Choices, Choices

June 19th, 2017
penguin wedding cake

How many other great ideas were ruled out to get to this fun and whimsical design choice? (Photo by hannahelaine photography (hannahelaine.com).)

I wrote a couple of weeks ago about ways to approach decision-making for your wedding.  This topic has come up a couple of times in my recent conversations with clients.  Frequently, I am hearing things like, “There are so many choices, I don’t know how to make a decision” or “I love Pinterest, but when I spend time on it, it makes it harder for me to know what I want.”  I also hear (a lot), “The process of wedding planning is really overwhelming!”

If this is how you feel, you should know that you’re not alone.  It’s great to have a lot of choices and wonderful to have access to all sorts of ideas when you’re planning a wedding (or any other event).  Being able to see what other people have done successfully is a great resource.  Borrowing ideas can spark your own creativity.  But once you have amassed all these ideas, what is the next step?  I think this is where many people have trouble.

I’m lucky that I’ve spent several decades working with many wonderfully creative people in the live theatre industry.  I’ve learned a lot from the various designers and directors and other artists about how the creative design process works.  I’m not going to even try to distill it into a brief how-to manual (because I’m pretty sure that’s impossible), but here are a few ideas.

A design board (also called an inspiration board or a vision board) is a way to collect the best visual ideas you have in one place and to see if they will all work together.  (There are lots of DIY tips online for how to do this.  It’s also one of the things you can do in Pinterest.)  What you may discover is that you have a few too many great ideas–which leads directly to my next tip:

You will probably have to discard some of your ideas.  You may have to discard a lot of your ideas.  The best events (like the best artistic creations) are focused and coherent.  Simplicity can be your very best friend.

So, how do you take all those ideas and revise them until you have a focused idea?  Try putting your favorites at the top of your design board and put the ones you don’t love quite as much farther down.  Keep re-arranging them until you are happy with the order.  Now, can you remove any of the ones at the bottom?  Because you are now at the point where you will probably have to get rid of some things.  And if you can’t quite bring yourself to remove something, that might be a sign that it needs to be a little higher in the priority list.

Here’s another way to pare down the choices:  Pick two colors and two other things you like (a texture, a pattern, a shape, etc., depending on how you have approached your search for materials) and put all the ideas that fit within those parameters on one design board.  Then try a different set of choices–and maybe one more after that.  See what you like best.  See what works best for you.  If you like one set of ideas, you now have a narrower set of choices to work with.

And here’s one more idea:  Hire a professional to work with you if you find the entire process too much for you.  Wedding planners are very good at narrowing down the field based on your preferences and can help you to focus your search for venues and vendors and to guide your design process.  There are a lot of decisions to be made as you plan a large event like a wedding.  It helps to have a guide who has done this before.

You Need A Day-Of Coordinator, Really

May 1st, 2017
The more pieces there are of the puzzle, the more challenging the project!  Photo by T & S Hughes Photography.

Someone has to keep track of all the little things. Photo by T & S Hughes Photography.

I was at a wedding show recently talking to couples who were about 15 months away from their weddings.  What I heard from them, over and over, was, “Oh, I don’t think we need a planner.”

What they didn’t know yet is that I get a lot of calls from couples who are about 3 months away from their weddings, saying, “We had no idea we would need a coordinator!”

If you’re in the very beginning stages of wedding planning, let me help you out.  Here are a few of the reasons you will likely say, “We need a planner/coordinator!”

Reason #1:  Wedding schedules baffle most people.  While I find them a breeze, about 95% of my clients need help making up a schedule for their wedding day.  It’s nothing to be ashamed of:  It’s a specialized skill.  If you don’t know how to create a wedding day schedule, your planner or coordinator does.

Reason #2:  Someone has to keep track of all the stuff.  You’re probably dreaming about all the little things that will help make your wedding day special and unique.  There are the place cards, the guest book, the favors, the centerpieces, the card box, the programs, the candles, the decorative objects, and so many other things.  Who is going to make sure that every object is in the right place at the right time?  Who will keep track of things and make sure that everything is set beforehand and packed up at the end of the night?  There’s one easy answer:  Your day-of coordinator!

Reason #3:  A planner or coordinator is an insurance policy with your vendors.  You’ve hired all these terrific vendors to help you entertain your guests.  You have a caterer and a DJ and a florist and a photographer.  Chances are, they will do a great job, since most wedding vendors are dedicated professionals.  But what if someone is late or forgets what you want?  Having a coordinator who works only for you to help them or remind them of what your wishes are can make all the difference between a good wedding day and a great one.

Reason #4:  Your planner or coordinator will solve problems–and often can prevent them in the first place.  My primary job, as your wedding coordinator, is preventing and solving problems.  I doubt there has ever been a wedding since weddings began where something hasn’t gone wrong.  Sometimes it’s something large; sometimes it’s a few small things.  But there’s always something.  If you don’t want to have to worry about that, you need someone there whose job it is to make things right.  Hiring a professional means you have a designated person for exactly that purpose–someone who is focused on the job alone and not also emotionally involved in your wedding day.

There are lots of other good reasons you might consider hiring a planner or a coordinator, but these are a few that you might not have thought of yet.  So, in addition to the financial benefits of hiring a coordinator, there are many practical reasons to do so.  What are you waiting for?

The Wedding Planner and Your Budget

April 17th, 2017
Even a very small wedding can benefit from having a coordinator.

Even a very small wedding can benefit from having a coordinator.

There are two major reasons people don’t hire a wedding planner or coordinator:  First, they think they don’t need one.  Second, they think they can’t afford one.  I’ll address the first issue in a couple of weeks, although I’ve written about it before.  Today, let’s talk about how a wedding planner or coordinator has an impact on your wedding budget.

Hiring a day-of coordinator for your wedding can add a few thousand dollars to your budget (depending on which coordinator you hire).  It’s usually less than 10% of the budget, unless you have a very small budget.  Is that the end of its impact on your budget?  Hardly!

When you hire a coordinator, you can actually save money.  And the earlier you hire, the more likely your coordinator will be able to help you save money.  One of the things that makes weddings expensive is the fact that a great many people getting married have never planned a wedding before and can get trapped into spending more than necessary.

That is one of the reasons why I encourage my clients to keep in touch with me as they plan.  Let’s say you hire me to coordinate your wedding as soon as you have a date, maybe a year in advance.  You can always drop me a note or call me up when you have a question or problem.  Chances are, I have an economical solution.

I was talking to a woman recently who was a couple of months away from her wedding.  She was thinking about hiring a coordinator, but before we were able to have a discussion about it, her budget blew up and she decided she couldn’t afford me.  I kept thinking what a shame it was that she hadn’t hired me much earlier and given me a chance to prevent the budget blow-up in the first place.

So, when you’re making your budget, include a reasonable amount for coordination.  In the long run, your budget will thank you.

What Happens When You Don’t Hire a Planner

November 28th, 2016
table setting

A planner can ensure that everything is in place. Photo by hannahelaine photography (hannahelaine.com).

You’re planning a wedding, or any large event, and you’re thinking of hiring a planner, or at least a day-of coordinator.  But you’re also wondering if it’s really worth paying all that money when there will be nothing to show for it.  After all, when you hire a florist, you get beautiful flowers; when you hire a caterer, there’s delicious food.  But when you hire a planner, what do you get?

Let’s look at that question in reverse:  What do you get when you don’t hire a planner?

I’m in a lot of online groups for wedding vendors, and one thing I see happening constantly is musicians and florists and hair stylists asking the group to recommend other vendors.  Just today, a musician was trying to help out her client by asking for recommendations for flowers, uplighting, and a chuppah.  Now, a musician is no expert on those vendors.  But a planner is.  If the couple had hired a planner or coordinator–like, say, me–they would have the benefit of my extensive vendor list at no additional charge.  But because they haven’t hired a planner (yet), it takes much longer to get recommendations.

There have been occasions when I have been hired very close to the wedding day, when most of the major decisions have been made already.  There’s nothing really wrong with that, but if I had been hired early and had input into those decisions, I might have helped my clients make better or easier decisions.  In this case, what my clients didn’t get was expertise to make their planning process easier.

And, of course, if you don’t hire a day-of coordinator at all, what happens?  Someone has to do the work that a coordinator does on the wedding day:  putting out place cards, making sure the tables are set properly, starting the processional on time, keeping photographers informed, alerting people making toasts, adjusting the temperature, calling cabs…and so on.  If you don’t hire a professional, who will do all the things I do?  Either you will press one of your guests into service or wheedle a vendor whose job it isn’t to do them, or they just won’t get done.

These are just a few examples of what happens when you don’t hire a planner. And just because they are intangible doesn’t mean they aren’t important.  Sometimes, the things you can’t see are the most important ones of all.