Category Archives: Siren Studios

The Case for a Coordinator: War Stories from The Trenches

By | Siren Studios, Uncategorized, Wedding Consultant, Wedding Coordinator | No Comments

I have had the unique opportunity to also work behind the scenes for two catering companies, and it’s opened my eyes even further about how complex even the ‘simplest’-seeming wedding can be, without a coordinator to tie all the pieces together. When working on the catering end, processing prep for a wedding without a coordinator takes a flurry of emails and much more time, compared to an event with a capable coordinator at the helm.  This also further illustrates the value of a coordinator as well.  Our company has been blessed enough to have established a solid client base and reputation, and our prices have been carefully crafted to represent this.  For more information on what goes into coordinator pricing, this blog post by Jeannie Ward says it all.

Pricing structures hold up when the coordinator or planner establishes their worth to their client.  It’s hard sometimes for couples to see the value of a coordinator (“don’t you just make a few phone calls and type a few notes into an excel spreadsheet?”) – until they’ve actually hired him or her and lived through the experience, and come out the other side more relaxed, happy, and thrilled with their event than they ever could have  imagined.  Many caterers (and lots of venues) now require clients to hire a coordinator (licensed and insured), or pay for a coordinator on their staff because so much additional work, not technically part of their jobs, fall into their laps otherwise.

Now that I’ve been in the trenches with my catering colleagues, I can attest to how the event can suffer without a coordinator. Tales from the dark side:

  • – I worked for a caterer for a 300 person cocktail party earlier this year.  The client was doing all the prep without help.  The client forgot to order trash cans (required in the contract by the venue – a breach of contract could have impacted their security deposit) – we had to scramble for trash bags.  The bartending company was sorely understaffed – and the caterer had to lend two of her servers to help.  And, the client forgot to order an electric deep fryer for the chef.  She ordered one last minute but ordered a butane-powered fryer; as it was being carried into the building (a high rise), the fire marshal promptly sent it back.  No butane or propane is allowed in highrises; it’s in the fire permit.  Had I been a part of the process all along, I would have a) made sure the rentals were locked in well before the event and the caterer had a chance to review the invoice, and b) that all aspects of the event were in compliance with restrictions and requirements of the city and the venue.  Oh -the cost of rushing out the deep fryer that had to be sent back?  $240!
  • – At a social event I recently managed, I arrived to find the waitstaff hanging around doing nothing – not their own fault – because the linens and napkins were nowhere to be found, having been delivered the day before. The site managers did a cursory look and came up nada – I made them unlock every door and we finally found them.  I started directing the staff on napkin fold so they could get started, otherwise we’d start late. (I usually verify table settings and napkin folds well ahead of time and translate to the caterer, at the latest, 3 days prior.)  The greenscreen photobooth arrived, and because no one coordinated a diagram several weeks prior, there was literally no where for them to go – and per their contract they required a 10×10 footprint.  We crammed them in a corner and access was constrained throughout the event, and the client had to be grabbed from an important aspect of the event to sort it out with them.  Finally, the DJ showed up late, so I dove in and started gaffing light cords, assisting with setup, etc., to speed up their process.  We weren’t quite ready when the ceremony ended, but by then we made sure music was playing and the guests didn’t seem to notice the final few minutes of prep.
  • I was prepping for a wedding for which the clients only hired a coordinator for literally the rehearsal and 6 hours on the day-of.  The coordinator could not do any prep work as the clients were apparently on a severe budget; thus, as a representative of the caterer, I did a thorough examination of their paperwork.     The champagne glasses were never on the order, so they were added.   The groom had to pick up desserts that morning and drop off decor and signage to the property, tasks we would have performed as part of our standard services so he could have relaxed and enjoy his day.  Groomsmen also had to drive over the rest of decor and unload (again, if decor is a reasonable, standard amount, we do this.)  They also did not secure parking shuttle for their staff as advised by the venue contract; I had to shuttle the servers and then walk 1/4 mile down Pacific Coast Hwy with my kit. (Good times! – and possibly a liability issue for the clients.)  Last but not least, with only 5.5 hours of active event time (vs the typical 6), we ran 1/2 hour late.    In events, time is money.  Some things we cannot control, of course; but a good coordinator can generally keep crucial aspects of the event running within 15 minutes of the timeline.  The overall budget for this wedding was easily above the national average of $25k.  For about 4% of their overall budget, I would have insured full enjoyment of their event as well as likely saving them that half hour of lost time of dinner and dancing.

These are just a few major issues that can be totally handled well before the wedding day.  Basically, putting together a wedding or event takes knowledge of permits (do you know how Pasadena’s fire permit process differs that Santa Monica, which differs from Los Angeles?  Don’t buy your votives till you do!), table placement (there is an allowance in between exits and tables/chairs that must be complied with at a venue), and all sorts of other logistics. We are part director, producer, electrician, and, gasp! – plumber (I have used the word “septic cleaning” more than once).  We are incisive about targeting future issues and solving them before they cost you sanity and money.

For this wedding at Siren Studios, we pulled a Special Use permit from Building and Safety.

I haven’t even mentioned the value of our vendor referrals – one client has even posted on our reviews that the best vendors were the ones we referred to her, and she wished she’d have hired all of our referrals! (The photographer in this case left without telling me – missing the grand exit, and…her tip!)

Before taking the plunge, we always offer a complimentary consultation, where couples can get a feel for our work and our thought process – and get a close-up view of how we can save the day.  Call or email us anytime:  dee@noworriesep.com or 310-562-3306!

You’re Engaged! What Next?

By | Siren Studios, Wedding Budget, Wedding Coordinator, Wedding Planner, Wedding Planning Checklist | No Comments

Happy New Year! And for many people, may I add:  Congratulations!  New Year’s Eve is the big day for proposals, and calls from potential clients are already starting to stream in.  I’m always excited to hear the stories of how he asked, what’s the ring like, etc.

Then my next question is usually:  What’s your budget?

Okay, I hate to be a killjoy, but as soon as you decide to get married, money is the main thing that drives all wedding planning choices.  If you are not intimately familiar with event planning, you can make many costly missteps along the away. That’s why the first thing you should do is call a wedding coordinator, stat.

A view like this doesn't come cheap - but if you book a seaside venue for your wedding, there are other ways to save on the event.

A portion of our services consist of Day of Coordination, and when we are chatting with a potential DOC client, we are often doing so towards the end of their planning process, a couple months before their big day.  That means they are at the end of their rope with budget.  We have been then declined (with regret) by the bride or groom because they simply don’t have the money anymore to hire us.

That’s why it is essential to hire a coordinator or consultant at the outset.  We (and many other consultants) provide value-oriented packages where we can sit down for a couple hours and do a thorough overview of your ideas, goals, and budget.  This gives the client a great head start in things, and a thorough education in the pitfalls of event planning that only a professional can provide.

For this wedding at Siren Studios, the clients and I carefully sourced the most cost-effective vendors to stay within budget. Photo by Alexandra Bissonette.

The client can then proceed with planning, and have the coordinator on hand for questions along the way, and then ultimately to serve as their day of coordinator.  This is a cost effective way to have moral support and expert guidance without the cost of a full planner.

On the other side of the spectrum, full planning is also a service full of value, as the planner uses every bit of her relationships and discounts with vendors to save the client nearly as much (if not more, in some cases) as his or her fee.  A hundred dollars there to a thousand here can make a difference – and the planner does so much work for you, ensuring less personal days taken off at work and way less stress throughout the way.  Which, as someone who’s done it all herself can tell you, is worth its weight in gold.

Other things to do after you say ‘yes’:

  • Shop for a gown.  Getting the exact size shipped in and alterations done can take months; sometimes clients luck out and find their dress on ebay or craigslist, or at resale shops like Encore.  In any case, it takes time.
  • Choose a time frame.  Query close family for their availability.  Remember that venues may have varying availability so have 2 – 3 dates in mind.
  • Start collecting inspiration pictures and ideas, and research the cost. The invitations you see in a magazine may be perfect, but they also might be hyper expensive.  Perhaps an etsy artisan can work with you on a custom design for the same or a bit less?

We take the responsibility of planning our clients’ weddings very seriously (though we have fun doing it!).  Even if you have a huge budget, it’s all about wisely investing in your big day.  Here’s to happy planning in 2012!

Holiday Parties: Something New This Season

By | Blueberry Ave, Corporate Event Planner, Dana Grant Photography, Day of Coordinator, Four Seasons Los Angeles, Holiday Parties, Office Parties, Siren Studios | No Comments

The holiday office party has its hills and valleys. Some people have a great time, others are stuck in small-talk-ville and trying to avoid that guy in accounting, others drink so much they can’t remember anything, period.

What makes or breaks a good office party (or any other holiday party, for that matter) is clear coordination and giving folks lots of fun stuff to do, without overwhelming them with gimmickry.  The best parties have a unique element to them.  It can be a clever signature cocktails, a fortune teller, a casino night theme – sky’s the limit.

Recently, my clients wanted an activity with old-world charm to match the antique flair of their event at the Four Seasons Los Angeles, and they hired two talented magicians, Saurabh Shah and Michael Jacobsen, to wander during cocktails and entertain guests with their trickery.  The activity gives people a conversation piece, a place to go when they don’t know where to mingle next – and it’s fun.

Photo by Dana Grant Photography; Event Design by Blueberry Ave.

Photo by Dana Grant Photography; Event Design by Blueberry Ave.

Food can be a conversation piece, too.  A food truck can be had for much less than traditional catering, without sacrifice in flavor (and if you’re a typical Los Angeleno, you may even prefer these gourmet meals on wheels to their fine dining competitors).  Pondering the menu, giving your order and waiting for your fresh-cooked deliciousness is a communal experience that keeps folks on their feet and on the move.

The Kogi BBQ truck was a hit at a recent event at Siren Studios. Photo by Alexandra Bissonnette.

There are so many other cost effective ways to build office morale (yes, parties increase productivity!).  One of them is, you guessed it, to hire a good planner.  We pay for ourselves up to several times over in brokering excellent deals with vendors and venues, and we allow your in-house staff to be as productive as possible while still pulling off a tip-top event.  And, we keep an eye on your investment – making sure the bar stays open till the bitter end, following up on security deposits with your rentals company, etc etc.  Need I go on?  I’ll tell you all you need to know about our services at a complimentary consultation. Contact us anytime about your fabulous holiday soiree!

Featured in this post:

Alexandra Bissonnette’s photography

Dana Grant Photography

The creative talents of Blueberry Ave.

Four Seasons Los Angeles

Siren Studios

Magicians Saurabh Shah and Michael Jacobsen (Contact: info@shahmagic.com)