What Wedding Planners REALLY Do: Mover

Have you ever wondered HOW all the bits and pieces, the decorations and menus and favors and special details, get to a wedding?  The answer is simple: The planner.

The Wedding Planner as Mover

Venues and vendors who know me know that when I first arrive on-site for a wedding or event I “move in.”  Typically my car is completely full of wedding supplies – both from the couple and from my personal stash – and it takes my assistant and I a decent amount of time to truly unpack.  This is because part of my final pre-rehearsal meeting with my couples is to get all their wedding supplies from them.

What does this mean for you?

No worrying about whether escort cards or guestbooks will get to the wedding, or sending your third cousin to your apartment an hour before the ceremony starts to pick up the programs.  We go through an inventory of all the pieces needed for your big day and where they should be at what time, and then I take them off your hands.  Then on your wedding day I stuff everything into my car and “move in” to your venue.

It’s not glamorous, it means a lot of sweat, and it can mean that my home office is stuffed full of your wedding supplies for a few days or weeks.  But it translates to less stress on the wedding day itself for both the couple (no last-second forgotten items) and my staff (everything is centralized and organized, and the function for each piece is known).

I often joke that 90% of my job is schlepping things from one place to another.  But when those “things” are details crucial to your wedding day, it’s one of the most important parts of my job!

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What Wedding Planners REALLY Do (a new series): Editor

Today I’m starting a new feature series here on my blog.  I’ve got so many post ideas that end up being so extremely long that I’m trying very hard to break them into smaller, more digestible bites.  This one came out of a discussion I had earlier this month with my newest couple (Diana + Julian).  Julian was skeptical that they really needed a coordinator to help with their wedding day preparation, and it got me thinking about all the different “hats” I wear in my function as planner (or designer or coordinator, but for this particular series I’ll be using the term “planner” to encompass all parts of the design, planning, and coordination process).

There are a lot.

So I decided to write them out.  Give a little explanation.  To give you some insight into just what your wedding planner does, on and before your wedding day.  You might just be surprised.

The first of my functions?  Editor.

The Wedding Planner as Editor

Do you remember playing as a kid?  Imagination abounded, you could be and do anything you wanted.  Possibilities were endless.  One day you had your heart set on being a rock star when you grew up.  The next it was a doctor.  The next an astronaut, or a paleontologist, or a baker who made cakes 100 layers high.  Do you remember that feeling?  That there were so many amazing opportunities for you?

That’s kind of how it feels when you’re first planning a wedding.

Actually, I know that it’s not the case for everyone (some people flat out hate wedding planning, and that’s where another of my roles as planner comes in, but we’ll get to that in a future post).  But for so many of my couples, their wedding is this fantastic opportunity to do whatever they want!!!!  Bubbles, rice, confetti, streamers, sparklers…  The possibilities are astounding.  And those are just for the end of the ceremony!

Most wedding planning journeys take a lot of twists and turns.  You might choose a theme but be completely stuck on colors, or decide on one look and then suddenly realize it’s wrong for you.  One of my former clients looked into three separate “feels” for her day.  Sometimes remnants of one theme stick around after that theme is long gone.  Sometimes there are just too many ideas to decide.  Sometimes there isn’t much clarity at all.

In my role as wedding planner, I help you to pare down all those ideas and unify all those themes.  Part of my job in the planner/designer capacity is to make sure that your ideas all tie together on your wedding day.  I try to look at your overall plans and tweak them so that they make sense.

For example, when designing the details for Emily + Jeremy’s Wedding, we knew that the very!bright! color of the pool house wasn’t going to tie in with her wedding day style.  So we created a showpiece using Chinese lanterns, and brought them into the other spaces in the wedding.

For The McAwesome Wedding, Neva came to me with a few ideas – elephants! birdcages! The Party! lanterns! peacock feathers! daisies! – and her wedding invitation (which featured a round cutout piece of patterned rice paper) and we sketched out a basic plan for her table runners and reception decor, bringing them all together.

Handcrafted rice paper centerpiece for the family's round table by Events by Elisa

For E+D’s Wedding, I remember when the bride first sent me the link to her inspiration photos in Google Docs.  There were over 40 different photographs there!  Together, we went through, prioritizing, discussing options, working to unify her disparate ideas.  In the end, we pared things down to just what was really important to her, carried the bird theme loosely throughout the day, and I threw in a couple of fun surprises.

Welcome Chalkboard

Your planner will ideally be able to help you create an overall vision for the day, cut out the pieces that simply don’t fit, and put a pretty little bow on top.  Because your planner has seen how all the elements of a wedding interact with each other on many occasions, she can tell you what will make the greatest impact or how best to make all your ideas work in concert.  But only if you share your vision with her and listen to her input – otherwise, she’s got nothing but a blank page!

Photo credits:

Ten Myths About Wedding Planners

Planning your wedding is a complex business.  Sometimes it feels like everyone is just trying to get money from you.  And for the bride-on-a-budget, hiring a wedding planner can seem like an extravagant expense.  The only thing is: most brides-to-be aren’t very educated about what a planner does.  And because of this, some pretty big misconceptions about wedding planners persist.  Below are the top ten myths about wedding planners that I would like to see disappear!

  1. Wedding planners don’t post prices because they want you to give them your budget first so they can charge you more.
    Handmade Tissue Poms and Photo Booth Props

    Your planner may have skills over and above managing your wedding - like making tissue poms at the drop of a hat - or inventory to help defray your costs - like her own arsenal of photo booth props!

    Depending on the type of service your planner provides, she may be basing her price on the overall budget for your event.  However, this practices is typically reserved for full-service high-end weddings.  Why, then, do most planners still not post their prices online?  Simple!  A wedding planner usually won’t quote prices until she’s learned a little bit more about your event!  Since each wedding is different, a good wedding planner will tailor her service to meet your needs.  But a lot of it depends on you.  Do you have a large wedding, a short turnaround time, a complicated setup?  Your wedding planner may need to bring in an assistant or two to help out on the day of.  Do you need extra help making a DIY project, working out a design problem, or finding a vendor?  Your wedding planner may be able to help – but these all take time, so they will probably not be included in her simplest coordination package.  Depending on the individual, your planner may have skills in invitation or floral design, may have an arsenal of DIY projects at the ready, or may stock their own decor items for your use; all of these add value to their base price and may save you cold hard cash in the long run.

  2. If you have to ask, it’s too expensive.
    Due to the complexity of the process of quoting prices for your wedding day (see above), most wedding planners simply don’t post their prices.  But there are planners to fit into every price range.  Nearly every planner needs to learn more about you before she will be able to quote you a price.  But you’d be surprised how many planners are actually more affordable than you think.  And if the planner you like doesn’t meet your budgetary needs, she may be able to suggest a colleague who does.
  3. Anyone can be a wedding planner.
    While it’s true that wedding planners’ education and experience can vary widely, a good planner has skills in organization, multi-tasking, and motivation; as well as the resourcefulness to come up with alternate ideas on the fly and a definite grace under pressure.  This combination is a rarity in the world at large.  Before you “hire” a friend without event experience to be your day-of coordinator, consider this: Your friend may throw a really great party, but a planner will have the ability to simultaneously handle all your vendors, troubleshoot issues, and get your flower girl to walk down the aisle, all while shielding you from the wedding day craziness that is bound to pop up.  Remember, a planner has done this dozens of times (sometimes hundreds).  She knows how to handle even the toughest of problems without stressing you, the bride, out.
  4. I have a site coordinator, so that’s the same as a wedding planner.
    Site coordinators for churches and reception halls represent their employers.  They have the site’s best interests in mind, are always thinking of the next sale or ceremony, and will only offer you a limited choice of options available based on their experience (I once had a church coordinator tell my bride “This is the only way to do it,” about the number of attendants standing at the front of the church when they were taking their vows; every other Catholic wedding I’d seen allowed all the members of the wedding party to line up with the couple, and this was what my bride wanted, but the site coordinator insisted and didn’t back down until I intervened).  Typically, site coordinators for reception sites will be there at the beginning of the wedding, check on the party a few times, and leave, ready to move on to the next event.  Sometimes they’ll even have more than one wedding reception going on at once.  Wedding planners represent you.  They have your best interests in mind.  On your wedding day, your wedding planner is only thinking of you and your wedding.  Your planner will be with you all day; when she’s not with you, she’s tracking down a vendor, setting up a table, or making sure you have food.  You are her number one priority.
  5. Wedding planners don’t actually work.  They just get paid to stand around and tell people what to do.
    Wedding planners are constantly on their feet, constantly going.  Your planner is the first person there on your wedding day, and the last one to leave.  She has to know the intimate details of your wedding timeline like the back of her hand, make sure that everything is in place for all the special moments during your reception, and make it all happen.  She’ll lift, carry, move, kneel, crawl, grab, and schlep.  And that’s just during setup. Your planner is on call for the entire wedding ceremony and reception, ready to do whatever it takes to make your wedding day amazing.
  6. Wedding planners only work one or two days a week.
    While it’s true that most planners tend to schedule weddings on the weekends (that’s just when weddings typically happen), it doesn’t mean that they aren’t working throughout the week.  Usually for lots more hours than a “normal” work week.  You see, a typical day-of-plus wedding coordination job is, for me, 10-15 hours of onsite work and 15-20 hours of work before the wedding day even begins.  Even “simple” day-of coordination usually involves nearly as many hours of work offsite as on.  Why?  Wedding planning involves much more than just showing up and barking orders.  Before your wedding day, your planner will meet with you one-on-one, create a wedding strategy, compile the information from your other vendors, create and distribute a timeline, confirm that everything is going according to plan, run your rehearsal, and take possession of your wedding day decor.  That’s assuming that she hasn’t already put together all your wedding decor herself or helped you to do it, contracted with your vendors, and been to the site four or five times to make sure the strategy works.  Add to that answering your frantic e-mails and phone calls, networking with other vendors to help establish relationships (which leads to the ability to find last-second replacements, excellent service, and, sometimes even deals, for you), and running her own company…  And that adds up to a lot of late nights.  Which brings us to…
  7. Wedding planners with ‘day jobs’ aren’t as good as full-time wedding planners.
    "By day, mild-mannered Student Advisor... By Night, Wedding Diva!"

    "Wedding Diva"... Okay, actually, this was last year's Halloween costume. Don't judge! 🙂

    As a superhero wedding planner myself (“by day, mild-mannered student advisor, by night, Wedding Diva!”), I really hate this misconception.  Many, many planners (and photographers, and videographers, and other wedding vendors) have day jobs.  It’s how we pay the bills.  It’s what allows us to run around all weekend, schlepping equipment, in order to make your wedding day spectacular.  It keeps us from having to charge ridiculously high prices to keep from starving.  Which means we can keep our prices low.  Often times, wedding planners with day jobs will be just starting out in the industry, but not always.  Weddings don’t bring steady paychecks, even for the most seasoned of planners.  Which means that your planner-with-a-day-job might actually be able to focus on you more than your full-time planner (who might be looking for the next client already).  There are plenty of awesome, super-high-service, full-time wedding planners out there.  Just know that there are also plenty of awesome, super-high-service, part-time wedding planners out there too.

  8. If I am going to hire a wedding planner, I need to go with the cheapest one I can find, period.
    The thing is, wedding planning is about relationships, not bottom lines.  Every wedding planner has her own style, every one will build her relationship with you and the other vendors at your wedding in a different way.  You’ll need to make sure that your style meshes well with hers before booking.  That usually means meeting with her, discussing your wedding day and yourselves as a couple, and making sure that she can provide everything you want/need, in a way that makes you feel good, for a price you’re comfortable paying.  The worst mistake anyone could make when hiring a wedding planner is to simply hire the cheapest one before having a real conversation with her and getting to know how she does business.  How does she handle stressful situations, or changes, or other vendors?  How does she put together your wedding day?  What does she offer in addition to simply being a warm body on the day of your wedding (see #1)?  This goes for “gut” feelings too; sometimes people don’t really hit it off – it happens, and it’s not personal.  But if you don’t feel comfortable with your planner, how can you trust her to make the right decisions and handle all the pieces of your wedding day?
  9. I need to haggle with my wedding planner in order to get the best price.
    Wedding planning is a serious profession that requires education and expertise.  I love to haggle for good deals with the best of them, but a planner is nothing like a flea market vendor.  I’m not saying that you should take out a second mortgage just to pay for your wedding planner.  But wedding planners’ prices are based on a lot of factors, including their hard costs (for web hosting, materials, permits, taxes, space, and advertising) and the costs of living.  Your planner will have spent many hours coming up with exactly the right balance for her pricing so that she can continue to provide you great service.  If your mechanic or your doctor quoted you a price for a service you needed them to perform, you wouldn’t lowball them, would you?  A wedding planner has a set of professional skills too.  Granted, in certain circumstances, planners may be willing to negotiate, especially if a real connection and relationship is made between you (see #9).  But usually a planner has quoted you the best price she can to meet your service needs and stay in business.
  10. I don’t need a wedding planner.
    With a wedding planner, you can enjoy your wedding day.

    ...you'll be getting married, enjoying your new husband, and partying at your reception.

    Here’s the bottom line: No one needs a wedding planner.  Everyone would benefit from having one.  Your planner will keep you sane through one of the most stressful times of your life.  Instead of worrying whether the DJ has the music, or your engraved cake cutter is on the cake table, or your Aunt Mildred will ever find her table, you’ll be getting married, enjoying your new husband, and partying at your reception.  Your planner will keep you organized, making sure your timeline makes sense and all of your wedding-day details are in place.  She’ll be your representative with the other vendors, your surrogate mother, your coach, your emergency diffuser, your support on your wedding day.  And who couldn’t benefit from that?

All photos copyright Events by Elisa.