Ask the Planner: What is “Wedding Hangover”?

If you follow many wedding professionals on Twitter or even Facebook, you’ve probably noticed the phrase “Wedding Hangover.”  And wondered, “Hey, wait a second, were they DRINKING at last night’s wedding???”

Almost across the board (there are the occasional DJs who feel that it’s a totally normal part of their job; I won’t get into my feelings for that here, but let’s assume you’re hiring true professionals, ok?), the answer is a resounding “NO!”

I get asked this question at least once a month by someone who sees one of my posts.  They wonder how I can do my job while drinking.  The answer is that I couldn’t – I am very sensitive to alcohol and tend to fall asleep after more than a single sip!  You would never see me drinking on the job.  But I still suffer from “Wedding Hangover.”  Like, after every wedding.

So what is it?

In short, wedding hangover is the soreness and exhaustion a wedding vendor’s body feels the day after a wedding.  Planners, coordinators, designers, photographers, videographers, DJs, and catering staff are on their feet, running around, for hours and hours on your wedding day.  We often forget to drink water (it’s not uncommon for us to forget to hydrate altogether until dinner and from then until the end of the night), don’t typically eat often enough, and ignore our own bodily needs until it’s convenient for us to address them (I’ve seen pros completely ignore cuts and sunburns for hours, work on sprained ankles, and forget to use the restroom all night….).  It’s just part of our jobs; weddings happen on a certain schedule and we need to be there to do our parts.  So it’s no surprise that we feel the effects afterward.

Do you know how it feels to be hung over?  Whether from alcohol, running a long race, or being a new parent, it’s the same.  Foggy, fuzzy-headed, ready to nap at a moment’s notice, sore and achy, with stiff joints and dry skin.  That is precisely what wedding professionals feel after every wedding.  Many wedding professionals (myself included) try really hard not to schedule meetings the day after a wedding, so that anyone they’re meeting with doesn’t get the wrong impression.  My energy level is usually extremely low the day after a wedding, my throat gravelly, and my eyelids heavy.  Sometimes I’m so hopped up on caffeine that I can’t stop talking at the speed of light.  True story.  It’s no way to really meet me.  Because I don’t do back-to-back weddings, I will not be “hung over” on your wedding day – so I’d rather you meet me when I am more like myself.

But any time anyone says, “Oh wow, what a fun job!!!” (or the downright silly of this statement, “Oh, wow, what an easy job!”) I laugh.  To clarify, I love, loveLOVE what I do.  I adore being a wedding and event planner, working with amazing brides and vendors, and making beautiful and happy things happen for my clients.  But it’s not always fun (see above, sunburns, cuts, and sprained ankles, all of which happened to me in the last two weeks) and it’s definitely not easy.  It’s a ton of work, ten to fourteen hours at a time (next weekend I’ll be working or driving to my wedding from 9:30 am until 11:00 pm; the longest day I’ve had was at a gala when I worked for the nonprofit, it started before 8 am and wasn’t over until after 1 am the next day).  It’s exhausting.

Today is the day after a wedding.  Alexis + Chris got married yesterday in Coronado.  I woke up on Wednesday with a sore back (I still can’t quite figure out exactly what I did) and have been dealing with it on and off ever since.  Yesterday I wore a brace all day (it was 80 degrees and that thing was HOT!).  While looking for my assistant (who, thanks to summer beach traffic, had to park three or four blocks away and couldn’t find the reception room), I rolled my ankle.  I somehow managed to cut my finger (luckily not enough for it to bleed, just enough to sting).  I got home around midnight and had to wake up at six for my day job.  I’m hobbling and every muscle in my body aches.  I am desperately in need of more coffee but I don’t know if I can make it to the cart a block away!

Why do I tell you all this?

Because I had the most amazing time yesterday.  My bride was stunning, my groom handsome.  The vendor team was incredible.  The details were fabulous.  I woke up this morning sore and tired and didn’t really want to move.  But I woke up smiling.  I am so proud of yesterday’s wedding.  Wedding hangover is no match for wedding high.  No drugs or alcohol needed.

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What to Look for When Choosing Wedding Vendors

This post has been inspired by some conversations I’ve had over the last few months, both with other vendors and with clients and potential clients.  Every single point addressed here has come from more than one source, so I hope no one feels singled out!  I’ve been meaning to write something like this for a while!

Ah, wedding planning.  The fun! The joy!  The feeling of balancing on a tight rope with hundred-pound weights on your feet.

How do you know where to go?  For advice?  For support?  For recommendations?  After all, Aunt Mildred might have known all about wedding planning when she got married in 1943, but things have changed.  Drastically.  Even in just the last ten years.  Even in the last five.

With the advent of the internet, it’s incredibly easy to do research on your own.  And it can be incredibly overwhelming too.  How can you decide what you want when everything starts melting together after hours of searching into a big puddle of jewel-encrusted, lace-embellished, rose-scented goo?

Budgets are important of course – and it’s certainly not a good idea to spend more than you feel comfortable with.  But having been both a budget bride and a wedding vendor who works with brides who have budgets of all sizes, I think there are some other really important – and often overlooked – points to keep in mind when you’re choosing the vendors who will make your wedding day special.

  • How does the vendor talk about his or her clients? Client reviews are obviously the number one way that potential clients find their vendors.  If a vendor has high ratings, chances are that you’ll be more inclined to check them out.  But check to see, too, how a vendor talks about his or her clients online – in blog posts and comments, on Facebook and Twitter, and anywhere else they might be interacting with other vendors and clients – and to you specifically.  Are they excited?  Engaged?  Interested?  Helpful?  If a vendor consistently has a whiney, pushy, snobby, or complaining tone, it’s a big red flag.  I’m not a big fan of vendors who bash their clients.  And if a vendor ever tells you “Well, you don’t know, because you’ve never been married, but I’m an expert at this, so listen to me…”  Well, let’s just say that it’s a HUGE pet peeve of mine.  To clarify: I know you’ve probably never been married before, and I try to be an expert.  But I will never ever tell you that you must do something my way, just because I “know” what to do.

  • How does the vendor present him or herself? How do they come across online? On the phone?  In person?  Do they type in complete sentences or netspeak?  Do they answer e-mails promptly?  Do they dress professionally?  Do they have an informative website?  This is not to say that a vendor has to have the prettiest, flashiest, or most up-to-date website (goodness knows it took me long enough to have one I was proud of!).  But if they consistently come across as unprofessional, uneducated, or unprepared, they probably are.
  • Does the vendor’s work come across as high-quality? Please don’t confuse “work” with “photos of work,” unless you’re talking specifically about photography/videography.  Even then I have a caveat (see below).  High quality work doesn’t always mean high-quality photos or high-budget items.  Just like any foodie can tell you, the most authentic and best-tasting food can often be found in less-than-picturesque locations.  When you’re looking for a talented designer (florals, invitations, dresses, or weddings in general), look for thoughtful details, carefully placed.  Often, the most creative styling goes into the event with the smallest budget – it takes an out-of-the-box designer to stretch a few decoration dollars!  Instead of looking for exactly the details or the design you’d want, and instead of judging a wedding vendor by the budget of their last wedding, look for a vendor who puts thought into everything they put out, whether or not they have the best photographs.  By the way, this same principle can be applied to photographers too – don’t judge a photographer by the details in his or her photographs, but rather on the quality and composition of the photos themselves.

Handcrafted rice paper circle "sculpture" table runners by Events by Elisa

  • How do they work? This can sometimes be hard to determine from websites alone – you usually need to ask your potential vendors this question when you meet them. First and foremost, it’s important that you have compatible working styles (if you expect constant communication and they expect to not have contact with you after your contract signing, you might not work well together!).  But more than that, learning about their working style will help you to know whether you can trust them to really give your wedding special attention.
  • Value is not the same as cheap.  You’ve probably heard that you can have either low cost or high quality service.  I don’t necessarily subscribe to that idea – I think that it’s very possible to get a good balance of both.  But the best value service is usually not the lowest cost service – it’s the best mixture of quality and price.  Couples will often get so focused on the bottom line of their wedding that they overlook a vendor’s lack of experience or expertise.  I even made this mistake when planning my own wedding (despite my years of planning events for other people – it’s an easy trap to fall into!).  A good value vendor will be one who goes above and beyond the minimum, who offers you consistently good service and communication, and who knows how to make things happen.  Think of wedding vendors like purses – the ones who offer you the most value are not usually the least expensive.  Low quality purses can be expected to last a week or a month before breaking.  But high quality purses will easily last for years, and often buying a single high-quality purse can end up saving you money in the long run over buying low-quality pieces.  The same principle applies to vendors – if you’ll have to provide your DJ with a CD of all of the songs you want played at your wedding, or your florist requires constant attention, or your coordinator shows up an hour before the wedding ceremony and hasn’t even glanced at the timeline she didn’t help to make, you might be paying rock-bottom prices, but what are you really getting?  Look for vendors who go above and beyond the minimum, and your dollar will be well-spent.

Beautiful Handmade Guestbook

  • Book early! It’s never too early to book a high-quality wedding vendor.  For one thing, good vendors are in demand.  Waiting until late in your process can mean that you miss out on your favorite vendor because he or she is already busy on the day of your wedding.  For another, prices can go up (sometimes several times a year) as vendors find the best pricing structure for them.  And for a third, the earlier you book a vendor (particularly a coordinator/planner, but any vendor, really), the more value they can add.  From referring other quality vendors to adding on extras to helping you to create your design vision, good wedding vendors, when brought in early, can actually save you money, time, and hassle.
  • Do you LIKE this person? Your wedding vendors are going to be spending a lot of time making your wedding great.  It doesn’t make any sense to hire them if they don’t seem like someone you’d enjoy being around.  Coordinators, planners, designers, DJs, photographers, and officiants are integral to the success of your day.  Florists, graphic designers, and bakers won’t actually BE at your wedding, but you’ll still be trusting them to make your wedding day vision happen.  TRUST is key.  Don’t hire anyone you don’t like!

Photo credits:

Ch-ch-ch-changes!

If you’re in the middle of your wedding planning, you’ll certainly agree that things change.  From the moment you get engaged until the moment you walk away from your reception, the details of your wedding day are likely to change plenty.

Changing your mind is totally normal.  But what happens when you pull a switcheroo and don’t tell your wedding vendors?

Or when you ask them to do something way beyond their contracted duties?

In my last blog, I talked about tipping only vendors who go above and beyond your expectations.

But what happens when your expectations end up being above and beyond what you – and they – agreed to?

It’s hard to say for sure.  It does depend on the vendor’s resources and time.  But from the planner’s perspective, when a lot of changes are made, especially very close to a wedding date, it creates a good amount of background chaos.

When you hire a new vendor within a week or two before your wedding day, we need to add them to all correspondence, timelines, and diagrams.  And make sure that they know exactly what they need to do, which is actually more difficult in many ways than just getting them into our timelines.  Even the best vendor added at the last minute will have a lot of confusion about what they need to do, when, and where.

And when you add new duties for your existing vendors, especially right before the wedding itself, they may not actually be able to do a good job with the duties you’ve already asked them to perform.

For example, let’s say you plan to put together your own centerpieces but realize the day before the wedding that it won’t be possible.  You ask your coordinator to do them instead.  She might be able to.  But it might be at the expense of hanging lights, or placing favors, or helping your groomsmen put on their boutonnieres, or making sure that the caterers are setting up in the right place, or just plain managing other bits and pieces of your day.  She might not have enough staff to make that change so close to the wedding day, or she might need to start working even earlier on your wedding day than she’s expected to (and a good coordinator will already be working a 10-12 hour day at least, so please don’t ask her to get there earlier!).  Let’s say that you have very basic centerpieces, and every one takes an average of 10 minutes to put together (the amount of time goes up as the complexity goes up, and a coordinator might not actually have the ability to execute something very complicated!).  If you have 10 tables, that’s 100 minutes – almost two hours – that your coordinator wasn’t expecting to need to spend on your centerpieces.  At minimum.

The same thing happens when you ask your florist to “just put together the flowers we bought” in addition to the ones she’s already bringing, your DJ to set up the dance floor lights you rented, or your caterers to set up place settings that you weren’t able to get your volunteers to do.  Or you add extra pieces to your tables, or extra decor to your ceremony.  Trust me, a good vendor team will do everything they can to make your wedding day amazing.  But if you’ve made a change or addition, they might not always be able to find enough hands, or enough time.

So this is my very special request: When changes to your wedding day vision happen (they will), please keep your affected vendors informed, as soon as they happen.  No matter how small and insignificant they seem.  Please don’t wait until the last minute to spring a change on your vendors, and expect that they can make it happen.  Please don’t balk if your vendors tell you that, because of the additional work you’ve added, they will need to hire more helpers at a higher cost.  And please don’t hold it against your vendors if they’re unable to make a last-second change happen the way you’d like.

I’ve been incredibly lucky that my brides have truly been amazingly communicative and reasonable, and my vendor teams have truly been amazingly talented and flexible.  But if you’re a bride who’s thinking of springing a last-second change on your vendors so that you don’t have to pay them extra (it happens), please reconsider.  And if you’re a bride who’s made a last-second change with her wedding and is wondering how to proceed, please contact your coordinator and all affected vendors to explain the situation as soon as possible, and be understanding and flexible of their reactions!

Oh yes, and if you do spring a last-second change on your vendors, please consider this a situation in which they’ve gone above and beyond, and tip them!