So you just said yes! But now what are you supposed to do? That’s exactly what my client Pamela asked herself immediately after Keith popped the question in Barcelona while on one of their many adventures as foodies, experience curators and weekend warriors.
The first thing Pamela + Keith did was to research wedding planners (see here) They lived out of my area so I scheduled a video call to discuss all their dreamy plans. They booked with my team and the next thing you know they were in town booking their dream venue. The rest is a history full of gif conversations and emojis.
In this post I’ll be laying out the steps that I take to help newly engaged couples go from ring-selfie excitement to wedding planning mode seamlessly. Just as you would hire a financial advisor to help with your retirement plans or Purple Bricks (oh, commissery) to help you find your home, engaged couples turn to us to plan, design and produce their wedding.
As tempting as it is to reach out to that photographer or designer you’ve been eyeing...DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT reach out to them to gauge prices. This will only lead to overwhelm. The tortoise won the race remember?! Let’s start with a plan.
First let’s start by conceptualizing your wedding vision. Let’s give life to that wedding Pinterest board gathering dust. Pick your top 6 favorite photos that represent your wedding vision. This part can be a little tricky because sometimes it’s hard to decipher whether you’re picking something because it happens to be trending or because you inherently love the design and style of your choices.
Tip: Create a photo collage that depicts a reception, a ceremony, a cake, the bridal party in your ideal colors, a design detail and a wedding activity (like a live band, blanket favors, cookies and milk dessert; things that create an experience).
When I first met Pamela & Keith they said they wanted a “Loft, industrial warehouse, ballroom, barn, farm, rustic cabin” BUT when I asked them to describe their ideal wedding day in words they said, “rustic, simple, casual, comfortable, fun, uniform aesthetic, wooden pieces, botanical.” Something wasn’t lining up as a ballroom won’t quite get cha a botanical wooden rustic vibe. I see this all the time so it wasn’t a surprise because most people don’t plan events of this magnitude and emotions are running rampant so it’s hard for people to rationally verbalize their vision especially if you haven’t given it much thought.
After reaching out to my connections and some researching I landed a pretty sweet list of venues that checked off most of what Pamela + Keith wanted. After a few venue tours they fell in love with a Spanish style mansion in Orange County with a large open space and twinkly lights. They ended up not going with the “loft, industrial, ballroom, barn, farm nor rustic cabin vibe.” Keith proposed to Pamela in Spain near Park Guell so it’s no surprise that they chose a venue in a park like space with terra cotta tile and Spanish architecture. They already knew what they loved but the internet can be loud and can confuse you.
Here is an excerpt from Pamela + Keith's new client questionnaire that I have clients fill out to make sure my team and I stay on track.
If you’re looking for a little more help conceptualizing your vision, check out my post on how to have a great wedding with a sample style guide to help you visualize the process.
If you have found that what you’ve read so far is useful, feel free to join the mailing list to receive more advice and tips like this delivered straight to your inbox.
Second, it’s time to talk numbers. There is something in the wedding planning kool-aid so beware of what the online world tells you that you should spend on your wedding. Even the big name wedding blogs like The Knot and Weddingwire are frighteningly inaccurate because of their reach. We, the vendors, have called them out on this several times but to no avail they just take the average, which simply doesn’t make sense when you’re surveying thousands of couples across the globe. Your dream wedding doesn’t cost $10,000, $20,000 or even $30,000 but much more than this. Sticker shock is prevalent as you start your journey but know that wedding professionals aren’t swimming in dough driving Bentley’s and Aston Martins. In the wedding world the old saying, “you get what you pay for” rings more true than any industry I know (well...real estate might fit in that as well). Take a minute to allocate a budget to each vendor. As un-sexy as this topic is, you cannot skip this step. There is nothing more stressful than going into the wedding planning process making decisions blindly. Just as you would prep and set a game plan to study for the gmat, cfa, cpa or the bar; the same is true for planning your wedding. The more prepared you are the more informed decisions you’ll make causing less stress. A+s all around.
Third, put together a rough draft of your schedule of events. This is so that when you start researching and reaching out for quotes you’ll have a rough idea of how much service time you’ll need. This schedule isn’t set in concrete but it will be helpful to communicate the amount of service time you need from each service provider. Factors will affect your timeline throughout the planning like the amount of time it takes to feed your guest count, the amount of speeches you have, the amount of time your budget allows you to host the bar etc.
If your focus is the PARTAY consider an earlier ceremony. If you prefer something a little more chill or maybe you’re an introverted person like me and know that you’ll be pooped after being social all day, consider a shorter reception. Surprisingly 50% of my clients do not like being the center of attention so it’s okay to adjust your schedule accordingly. Most venues require music be shut off by 10 PM so let’s start with that in mind. If your venue allows more time well then 🤘.
PARTY HARD DRAFT SCHEDULE
3:30 PM Ceremony
4:00 PM Cocktail Party
5:00 PM Reception
5:30 PM Dinner Served
7:00 PM Open Dance Floor
10:00 PM End
CHILL HARD DRAFT SCHEDULE
5:30 PM Ceremony
6:00 PM Cocktail Party
7:00 PM Reception
7:30 PM Dinner Served
8:30 PM Open Dance Floor
10:00 PM End
Last, we have to pick your venue as this sets the stage for your entire wedding journey. As you can imagine, venues assume a lot of liability in hosting people on their property. Allowing alcoholic drinks and food to be served to the public is a huge risk for them should someone get sick or hurt on their property. As such, venues have a lot of restrictions like no sparklers, vendors must carry a COI, the client must sign the house rules, event insurance is required, no tacking things to the walls and the list goes on with 10 pages worth of restrictions. Because of this you need to read the fine print. If they don’t allow candles and you envisioned your tables full of candles like most of my clients request than that might be a dealbreaker. There are three large slices in your wedding budget and the venue is one. If you didn’t skip over the budget step, you’ll pick the right place within your budget avoiding stress all together. If you skipped the budget step make sure you don’t blow half your budget on this part. Your venue budget will roughly be 15% of your overall budget give or take a few.
You have a ring on your finger (CLINK CLINK CLINK all day)!!! And NOW you know what you need to do to be the HOSTESS with the MOSTEST. Just follow these steps and you’ll be well on your way to a well thought out wedding plan.
Most of my clients have demanding careers and eventful weekends so adding 600 - 800 hours to an already jam packed schedule isn’t feasible. Or maybe you do make time for it only to burn yourself out and end up asking for help anyway. This happens way more often than not. But why not start the journey off right from the get go?
This is a screenshot from my time tracker. I spent 58 hours alone just researching and touring venues with my client. This does not include the 15 hours my assistant spent researching and confirming appointments and availability with the different venues. Plus the time it takes to enter into the agreement and negotiations. And this is after I already had a list of venues and contact information put together because I’ve been planning for years so I have quite the library built up from California to New York.
If you’re looking for a little more in depth help with procuring your venue, I recommend that you read “How to Find The Perfect Wedding Venue.” If you found this post useful, we encourage you to join our newsletter chock full of tips and tricks as you embark on this journey.
If you find yourself needing a little more help, I invite you to spark up a conversation with us to learn more about how my team and I can be a resource to you. We’d love to hear from you so contact us here.