Congratulations, you’re getting married!! I bet by now you are starting to realize that the wedding industry is just that — an entire industry that exists solely to service your big day dreams. WOW, it can be overwhelming. Most couples and their families are busy people, and the thought of running around trying to coordinate several vendors can seem daunting. Where to start? What to ask? How much to pay? These are all great questions that I would love to help provide an answer for.
I had the pleasure of speaking with some of our very seasoned and talented local pros that had some great information to share.
- Your Name, Company, Title: William Grace, Westin Annapolis Director of Catering
- What line of Business are you / your company in? Hospitality
- One thing you would like Brides and Grooms to know about your vendor category in general that they don’t already know, that would help them when researching your vendor category. Always hire a wedding planner. They will assist in all avenues to make sure that your day is stress free. Our hotel is the only hotel that has an open air kitchen concept in the ballroom. The Annapolis Ballroom is a contemporary feel space, with windows throughout. If you are looking for a space that is a restaurant feel but wanting a ballroom is a perfect fit.
- What is an average price range for your vendor category? $120 per person and above for plated meal before service charges and taxes
- Your favorite thing you’ve seen at a wedding: My favorite item that I have seen at a wedding is when a bride and groom make the wedding theirs, and not your typical ABC wedding.
- Anything else you would like to share: Annapolis is a busy wedding destination. Make sure you do not take too much time looking at venues if your heart is set on Annapolis.
- Name : My Flower Box Events
- Business: Event Floral Design Company specializing in Weddings and Grand Openings
- One thing you should know : You do not need to have picked everything out to come see a florist. Our creative consultation appointments are ones of exploration and education on floral selection and design options.
- Average Price:. In the state of Maryland we advise couples to reserve 10 percent of their overall wedding budget for floral decor which includes ceremony and reception “
- Favorite thing: Floating lotus pond as escort table
- Your Name, Company, Title – Christina Hamilton / Hamilton Photography / owner,photographer
- What line of Business are you / your company in? Photography (we specialize in weddings)
- One thing you would like Brides and Grooms to know about your vendor category in general that they don’t already know, that would help them when researching your vendor category. On top of high quality photography, make sure the company has superior customer service for both the ‘Pre’ AND ‘Post’ needs of your wedding! It amazes me how many photographers only provide great customer service until the contract gets signed! You want great service from beginning to end!
- What is an average price range for your vendor category? It varies depending on quality, experience and what comes with the package but broadly speaking $3000-$6000. At Hamilton Photography, the average price a couple spends is $4000-$5000.
- Your favorite thing you’ve seen at a wedding? I love seeing weddings that have amazing family bonds. When the siblings and parents are super excited for the couple and you can just tell that they have a great family life. It gets me every time.
- Anything else you would like to share? Smile, laugh and be yourself around the camera. Capturing the joy and emotions of the day is what we do. Have fun, it’s your wedding day!
- Name : Jennifer Reitmeyer: MyDeejay, President
- Business: Wedding entertainment
- One thing you should know : There’s definitely a “sweet spot” between respecting your music tastes and helping you to create the kind of celebration you want to have. A good DJ will partner with you to build a playlist that you love, and that will also result in the atmosphere and energy you want for your reception. That way, your dance floor will stay packed, while the soundtrack is one that makes you smile.
- Average Price: An average price range for professional DJs, depending on experience and quality, would be $1000-2000 for four hours.
- Favorite thing: My favorite moments are anything that include an element of sentimental surprise – for example, when a bride has our DJ create a custom mix of special songs she can dance to with her dad, or when members of the wedding party plan an unexpected performance just for the happy couple. We’ve assisted with everything from flash mobs to choreographed toasts complete with original songs and dance routines, and the shock and joy on the newlyweds’ faces never gets old.
- Anything else you would like to share? I’d love for every couple to know that, in every vendor category out there, there are professionals who share their tastes and vision, and who will be so wonderful to work with that the couple will consider them a friend by the time the wedding is done. There are so many talented wedding pros, most of whom have tons of awards and great reviews – that personal connection and compatibility, on the other hand, can be much harder to find. Taking the time to get to know your vendors to be sure they’re a great fit for you can make all the difference, not only in how smoothly your wedding is executed, but also in how much you enjoy the planning.
- Name : Select Event Group – a full service party equipment rental, tent and event production and design company.
- One thing you should know : Planning a wedding can be a long and often confusing process. Finding a reputable company that has the products you like is crucial, but establishing a relationship with a company that delivers outstanding service is paramount. Selection, quality, and service will vary from vendor to vendor. To ensure you understand the quality of product you are renting, visit their showrooms.
- Average Price: With every rental equipment company there will be a range of prices. The best sales consultants will help guide you towards making the most impact within your budget. There are many necessities but also extravagant extras that make your wedding pop, and it’s important to know where to cut back without losing your vision. Working with a planner or a sales consultant helps!
- Favorite thing: When planning your reception, set aside a place for casual seating around the dance floor. A couch or two will encourage guests to get up after dinner, mingle and join the party!
- Anything else you would like to share? The biggest change I have seen over many years in wedding planning is that there are no more “rules!” Couples should make their wedding personal to reflect their style and vision. Lean towards elegance, trendy touches are great, mix it up, make it romantic, and make it fun!
Here are my 12 days of wedding planning — 12 steps to help keep you full of the joy you and your family experienced when you said YES!
- Lead with love, and the rest will fall in place, you’ll see! It’s easy to be said but more difficult to practice. If you simply keep this mantra in the forefront of planning, your relationships with family, vendors and guests will be stress-free.
- It’s all about compromising. After all, it’s about love. Love means compromise. I’ve planned weddings with budgets close to a million dollars and budgets of just a few thousand. No one party in wedding planning completely gets their way. If you can accept this as inevitable, it will make it that much easier when you get to those moments. If she wants the aisle covered in rose petals (very expensive for a complete covering) what about a lush line along the side of the aisles or even a cool pattern in the aisle? If she wants to rent furniture to put outside on the lawn for a lounge feel, create a lounge vibe by using standard tables and chairs but cluster them near a tree where you could hang a cool candelabra or a neat IKEA light. If he wants a 12-piece band, then maybe drop that fourth app or nix the premium bar. And if he wants chocolate and you want vanilla — well, they have four tiers!
- It’s important to know what type of event the couple would like to host. Garden? Ballroom? Intimate? Everyone? Grand? Simple? Be it strong or sublime; it’s important to write it down, and refer back to it during the planning process.
- It’s time to have a frank conversation about budgeting. No one can successfully set forth on a project without knowing an amount to spend. I believe any dream can be accomplished on any budget, it just takes some thought and compromise, as noted above.
- Ask yourself: how many can we feed? Fifty percent of your wedding budget pertains to food, beverages and site fees. Once you set an overall budget limit, you should do some preliminary research (internet and email) on some possible sites and caterers to get a ballpark idea of pricing.
- Refer back to one and two. This is where your planning experience has the most chance of going from fun to “Now I know what they were talking about when they said it was a nightmare.” Refer back to points one and two. You can do it!
- Let’s create a plan we can set forth and succeed. It’s important to put it in writing – a simple spreadsheet with line items for ceremony site, reception site (to include food and beverage), entertainment, décor, photography/videography, fashion (including day-of prep), cake, stationary and auxiliary events (bridal tea, etc.) And because these are very general categories, you should reserve 10 to 20 percent for “miscellaneous.” This can be the line item you debit for non-budgeted line items (transportation, etc.) or item overages.
- How are you feeling about your plan? Marriage is a commitment, and so is a budget. Everyone involved in the planning needs to review the plan/budget and feel about an eight out of ten on the happiness scale.
- Channel in number two again. I can’t stress enough that these days, albeit very difficult, are the most important. Any great accomplishment has had a well thought out plan. If you invest your first week in this diligent research and hard work, you have set yourself up for a tremendously less stressful next few months or even years. Do yourself a favor and get the hard conversations out right out of the gate.
- It’s appointment time. Now that you have a plan, make some appointments to see some ceremony and reception sites that interested you from the budgeting period. Because of your research, you’ll ask informed questions and have a mental Rolodex of material to compare the site coordinator’s answers with. I also suggest meeting with photographers and entertainment companies, as they often book up quickly and have limited date availability.
- Let’s make some reservations for vendors with glee. You’ve created your plan, done the research in meeting potential vendors, now it’s time to book, book, book! Obviously, I don’t think you will book all of your vendors within 11 days of beginning the planning process, but it is acceptable to expect a ceremony and reception facility to be secured with a deposit within one to three months after commencement of planning.
- Just enjoy the process. You are planning your forever!
It’s this time of year clients start to second guess themselves about the decisions they have made. My advice is trust your gut, and trust your instincts! In my 14 years of service — I have learned the client is always right. However this topic made me think, What do clients regret? And, what do vendors see that they want clients to know? I asked some of my most favorite clients and vendors for some great advice I could share with you and came up with at “top five” list of “wedding mistakes.” With that being said, this list is more general guidelines and very unscientific! The goal is to only get you thinking, and in the end — remember — it’s about love. In the end — you’re married! and that is what counts. Which leads us to number 1…
TOP FIVE WEDDING MISTAKES:
- Sweating the small stuff
Remember it’s about you and your Fiance committing to one another for a lifetime. This helps you to not sweat the small stuff. Mom insisting you have a chocolate layer of cake? Just do it. Your groom has to have the bartenders wear Philadelphia Eagles bowties? (true story) Why not? Your Maid of Honor doesn’t feel comfortable giving a toast? Let her off the hook. The happiest Brides and Grooms I work with let the small stuff roll off their backs and remember, in the end, they are getting married! That is the real purpose of the gathering.
- Trying to please everyone — it’s impossible
If you are thinking this might be contradictory to #1 on the list –you are right. There is a fine line. And only you can decide what is sweating the small stuff and what is trying to please everyone! One great example is many couples struggle with picking the “right” wedding date. Can Aunt Millie Make it? Cousin Sarah is due around that time! My college roommate can only come in the summer months! How do you pick? My advice: There is a 100% chance that not everyone you invite will be able to make your wedding date. So speak to those that are nearest and dearest to you, as well as coordinate with your personal schedule, and pick a date that suits most. Know that not everyone will be able to make it — but if your nearest and dearest will make it — then your day will be a good one.
- Not spending enough for an important-to-you vendor category
I meet with clients all day long and each one almost always has a category that is important to them. Flowers, to photography, food and beverage. Whatever your passion is, I encourage you to find it and fund it. I had one of my most favorite brides tell me she wished she spent more on the flowers and the arrangements were bigger. Another bride told me they loved their photographer’s personality but didn’t love their photos but went with them anyways– and they regretted it. While I hate to hear of regrets — I think one thing rings true. If it is important to you, don’t be afraid to splurge and cut out something else that might not be as important. Or, find a way to get the best, but in a limited fashion. For example, go for the high end photographer, but maybe only reserve a 6 hour package. Or, love the dramatic flower look? Get a fabulous florist and do amazing arrangements on ½ of the tables and do a glorious candle arrangement on the other half. Fell in love with a 10 piece band? Why not seek out a great 5 piece band at ½ the price without compromising with a DJ? Love a high end DJ? Then skip the photo booth. Life is about choices and I encourage you to spend where you love but do so sensibly.
- Not taking the good advice of your qualified vendor team
I heard from many vendors –and the biggest complaint was couples who invested in their services but then did not listen to their advice. This too, is a fine line, as I believe the client knows their audience best but if several vendors are telling you the same thing — you should strongly consider taking their advice. I had a client that was having an outdoor wedding and all the vendors told the client they needed more lighting than just lights around the perimeter of the tent. They chose to only go with basic lighting and all the reception photos after sunset were in the dark. I also had a photographer that was trying to tell the client they needed time to get to the reception site before guests arrive to take room shots (set up of the room before guests arrived). They had invested heavily in florals and linens and the room was stunning! The client did not want to spend more for a second shooter and was unwilling to do photos before the ceremony. While we got many lovely photos during the reception, we were unable to get many shots with the beautiful table settings that the Bride had so carefully planned over the 16 months of planning.
4a. Not helping your vendors help you
This was something many vendors contacted me about, and something we occasionally experience at Wedding Savvy as well. You’ve gone and hired a fantastic DJ — everyone says they rock!! But if you don’t get them your music choices with enough notice — they will be flying blind. One DJ reached out to me to tell me about a client who e-mailed him his parent dances while he was in the shower getting ready for the gig. He was (as all professionals do) able to download the songs, but it turns out he downloaded the right song by the wrong artist. He didn’t have time to check with the Bride and Groom before the event because he was given the information too late. At Wedding Savvy – we ask for a copy of all contracts two months before the wedding so we can confirm all the right details. When clients don’t give us the cake contract or the floral contract — we normally track it down from the vendor. But in some circumstances –for example — a friend is doing the flowers and they don’t get back to us — we are flying blind. We have no idea if the flowers on the table are what you ordered. Do your vendors a favor and provide the details they ask for. It is for your best interest, and will help to provide your vendors with the tools to make your wedding –AWESOME!
- Not setting a budget before you set expectations, book vendors, and invite guests.
200 guests for $10,000? completely possible for a casual BBQ party. Expecting a plated dinner with china and steak? Think again. Many clients decide on the guest list before they figure out what they can afford with their budget. Talk with your family and figure out the type of event you are comfortable hosting and then be sure your budget can handle it for your guest count. Often times, before clients book us they reserve a fantastic reception site but when they add up the amount of guests they want to have there and then add in a photographer, DJ, florals — they are over budget. Take the time to research reception sites and plug those numbers in a budget for the amount of guests you are expecting. Then, research Entertainment, florals, and photographers to see if you can afford all your top choices. If not, are you willing to splurge on a reception site and scale back on entertainment? If not, maybe look into another site that is more in line with your budget that allows you to get all the top notch vendors you’ve been dreaming of. We had a client that was in love with a garden site at the tune of $6000, but that means she couldn’t have the DJ, photographer, and decor that she was in love with. In the end, she chose a less expensive site at $2000 and was able to get all the vendors she loved … and she was over the moon happy!
- Weather Accessories
- handkerchiefs for men in hot weather (to wipe sweat)
- Shawls or wraps for the ladies in the colder months
- Cute umbrellas (black always work) for fun rain pictures — or even fun matching rain boots for the ladies (so cute!)
- extra hairspray and bobby pins for windy days
- Food for you, food for him
- It sounds simple, but often times guys and gals will be running late or worried about fitting into clothing and don’t have time / choose to eat. Or even worse, time for a pre- wedding dinner snack was not budgeted into your event timeline. We always suggest the groomsmen meet for a meal before getting dressed, and the ladies have lunch or refreshments during hair and makeup. Plan a cooler and/or snack basket for your limo, trolley or party bus after the ceremony with water and snacks if you plan on taking photos / may miss your cocktail hour so your bridal party doesn’t show up starving.
- Extra time: During hair and makeup, travel time
- I cannot stress enough how important it is to have extra time in your day. Plan for an extra hour to hour to an hour and a half depending on the size of your bridal party for hair and makeup completion time. If you are done on time, you can use the extra time to relax with your bridesmaids and have a snack.
- Transportation is another category where people often cut it too close. It is better to arrive 15 minutes early than be 30 minutes late! Of course, please be mindful of your restrictions at the church/ reception site and don’t arrive obscenely early… but a little extra time to sip champagne in the limo at the church parking lot is better than sweating in your dress stressing about getting past a traffic jam!
- What happens at the end of the night – your exit plans
- I always encourage couples to plan their final moments and make an exit before the guests. This allows the couple to bring the event to a close on a high note. The couple can always make plans to meet up with everyone after the event in a hotel lobby, downtown, etc! Sparkler exits are very popular and well earned – it’s a very fun way to send the couple off with a BANG (or actually more like a sizzle!) I love the idea of all the guests coming together as a final capstone of the night to say goodbye. Other options could be bubbles, or a classic car exit. All these options signal to the guests the event has ended and the couple has departed.
What I don’t suggest is the Bride and Groom lingering as the lights come up and the reception staff is cleaning up around them. It’s hard for the couple to make an exit if they haven’t already and often times are the last ones there as they feel obligated to say a goodbye to each guest. After a long day or night, this makes it even longer. AND it is anticlimactic. You can always meet up with guests at an after party!