down. Well, peonies are in season for about 10 seconds between May-June, depending on your location or where they are sourced from. I can tell you that they are expensive when they are in season and when they are not in season. Also, if a flower is in season locally, but it will cost the wholesale provider that the florist uses less to get it from outside of the country, then that’s where they will get it from. Therefore, this demand for “in season” flowers, is not even needed. Another tip I see (that isn’t helpful or true) is to limit or eliminate flowers completely and use alternatives such as floating candles to cut down on costs. This might not save you anything depending on the containers and pieces that a designer would have to bring in.
8. Barns, Lofts, Farms, Private Estates….Will Not Save You Money
Rustic and rustic chic weddings have been trending for 4 years now and personally, I love that. I’ve never been a bling, ballroom, banquet hall kind of person and I prefer to plan and design weddings that take place in creative spaces. However, there is the assumption that having your wedding in a barn is much cheaper than a hall, when the opposite is always (not sometimes) true. Many spaces such as these have what is called an “estate fee”, which means what you pay to walk in the door and use the space. Sometimes the fee will include anything such as tenting, tables, chairs and so forth, and sometimes it includes nothing. Estate fees start at $4,000 and exceed the $30,000 mark. So, if you have a $60,000 total budget, looking at a loft with a $30K estate fee that doesn’t include food and beverage is out of the question. Don’t go for this “type” of wedding just to save money, because you will drive yourself crazy!
9. Small to No Wedding Party
As tempting as it might be to have 8 plus bridesmaids and 8 plus groomsmen, along with flower girls and a ring bearer, between the stress and the cost, it’s simply not worth it. I can count on one hand the amount of brides that have NOT complained to me about a member of their wedding party. Many times bridesmaids and groomsmen don’t act like the couple thought they would and there is always disappointment. Along with the stress of hearing your maid of honor doesn’t like her gown, the best man not making bachelor party plans, and everyone being late to the rehearsal, you will cut your costs by eliminating their personal flowers. Bouquets and boutineers can add up quickly, so save yourself the drama headache, and keep that extra money to put towards your centerpieces or other decor.
10. Know your Dealbreakers
Is a band a “must have”? Do you need two wedding gowns? Does the venue have to be able to accommodate a 350 person guest count? Know what you want and own it. Do not allow anyone on the outside, that isn’t writing the checks, to tell you what is important. All of my clients want something different, and the key is to know what really matters and what can be sacrificed if the budget won’t allow for what they want. Plus, you don’t want to waste your time looking at venues that kick you out at 10pm when you know you want to party until midnight. Get out the legal pad and start writing down what you need to have, and put it in order in case you have to shorten the list!
As a planner, I know first hand how high the hurdles can be when planning your wedding. What should be a fun and enjoyable time, can quickly become a nightmare and make you want to elope. These 10 secrets to wedding planning are a great way to feel confident and secure as you start pulling your day together!