Information and Your Planner

October 9th, 2017
Here's me pinning flowers on a family member.  Naturally, you want me to know who gets which flowers.  (Photo by HappyBuddy Photo Art.)

Here’s me pinning flowers on a family member. Naturally, you want me to know who gets which flowers. (Photo by HappyBuddy Photo Art.)

Because most people don’t work with wedding or party planners (or coordinators) most of the time, when they hire one, they have to figure out how best to work with them.  If you’re in that position yourself, let me give you one really big tip on how to make the most of your planner or coordinator.

The first thing you can do to make sure your planner can do her best job is give her information, lots and lots of information.  I have had clients say to me (in these exact words), “I don’t want to overwhelm you with information.”  But it is my job–and it is my specialty–to hold and use and organize massive amounts of information.

In fact, most of what you might need a planner to do is organizing information.  Never thought of it that way?  Well, it’s true:  The schedule for your event is a document that organizes and systematizes information, as is the ground plan.  And you’ll get the best, most functional schedule or layout if you give your planner every bit of information at your disposal, even information that doesn’t seem vital.  Your planner might also be in charge of your decorations.  What she needs is not just the decorative items, themselves, but also the information about where they go and how.

You could say that my motto is, “There is no such thing as useless information.”  As a planner or coordinator, I am often asked the most obscure questions by other wedding vendors.  You never know what someone will want or need to know in order to make your event stellar.

So, please, overwhelm me with information.  I love it when you tell me everything you need–and everything you’re thinking is important.  When that avalanche of information arrives on my desk, I’m always so happy, because then I know I can do my absolute best work to make your wedding or event turn out as you envision it.

Shakespeare Gets Married

July 3rd, 2017
The Shakespeare Garden in Evanston, IL.  If you like the Bard, it's a great place to get married.

The Shakespeare Garden in Evanston, IL. If you like the Bard, it’s a great place to get married.

Remember the film Shakespeare in Love?  It appeared in a stage version in Chicago recently and I was reminded of one of my favorite quotes from it:  “Mr. Fennyman, allow me to explain about the theatre business. The natural condition is one of insurmountable obstacles on the road to imminent disaster.”  While this quotation definitely rings true regarding the business of theatre, it also has faint echoes when it comes to weddings.

Now, producing live theatre is actually a lot harder than wedding planning.  (Trust me:  I’ve done both.)  It has some of the same elements, but there’s one big difference:  A stage production has to maintain its illusion of reality at all times and at any cost, no matter what goes wrong or how badly.

The nice thing about weddings is that they are actually real and don’t have to maintain any kind of illusion.  Sometimes people planning weddings are under the mistaken impression that they have to present an illusion of perfection (whatever that means to them), but I’m here to tell you that it isn’t true.  Weddings and theatre both share an element of ritual, but that is about where the similarity ends.

So, if you’re busy planning your wedding and feeling as if you’re running into too many insurmountable obstacles or that you’re on the road to imminent disaster, try taking a step back and looking at the big picture.  Will you end up married to the right person at the end of the day?  Yes?  Well, then you will have had a successful wedding.  It’s nice if your guests are also fed and have someplace to sit and maybe a little entertainment, but as long as the main event comes off, you did it right.  So, don’t sweat the small stuff.

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.

Do You Have a Rain Plan?

June 12th, 2017
5.30.15 Garfield Park-BeccaHeuerPhotography_42

Not a good day for an outdoor wedding! (Photo by Becca Heuer Photography.)

Summer and fall weddings mean time in the great outdoors.  Outdoor ceremonies are very popular. Outdoor receptions are quite common.  There are lots of good reasons for this.  Natural beauty seems to be the perfect complement to a wedding.  And in places like Chicago, we all want to be outdoors when the weather is nice.

At the same time, everyone who has lived here for more than a minute knows just how changeable the weather can be.  Cold and rainy in July?  You bet!  Hot and sunny one minute and downpour the next?  Count on it.  So, how do you deal with the uncertain actor that the weather is?

Here is my one big rule of thumb for outdoor events:  If you don’t have a good, solid rain plan, there is a high likelihood that you will need one.

I remember one wedding that was supposed to be outdoors in a lovely garden.  The couple could have rented a nearby chapel at the time they reserved the garden, but they decided to take a chance on it and not spend the extra money.  As they got closer to the wedding date, it became clearer that they should have a back-up location–but the chapel had already been booked by someone else!  The couple resisted my pleas to come up with an alternative, trusting to their good luck.  Sure enough, the wedding day came around and the weather was terrible: wind, rain, cold.

Fortunately, the staff of the hotel where the reception took place was sympathetic, and they were good enough to work with me and my assistant, and they let us set up the ceremony in a wide, private hallway next to the reception hall.  We scrambled to set up chairs and make it look beautiful.

On most weddings, the couples agree with me, and we have a written plan to follow if the weather won’t cooperate.  Every once in a great while, we need to actually use that rain plan, and then it is easy because it has all been thought about in advance and communicated to everyone who needs to know.

But most of the time, if you have your rain plan in place and it is a good one, you won’t need it.  So, take the time to make that rain plan.  It’s good insurance.