Rerun: Event Planning on a Budget – Part Two: Location, Location, Location

January 29th, 2010

I re-ran part one of this series a few weeks ago.  I hope you will find this post to be helpful:

When you are planning an event, one of your largest expenses will be the location. But there are lots of ways to have a beautiful event without spending half your budget on the venue. There are plenty of high-profile, downtown locations where you could drop five to ten thousand dollars just to walk in the door. You can take a look at those to get ideas, but then keep looking.

At the front door of The Grove in Glenview. Photo by MWD Photography.

At the front door of The Grove in Glenview. Photo by MWD Photography.

My favorite place to start looking for inexpensive party locations is the local park district. And I don’t mean you should be stuck at the fieldhouse in the local park. Park districts often take over historical houses or other structures and rent them out to make a little extra money. In Chicago, there is the Berger Park Mansion or Promontory Point. Glenview has The Grove. In Wilmette, there is a very cute party room at Gillson Park. Sometimes you can get an even better deal if you live in the town where the park is located, or if you know someone who lives there who would be willing to co-sign the contract to get the in-town rate.

In the suburbs, there are also women’s clubs and community houses, especially in the older suburbs. Some of these are not cheap, but sometimes you can get a good deal. The women’s clubs often provide tables, chairs, white linens, china and silver. The style of the china might not be what you would choose, but having those items included in the rental saves you a bundle on renting them.

Another option is to go outside the city. If you are willing to move your event from Chicago to southern Wisconsin, there are halls available at a reasonable rate. There are also some venues in the distant suburbs that offer good deals.

If you want to stay in the city but have limited funds, try restaurants with party rooms. These rooms are often available at no charge. The restaurants make their money on the food and drink. Some restaurants can handle decorations, audio/visual equipment, and other special requests. Not all restaurants are suitable for a large wedding, but there are some that can even handle a complex event such as that.

Also, smaller museums, art galleries, and other arts organizations sometimes rent their spaces at reasonable rates. They do not always advertise widely, so you will have to do some research to find them–or ask a professional for advice.

And don’t overlook institutions you have a relationship with. Your church or synagogue, a cultural institution where you have a membership, or the arts organization you support may be able to offer you space at a reasonable price.  Also, to save money, consider planning your event for an off day.  Sundays are often less expensive than Saturdays, and if you can have your party on a weekday, you can often get a real bargain.

If you have no budget, of course you can always ask friends or family with a nice home to help you by letting you have your party at their home. This option depends entirely on your connections. But even if you don’t have friends with huge houses, you can still have a party or wedding for a reasonable price if you look a little beyond the easy choices. There are very nice locations within your reach.

Look For Me On TV

January 19th, 2010

I was interviewed for a show on The Live Well HD network last week called “Save My Planet“.  They are doing a segment on green weddings.  I’ll post again when the segment is going to air and when it is available on line.  The network can be found at channel 7.2 on the airwaves, on Comcast channel 217, on RCN channel 618, and on WOW channel 219.  Or you can watch online.

Rerun: Why Should I Hire a Planner or a Day-Of Wedding Coordinator?

January 12th, 2010

I must have had some good ideas this time last year.  Here is another post that I think is worth another look:

I am asked sometimes why someone getting married should hire a wedding planner. “Can I do all the wedding planning myself?” I’ve been asked. My answer to that question is, “Yes and no.”

Beautiful wedding day.

Beautiful wedding day. Photo by Magical Moments Photography.

Yes, you can probably do all the planning yourself. Given enough time, a few basic organizational skills, and the ability to see the project through to the end–qualities just about everyone has–you can certainly plan your wedding by yourself. If you are a very busy professional who travels a lot, for example, or someone who feels overwhelmed by large projects, then you are a good candidate for a full-service planner. Don’t get me wrong: Planning a wedding is a very large job that will take a good amount of your time and attention for as long as you have to work on it. Most people find the process momentarily frustrating at times. At the same time, it can be very rewarding. You might even find that it is a lot of fun. I certainly think it is.

On the other hand, when it comes to day-of wedding coordination, almost everyone needs someone to do the job. In the past when brides were typically younger, the mother of the bride often took care of coordinating the day of the wedding. Sometimes the Maid of Honor gets to do all the work.  These days, though, most couples want to allow their families and friends to enjoy the wedding day and not have to be the one to deal with the stress of the details.

And even if your wedding is simple and straightforward, if you hire a day-of coordinator, you are also hiring a professional consultant who can help you with the planning. Not all planners work the way I do, I’m sure, but when I am working with a couple, I tell them that once they hire me, they can call me or send me an e-mail any time if they need guidance or a vendor referral or just someone to bounce an idea off of. My function is to make sure that the day of the wedding goes smoothly, and that means that I start working toward that goal as soon as I am hired. If I can prevent costly mistakes or solve a problem months in advance, then I am doing my job as day-of coordinator.

Maybe you have been to a wedding and thought it all went so smoothly that there was no need for a coordinator. That is actually the highest compliment you can pay to a day-of wedding coordinator. From the point of view of the guests, it should all look effortless, and that means that someone has put all the details together into a beautiful wedding day.

Rerun: Tips on Hiring a Wedding Coordinator

January 5th, 2010
This is me, doing what I do best as a day-of coordinator: sweating the details so my clients don't have to. (Photo courtesy of Artisan Events, Inc.)

This is me, doing what I do best as a day-of coordinator: sweating the details so my clients don't have to. Photo courtesy of Artisan Events, Inc.

This post is from exactly a year ago.  If you are newly engaged, I hope you will find it helpful.

If you have plans to get married this year, you are probably thinking–right about now–about hiring a wedding planner or a day-of wedding coordinator. If you’re getting married this year and are not thinking about any such thing, may I recommend that you do so before the best planners get booked up for the summer and fall seasons?  I don’t know about anyone else, but I am almost fully booked for Saturdays in June already.

It’s not too difficult to hire a day-of coordinator. You will actually come up with more choices if you do an internet search for “wedding planner,” rather than “day-of wedding coordinator.” Any wedding planner worth her pay is also a day-of coordinator. Craigslist is another place to look. You can also place a free ad there for planners to respond to.

Once you have found a handful of prospects, it’s time to interview them. You can start with an e-mail, of course, but I don’t recommend that you hire anyone until you have met them in person. Sometimes this is impractical, of course, especially if you live in a different city from the one you are planning to marry in. In that case, be sure to have a detailed telephone conversation before signing a contract. Some of the things you may want to consider are: the planner’s experience and expertise; the planner’s personality and how it fits with yours; the kinds of ideas she or he can bring to the table; the fee charged and what you will get for what you pay.

Don’t necessarily think that the lowest price is the best deal. As with any vendor, you get what you pay for. Sometimes the person with the lowest price is the best one for the job, but other times someone with a very low price may not offer as many important services as someone who charges a little more. Get enough information on the services included in the fee so that you can tell the difference. Find out what the price range is by asking several coordinators. You don’t have to hire the most expensive one, but you will probably find one in the middle of the price range who has all the characteristics you want.

Before you hire, get references. Don’t just get names and phone numbers or e-mail addresses. Call those people or e-mail them and ask them questions about their experience with the coordinator. Ask them if they would recommend the person. Ask them if they think they got value for their money. Ask if there were any unresolved problems.

Finally, don’t pay anything until you have a signed contract with the coordinator. (This is actually good advice for hiring any vendor.) The coordinator will probably send you a contract, but don’t assume that this is a “take it or leave it” proposition. All contracts are negotiable. If there is a clause you think needs to be in the contract, ask to have it added. If you don’t like something, ask if it can be removed. You may have to give something in return, but it is always worth a try. Don’t be intimidated by legalese. If there’s anything you don’t understand, ask to have it clarified. And only sign the contract once you are sure you understand everything and agree with it. It takes some work, but it is always worth while to have a good contract in place. It protects both parties.

And once you have hired a wedding coordinator, keep them informed of your decisions. If they ask for information, get it to them as soon as possible. They are looking out for your best interests and need to know what you want and what you are doing so they can take care of all the details while you are busy getting married and enjoying yourself.