Vendors I Know: Vistaprint

June 27th, 2016
Need a menu printed?. Photo by hannahelaine photography (hannahelaine.com).

Need a menu printed?. Photo by hannahelaine photography (hannahelaine.com).

When you’re planning an event or a wedding, you might find that you need printing services.  If you plan to send paper invitations, you’ll need invitations, envelopes, and reply cards.  You might also want to have a program for your guests or a menu at dinner.  And you could want signs to direct your guests to the location.

There are many options for all of these items, but some of them are expensive.  Traditional engraved invitations, for example, are costly.  They can also take several weeks to be printed.  But it turns out that the place where you can get inexpensive business cards is the same place where you can get some or all of your wedding or event printing done:  Vistaprint.

A recent client of mine used Vistaprint for her invitations, place cards, and signage, and she was very happy with the service–and, especially, with the turn-around time.

The only drawback to the service is the designs.  If you like their designs, then it is a convenient service. If you don’t find one to your taste in their gallery, you can upload a design for them to print, but that means that you still have to get the invitations designed.  It’s great if you are a designer yourself and can do the work.  But if you’re already working with a designer, then you probably also want to use whatever printing services they recommend.

You might not think that a service that is primarily thought of as a business service would be good for weddings and events, but it turns out that under some circumstances, it can be both convenient and economical.

Band vs. DJ

May 23rd, 2016
Here's a hot dance band.

Here’s a hot dance band.

So, you’re planning your wedding and you are wondering what kind of music you should have.  Should you hire a band?  Or hire a DJ?  How do you decide?  Both options have things in their favor.

Hiring a DJ is definitely one good choice.  You get a wide range of music and it’s generally less expensive than hiring a dance band.  Quality DJs can not only be your reception MC, but they know how to keep the dance floor full and make sure that everyone has a good time.

If you have the funds, though, there are a lot of high quality bands available.  With a band, you get almost everything that a DJ offers, and you get a more vibrant sonic experience.  While a band might not have the breadth of repertoire you can get from a DJ, there is something about the sound of a live band that says “party.”  The best bands have a wide and deep song list with something for everyone, and they also bring their own unique sound to the dance floor.

Either way, you really can’t go wrong.  Make your decision based on your taste, your budget, and your preferences.

Wedding Trends

March 7th, 2016

I’ve noticed a trend in the weddings I have worked on in the last year or so.  It’s not at all universal, but I am seeing a certain number of wedding receptions where there are no floral centerpieces on the tables.  All of these couples say they want to keep things simple, and that is definitely one way to do so.  They generally compensate for the lack of flowers by using a lot of candles, instead.

If you search for “wedding centerpiece no flowers,” you’ll get lots and lots of photos of elaborate tablescapes.  That’s one way to do the job.  But if you are trying to keep expenses down or if you just don’t want a lot of visual fuss at your wedding reception, you can keep it simple.

Here are two images from recent weddings with only candles for centerpieces.  The first one is as simple as possible, while remaining elegant.  The second one is more colorful and whimsical, proving you can express your taste and stay simple at the same time.

Photo by Becca Heuer Photography.

Photo by Becca Heuer Photography.

head table

My Integrity Pledge

January 11th, 2016
Everyone trusts the vendors when they know they can trust the planner.

Everyone trusts the vendors when they know they can trust the planner.

If you have looked at the page on my website that deals with Money Matters, you might have noticed my integrity pledge there.  It says, “I will never take kickbacks from vendors, because I work for you, not for them. When I recommend vendors, you can be certain that I believe they deliver quality services at reasonable prices. I always pass along vendor discounts to my clients.”  In case you’re not familiar with how this scheme works, let me lay it out for you here.

When I first hung out my (virtual) shingle as an event planner, vendors started getting in touch with me.  They wanted me to refer my clients to them, and, for the privilege, they were willing to pay me–in hard, cold cash–a percentage of what my clients paid them for their work.  I understand that this can be quite a good revenue stream for an event planner, but I am not willing to sell out for the cash.  I always insist that the vendor give my client the equivalent discount, instead. It costs the vendor the same amount and it allows me to offer my clients a little bonus.

Taking the “commission” (as they call it) is a problem because I work for the person who is paying me.  If I were to take both a fee from a client and a payment from a vendor, then I would have two bosses with conflicting interests.  I would lose the ability to help my client stay within their budget, since my own personal interest would be for them to spend more.  I also might be tempted to refer clients to the vendor who offers me the largest percentage, rather than the vendor who does the best work or gives the best value for money.

I heard a very telling story from a woman I know who makes and sells eco-friendly event invitations.  She told me that she had been taking her wares around to various event planners.  She was discussing the commission amount with one planner.  The planner pointed to a wall of invitation sample books and told her that those vendors all offered her a much higher commission.  She clearly expected that this woman would offer her more.  That is a situation that can lead to bidding wars, which can not be good for the planner’s clients.

When I first started out as a planner, I was pretty sure I would never take these kickbacks from vendors.  But the thing that really gave me the resolve came from a very unexpected place.  I took a taxi home from the very first wedding I ever planned and coordinated.  The cab driver was an older gentleman, and we chatted on the way home.  Of course he asked me what I do and where I was coming from.  When I told him that I am a wedding planner, the first thing he said was, “You don’t take those payments from the vendors, do you?”  I assured him that I do not take them.  And I have never been tempted to go back on my word.