The Blue Boot Events Team desperately needed to get some fresh headshots and team photos for our website, so of course I reached out to the amazing Mylah Renae with Eureka Photography to see if she could help us. I was so grateful when she said yes!
After a super fun and successful photo shoot, we all went out to dinner. With six coordinators and a photographer around the table, stories of past weddings filled the air. We talked about highlights as well as hiccups that have happened on the big day. We all shared some good laughs and reminisced on the memories we shared. Towards the end of the night, Mylah asked if we would be up for writing a blog about things us planners wished our couples knew for planning their wedding. What a great idea! So here it is ladies and gents. We could have written a book, but here are the top 10 tips we wish every couple knew going in to their engagement.
Let it go – Let it go!
Elsa from Frozen could not have said it any better. I try so hard to coach my couples on when to let go of the planning process, and just trust that it will all come together. The two areas we find challenges with are: guest’s RSVPs, and stopping last minute additions.
Majority of your vendors will require a final headcount 2-weeks prior to the wedding. That gives us just enough time to finalize everything on our end and send you a final invoice. It is VERY rare to not have changes to that headcount a week before, the day before, and even day of. Expect a few of your loved ones to let you know they are no longer coming or they can come after all. We understand this is stressful. Maybe you need to add another meal, or feel the need to completely rearrange the seating chart. LET. IT. GO! Just let it go. Tell your coordinator and request they take care of any necessary arrangements. Our job is to find solutions to problems so you do not have to stress. Let it go, and let us do the job your hired us for. I once had a bride an entire hour late starting her hair and makeup because she was reprinting her seating arrangement cards the morning of her wedding. This made her an hour late starting her photos, which left her having only half of the shots she wanted for her wedding day. She was so stressed and teary for most of the morning, then cried once she got her photos back.
Part two of this; stop last minute additions. I have so many couples that fall in love with the planning process. Trust me, I get it! It is SO much fun! Some of these couple’s see the end in sight and get a case of the post-wedding blues before even walking down the aisle. You’ve just spent countless hours over the last several months organizing this special occasion, and you don’t want the fun to end. That’s ok, however adding on last minute projects and readjusting current plans can get very messy, very quick. At some point, you have to let it go, know you did a great job planning the event, and just enjoy it.
We had a couple that always wanted to have some sort of new project to be working on. By 30-days prior, we had the entire timeline and floor plan perfected. Vendors were paid up, the design was flawless, everything was going great! We were also spot on with our budget. In the last 30-days we ended up hiring 4 new vendors that sent us over budget, and completely redesigned the timeline and floor plan – twice (which caused us to have to increase our rental and floral order, and add more staff). They were so happy at the 30-day prior mark, but just wanted to keep the fun going. Their additions were nice, but not worth their stress or going over their budget. When you have accomplished your vision, reached your budget, and feel settled, relax and enjoy the rest of your time as an engaged couple. Thanks to Pinterest and Instagram, you will always be finding new trends and fun features that could be added to your event. It’s enticing, but sometimes just not worth your money, sanity, and time.
Hire a Coordinator or Planner
I’m not just trying to increase my sales here, it really IS important to hire at least a coordinator for your event. If your budget allows it, get a planner!
We are just as crucial to your event as a DJ or Band, or photographer, or caterer. You need us! A lot of couples view us as a luxury vendor, and often put us near the end of their list of priorities when building their budget. In the mid-19th century, when weddings were only the parents and couple going to a church on Sunday, then celebrating with cake and punch after; it did not take much to manage those three vendors. Now couples hire a minimum of 8 vendors for their event and weddings last an average of 5-hours with about 4-hours of set up prior and 1-hour of break down. In conclusion, it is a 10-hour long day with several of your loved ones and staff needing a point of contact to direct and manage them. Do you want your caterer to call you while you’re putting on your wedding dress to ask where you would like your water station placed? Oh, it would be so much fun to stop getting your hair and makeup done to count inventory of your alcohol with the supplier’s delivery. Better yet, once that hair and makeup is done, let’s go sweat it off to put linens on tables and decorate them. NO! None of that sounds fun. Your vendors need direction. Your guest need a point of contact. You need help with set up, no matter how minimal your plan is. Without a coordinator you will get question, after question, after question on the wedding day because you are the only one with the answers. It does not make sense to spend a few or several thousands of dollars on a party you can’t even enjoy. Referring back to paragraph one… Let it go! … and just hire a coordinator or planner.
Keep in mind when you are shopping for a coordinator that some of us advertise our “day of coordination” services as event management, or month of planner. There is ABSOLUTELY no such thing as a day of coordinator. It takes time and preparation for a coordinator to successfully manage your event. There is no way someone could just show up day-of, and do their job properly. If someone is advertising that they can do this, run for the hills and don’t give them a penny.
Last but not least, your “venue manager” is NOT a coordinator. Nor is your DJ or Catering Manager. Let these vendors focus on their services, and your coordinator to manage the overall event.
Turn down those friend and family offers.
Sometimes those friends and family discounts or favors can be very tempting to take advantage of. Keep in mind whoever you assign tasks to on the wedding day, will not be able to enjoy the day with you. Your best buddy may be a great DJ, maybe they’re even a professional, however your buddy will not be on the dance floor having a good time with you. I’ve seen an Aunt delivering and setting up the dessert table which made her miss the entire ceremony. I’ve seen a buttercream cake completely melt in 90 degree weather because they didn’t know their cake wouldn’t fit in the fridge and the venue did not have AC. I have seen countless boutonnieres completely fall apart before photos because they were made wrong. The worst one of all, I had a couple who’s friend volunteered to be the officiant. He did not show up till 5 minutes before the ceremony because he and the groom had a disagreement the night before. I had to call him and beg for mercy to marry them. His response, “I’ll think about it.” Thankfully they got married, however he totally skipped over the majority of the script, making their ceremony only 3 to 5-minutes long. Shortest ceremony to date. I had not even closed the doors before the recessional started.
Ease your stress, and theirs. Thank them for the offer, because it is so kind they asked. Just let them know you love them and want them to enjoy the day with you, therefore you’d like to hire someone else to do the hard work.
Most of the time, you get what you pay for.
All vendors are different. We all have different styled packages/services. Our pricing structure varies. Our contracts are far from identical. However, most of the time, not always, but most of the time, you will get what you pay for. This should not sound negative, because some economical vendors are exactly what the couple needs. It’s just logical. Example: The $1 per stem carnation looks different than the $10 per stem posey.
We do keep our pricing competitive, and the tiers range from economical to average to elite. You’ll see the dollar signs on websites to help guide you (Economical = $ | Average = $$$ | Elite = $$$$) Vendors with lower price tags intend their pricing to be that way for one reason or another. Same with more luxurious vendors.
When we meet with couples we ask them, “What is most important to you? Is it the food? Or music? Or design? Etc.” By knowing their priorities we can divide their budget to assign what tier of service we need for each vendor. If food is the most important thing, and decorations is not a priority, I’ll recommend an elite caterer and economical florist. The economical florist does good work, but my couple is not looking to have a $500 centerpiece. They will pay less to get less, and that’s ok, because that is what they want.
Now here is the flip side, sometimes an economical vendor promises you elite services, then does not provide them and you find out when it is too late. If their pricing is coming in way under their competitors, yet they’re claiming to be offering the same services, then you should proceed with caution, if at all. Go with your gut, and if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
You may get lucky and have found someone who is really good, is just starting out, and is hungry for business and reviews, but don’t assume this is the reason and do some investigating before signing a contract.
Small side note, you can easily identify if a company is real and legit by asking if they carry at least $1,000,000 in general liability coverage. This means they are established and if something was to go wrong, they are covered thus you have extra coverage too.
Catering and Staff are SO important.
The most common hire I see my coordination clients struggle with is deciding which catering company to go to. It should be one of the, if not the, biggest purchase for your event. I would never advise not hiring a coordinator, but if for some reason you don’t, please hire an outstanding catering and staffing team.
There are three different types of catering companies.
1.) Full Service. They show up hours before the event begins. Serve all the food. Manage bussing and cleaning throughout the entire event. They leave half an hour to an hour after the event ends and all the work is done.
2.) Caterers that show up 30 to 60 minutes before the event, serve the food, and leave after cleaning up their mess.
3.) They drop off the food, and that is it.
It is very frustrating because a lot of companies will advertise themselves as full service, but truly they’re not. So keep in mind that they are only full service if they stay the entire event and provide staff for the entire event. You can hire any of these styles of catering companies for your event (if your venue allows it), just know events tend to run more smoothly if they are full service. You will have a team who is experienced, they work well together, they likely have a team manager, they know the food, and they know the venue’s rules and regulations. If you decide to hire a caterer that is not full service, then you have to hire a good staffing company to assist with all the hard work. A staffing company would ensure your food is kept at a safe temperature, served in a healthy manner, and all the trash is picked up then disposed properly. You can usually tell the difference in full service vs. not full service based off the cost per person. In our area, if a plate is less than $17 per person, I am investigating if they are truly full service. For that company to supply the food and staff at any less, I am questioning how they are profiting any money.
If you find yourself in this situation, carefully read their contract and services included, and ask what their add on services are. I’ve seen catering companies draw couples in with $12 plates, then later charge them $500 for cleaning services + $300 to move chairs + $1,000 for additional staff. It is often during the final planning days that couples discover these services are required and with a contract already in they’re left with no other option but to pay the crazy unexpected fees.
DIY is not always cheaper and is never easier.
“I’m just going to go to Hobby Lobby and buy silk flowers because they’re cheaper.” Nails on a chalkboard to every planner and florist. If you’re wanting a 12” wide bouquet full of only poseys and roses for a Valentine’s Day wedding, yes it would be cheaper. Sometimes you just need to be open to alternative flowers that can accomplish the same style for a cheaper price. As much as I love Pinterest for inspiration, it is such an enemy to most designers. We’ll consult with a couple who has a decent budget, but their entire Pinterest board is full of triple digit budget wedding designs. They are gorgeous, but we need you to be flexible and open to other ideas that are more realistic with your budget. If you’re flexible and open, then we can make magic happen, and maybe even accomplish something better! Do you want to copy and paste your Pinterest Board and make it look like every other wedding your guests have gone to that year, or do you want something more customized to you?
I’ve had couples that want to make their own photo booths, bring in 8’ tall doughnut walls, build their own arbors, etc.. A lot of these DIY projects are amazing and gorgeous. In all honesty though, most of the time they do end of costing the same as if you were to rent them. Those DIY weddings always have 10 loved ones hustling at the end of the night scrambling to find enough vehicles to pack their items in. They’re sweating before the wedding trying to transport their projects to the venue. They’re spending countless hours of labor to make everything. I’ve had bride’s report to me they were up till 2am the night before hot gluing, cutting, and assembling decorations. It is so stressful to create. So stressful to get to the venue. Then your loved ones dred clean up at the end of the night. Getting it all back to where it needs to go is exhausting after partying for 5-hours.
You should bring some photos or personal touches, your sign in props, and maybe some favors, but other than that let your vendors do the hard work so you and your loved ones can relax to the max during the planning process and wedding week.
It is 2019, there are no rules!
Plan the wedding you want. There are so many traditions in weddings, but after centuries of celebrations of marriage, we are far from sticking with the original rules. Every year the celebrations become more elaborate and more focused on the couple celebrating their love. Some couples feel obligated to “check the boxes” on certain traditions. One example: If you would rather not have grandma see your husband’s head up your dress to pull off a garter, you don’t have to do a garter toss!
Sometimes your older loved ones, especially parents and grandparents, will be very adamant on including some traditions. If they’re paying for the wedding, try to meet in the middle. Here is maybe my most popular broken tradition: “No Mom, I do not want a wedding cake. I don’t even like cake. If it is so important to you though, maybe we could cut a small cake and serve an ice cream bar.” That is a fair compromise.
Bluntly said, if they’re not paying for it, their opinion doesn’t matter because this is your day and you are the one in charge of the finances.
You are paying per head.
As a planner this is one thing I wish I could make easier for our couples, but I have no way of telling you who to cut or not cut from your guest list. All I can say is keep in mind you are paying an average of $90- $300 per person to have a seat at your ceremony and reception, eat a meal, have a slice of cake, then have 1 to 2 drinks per hour.
Though you haven’t talked since last Christmas or seen each other in 5 years, you may really care and love your third cousin. You may feel obligated to invite them, and assume that since they live in Canada, they would never consider coming to your wedding. When I originally started weddings in Houston, TX, I saw a trend that it was about a 50-50 chance for those guests to actually attend, but here in central Texas we are seeing that 80-90% of your invited guest list will accept. A lot of guests will make an exception and come to the wedding. Traveling is becoming easier and deals are always available. My advice: don’t risk it. Make sure they know you love them, but it is ok to explain that weddings are very expensive, and you had to make some very tough decisions when it came to your guest list.
It is common for distant loved ones to reach out once they discover you’re engaged. They’ll ask where to get a hotel room, or what’s the date so they can be sure to get off work. These are subtle ways to test if they’re getting invited or not. Hold your ground, and think to yourself, “Would this person spend $95-$300 on me? Would they invite me to their wedding? Would I gift them $95-$300 to spend 5-hours with me?” It will be tough, and you may feel bad, but don’t lose sight that this is your big day. You have a limited amount of time to converse with each person during your wedding. You want to look back on the photos and be thrilled to see the people in all of them. All that matters is that you are happy, and you’re celebrating with people who love you and you love in return.
Do not order your wedding dress online!
ALL the time I hear these horror stories and every time they make my heart hurt. Wedding gowns can be expensive, and we live in a world where online shopping can be more cost effective as well as convenient. I have had so many poor brides find the perfect dress, sometimes even go to a store that has the same dress and try it on, then they order it online. Sometimes, it looks like it is even coming straight from the designer’s website. Companies overseas have mastered the process on how to scam poor brides in having them believe they’re buying this gorgeous gown for half the cost. When the dress comes in, it looks nothing like the photo and is made from the cheapest material that it couldn’t even pass for a decent Halloween costume. Play it safe, and just do not shop online. If you’re not feeling good in what you’re wearing for the wedding day, you’re not going to be as happy as you could be, and when the photos come back, you’re not going to be as pleased with them no matter how amazing the photographer was. If your budget is very tight for a gown you can search for sales at local stores, or visit a resale shop. I’ve even had a couple brides luck out at Goodwill!
Hire the RIGHT Vendor for THEIR Job
Every company is different, but sometimes it is best to hire a professional to do their one and only profession. The most common analogy I use to help support this statement is by discussing the difference in lawyers. Here is my example:
You have to hire a lawyer to help you in a civil case. Would you hire an environmental lawyer to defend you? Sure an environmental lawyer and a civil case lawyer both practice law, but they are not as knowledgeable as the other in their field of expertise.
I am a great planner. I know just enough of each profession to understand it, but I am not a professional in their field of expertise. I know the basics of floral, but I wouldn’t trust me to make a bouquet. How would I know what flowers would hold up or wilt? Would you trust me to build you wedding cake just because I have the basic knowledge of how many servings can be done with each tier. No! Hire a florist. Hire a baker. Again, this is not always true, some event professionals are crazy talented, but what I am trying to say is if you’re about to hire a planner-forist-baker, really do your research. Determine if they’re taking on too many responsibilities, and if they will be able to accomplish each service up to your standards.
Thank you so much for reading this far in this super lengthy blog. Again, we could have written a whole book, but hopefully this was insightful and helpful for those newly engaged couples out there.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, hire a planner! We have never had a client say they wish they didn’t hire us, but we’ve heard over and over again from married couples how they regret not having a least a coordinator.
Owner & Planner, Blue Boot Events