Erica ran a wedding planning business for eight years.
What I Learned From Being A Wedding Planner
people found Erica's experience helpful.
When one of my good friends started planning her wedding, she realized she had no idea where to begin. I was already an avid party planner, and I jumped right in when she asked me for help. It was then I realized that my creative knack and wedding planning were made for each other. I knew I wanted to help other couples plan their dream weddings. As a wedding planner and coordinator, I planned many types of weddings, from a Halloween cemetery wedding to a Jewish ceremony. I handled entire weddings from engagement to “I Do’s” and helped with day-of-only activities and decorating.
Problems and Issues Encountered
There are many issues I’ve witnessed couples experience during the planning process that make the wedding more stressful than it needs to be.
• Money and budgeting is stressful. Money quickly becomes a negative factor when it causes tension among all those involved. I’ve helped many couples work with their parents and each other when establishing a budget. It’s important to know what you have to spend before you set your heart on something you cannot afford. It’s also important to know how much your parents are willing to pitch in. I have had a few brides and grooms surprised or upset to learn their parents weren’t willing to pay for something like an open bar all night long. As soon as you mention the word “wedding,” prices seem to increase. It is as if everyone hears the word CHA-CHING after they hear "wedding."
• Dealing with input, especially those helping to pay for the wedding, can be frustrating. While appeasing every request they have is impossible, you can grant them small wins, like seating arrangements. One of the brides I worked with left the seating arrangements up to her in-laws, since she wasn’t familiar with the extended family anyway. This served two great purposes: involving her soon-to-be mother-in-law in the planning process and avoiding the difficulties of “this one can’t sit next to that one” issues.
• In some of the best weddings I planned, couples did not follow all the rules. Traditional weddings follow a simple format from walking down the aisle to the first dance and cutting the cake. A young couple I worked with completely threw out that format and created their own design. Guests danced all night, and dinner was a casual, "eat at your own pace" spread.
• What are the most important aspects of your wedding? Spend your money where it’s needed most. I worked with a bride on a beautiful outdoor wedding overlooking the ocean, and instead of flowers, she used beads and feathers. Not only did it save her money, it was personal to her unique style. Guests may not remember the flowers, but you will, so choose something you love.
• Vendors will negotiate. Most vendors are willing to negotiate and customize their packages to suit your budget. There are also very talented service providers that may not be well known, but provide exceptional value and a unique service.
• Hosting a wedding at a wedding venue such as a hotel often comes with a wedding planner. So why hire someone like me to help plan a wedding? The wedding planner at the hotel you choose works for that hotel. They don’t always manage many other aspects of your wedding that are not part of the hotel package, such as coordinating the rehearsal dinner, cake tastings, and the limo.
• Always remember to read the contracts in detail before you sign them. Once, a couple hired me for the day of their wedding when they learned that the food they discussed was not included in their contract. Once you sign the contract, there is no changing it.
What Would Most People Do Differently?
Have a more intimate wedding. Many of the couples I worked with who had an intimate wedding were happy with their choice, while others who planned large or elaborate weddings wish they weren’t so big. The more intimate the setting, the more you will enjoy your wedding and your guests and have time to socialize and interact.
There Are Three Pieces of Advice I Give My Couples the Most
• Do what you want. Plan the wedding how you want to plan it. If you don’t want a traditional wedding, don’t have one. There once were all these rules of etiquette that couples followed when planning a wedding with a strict format for the design of the wedding. Today, you can throw that rulebook out the window. Don’t worry about what others will think. They aren’t the ones getting married. As a couple, you are starting your life together. Start it how you want to and not how others think you should. While I’ve planned traditional old-style weddings, some of the most fun weddings I’ve planned were far from traditional.
• Understand and accept that things will go wrong. Something goes wrong at every wedding. I planned a beautiful wedding on a private compound down the Cape. About 40 guests attended. We set up lanterns, paper doves, and mason jars with tea light candles, and the caterer was two hours late. The one thing you don’t want to do is panic. By the time the ceremony ended and everyone was ready to eat, they were ready to serve the food. The caterer pulled through. Another couple never got their wedding cake. The baker had the day wrong. In the end, they forgot all about the cake not being there, and none of the guests missed it.
• Don’t forget to feed your vendors, including the entertainment, the wedding planner, the photographer, and anyone else who will participate in the day of your wedding. They should be included in the food head count with the caterer.
Planning a wedding does not have to be a stressful process. As a wedding planner, I help couples work through all of the planning and hiccups and keep them calm through the process even when something goes wrong. However, not everyone can afford a wedding planner, so this is my simple advice — make sure the wedding doesn’t wear you down and have you running away rather than running toward the altar.