Category Archives: Wedding Planning Checklist

Event Planners: How to Deal when things get Personal

By | Consultant, Corporate Events, Event Planner, Event Planning Education, Event Planning Workshops, Wedding Consultant, Wedding Coordinator, Wedding Planner, Wedding Planning Checklist | No Comments

As a wedding planner, I learned more about diplomacy than a degree in international politics probably ever could!  What helped me deal with situations with extraordinarily irrational elements was developing empathy and being a consummate professional, and event planners can do so easily with a little forethought. Here’s how.

1.  Try to Figure out What’s Going On.

No need to actually ask the person what their problem is (unless you feel it’s appropriate!) – but perhaps you overheard the bride talking about her deceased father, or the party host talk about being laid off recently.  Something could be going on in their lives that while it doesn’t excuse their behavior, it allows you to give them a pass so you don’t overreact.

fun bridal party photos bus party bus event planners

This is the end result you want to get for your clients – all smiles after a great evening. You can get there the easy way, or the hard way, depending on how well you set boundaries.

2. Event Planners need to Be Kind but Firm when things get Personal.

For wedding planners especially, it’s important to remember while your clients are in an emotional space, you are not.  You are at work, being a professional. It’s no different than a bank teller or a financial planner – you wouldn’t expose them to the latest fight with your mom or cry on their shoulder, would you?  So your clients should treat you professionalism as well.  It’s as easy as saying, “I understand where you’re coming from, but my job is to create and run a beautiful wedding day.  When you have resolved your personal issues, let me know what your final decision is.  Let’s talk now about the dessert table (change the subject.)

3.  Be Clear in your Legal Agreements about Services.

If a client wants you to research 15 photographers when 5 would suffice, there should be a limitation in your contract where you reserve the right to charge additional when their needs go over and above reasonable limits.  This should be clearly stated BEFORE they hire you, too.

For more information about consultation and education for event planners, click here.  Happy Planning!

Hiring the Best Wedding Vendors

By | 5 Biggest Wedding Planning Myths, Budget Los Angeles Wedding, Budget Weddings, Event Planner, Facebook, Los Angeles Wedding Planner, Wedding Planning Checklist, Wedding Vendor Negotiation | No Comments

By Dee Gaubert | Owner, No Worries

Every year as the holidays roll around, the wedding industry clamors about “engagement season”- and yeah, this is the time, from December through January, where we get super busy taking incoming inquiries and generally book up to 60% of our dates for the coming year.  It’s appropos then to share some insight about booking wedding vendors.

Remember, there is no real barrier to entry for most wedding vendors.

A DJ has to have specific technical skills, sure, but has he or she practiced mc’g in front of large crowds?  A florist doesn’t necessarily need to be formally trained to start his or her own business. And wedding planners and coordinators need really NO technical training, nor does there seem to be any formal qualifications and standards set by a leading organization to follow. (Corporate planners can get their certified meeting planner designation, which is respected as definitive by the industry, but in the wedding world there are a variety of certification programs by competing organizations for weddings and none of them are considered “the” one to get.)

So when you interview a prospective vendor, it’s good to see how they are viewed in the industry. Do numerous venues sing their praises?  Is their Yelp page full of 100s of reviews? (Remember, Yelp isn’t the end-all be-all of legitimacy, but it is a good indicator that a business has been around for a bit.)  They don’t need to have graduated from “DJ School,” but they should have a solid level of experience and savvy in what they do.

Tray passed appetizers wedding vendors Los Angeles Wedding Jenna Janelle Rose Wedding photography cost of wedding catering

Your wedding: Not the time to go cheap on food. Tray passed appetizers here are by Huntington Catering Company, Photo by Jenna Rose (JennaJanelleRose.Com)

Benchmark prices carefully.

I know weddings aren’t cheap these days, and it’s a struggle couples go through. But if you go cheap on a vendor, you’ll pay a price.  I’ve had weddings where, to the person, the vendors that were charging below-market price were the ones with which we had significant issues – including a florist that was sloppy and left damage at a venue that would have cost the client hundreds to thousands in their security deposit. (The florist came back later and managed to fix the damage.)

First, put together a solid, cohesive budget.  Then, carefully compare prices from competitors in a variety of categories.  If there is a vendor that is significantly less expensive, there are a few reasons why:  1.  They may have another job, which isn’t a deal breaker, but it’s important to make sure they will uphold reasonable work ethic and response times, which is easy to check by calling a few references; 2.  They may be just starting out – so it’s important to see what prior experience they have, since anyone can pretty much get a business license for performing work in the wedding industry; and/or 3. They do a very high volume of work for very low prices.  I speak from experience when I say this means you will get a longer response time and less of a personal touch from these vendors, nearly every single time. For a wedding cake, maybe (maybe) this is no problem. For a photographer or DJ, you will want a more intensive flow of communication.

Norris photo los angeles church wedding vendor

A church wedding ceremony can be cost effective, support the community, and provide a gorgeous setting for your wedding. Photo by Don Norris (Norrisphoto.com)

 

A good wedding vendor sets boundaries.

My life changed a few years ago, when I added office hours to my contract.  A good vendor has good boundaries, and ultimately they help the client.  It’s important to know when wedding vendors are usually available (this blog post is helpful as to what is typical in the industry), and to understand that if a vendor can compartmentalize when and how they work for you, they can manage your event better because they are focused on pre-set, efficient work hours and deadlines and can be super productive in the times they devote to your project.

Does that mean I haven’t squealed with delight and texted right back to a client who shot me a photo of her dream dress at 7pm on a Monday night?  Or that I haven’t suggested a Skype at 8pm with an out-of-state client that works 60 hour weeks, or a weekend walkthrough of a venue? Of course, I am flexible and meet clients halfway whenever possible with my time. But be aware, and respectful, of wedding vendors, and ask ahead about when they usually take appointments and correspond with clients.

For more solid, realistic advice, my guide the Five Biggest Wedding Planning Myths will steer you well; and hang around our Facebook page to learn when we’ve posted a new article on the blog.  Happy Planning!

Real Wedding: Modern and Sleek at the AT&T Center

By | Callaway Cable, Succulents, Uncategorized, Wedding Ceremony, Wedding Consultant, Wedding Decor, Wedding Design, Wedding Planning Checklist | No Comments

Los Angeles is known for its unique, out-of-the-box spaces.  With these spaces come a whole lot of logistical conditions and moving parts, but boy, is the end result worth it.  The AT&T center downtown has a fabulous space at the top of the building with an incredible view.  Working in a high rise requires rock-solid logistics and special permits, but with proper planning the whole day went without a hitch.

Sima and Houman wanted a fresh, modern wedding with glam touches and a welcoming feel.  Together we crafted a design that included cool white, silver sequins, and dramatic lighting. As their wedding consultant, I helped build a team of vendors to ensure their big day went off without a hitch.

It was also another opportunity to work with the fantastic photography team of Callaway Gable.  We’re so glad we were able to be a part of this amazing event!

Other vendors featured:

Florals: Flower Duet

Lighting: TMMPro

Rentals:  CMC

 

Gray, white, silver and glitter - all came together at the Penthouse space in the AT&T Center.  Photo by Callaway Gable.

Gray, white, silver and glitter – all came together at the Penthouse space in the AT&T Center. Photo by Callaway Gable.

 

Flower Duet (www.flowerduet.com) helped create these charming succulent seating favors.  www.callawaygable.com

Flower Duet (www.flowerduet.com) helped create these charming succulent seating favors. www.callawaygable.com

 

Hydrangea and roses in modern mirror cylinder vases, with glitter table numbers.  Flower Duet florals.  Photo by Callaway Gable.

Hydrangea and roses in modern mirror cylinder vases, with glitter table numbers. Flower Duet florals. Photo by Callaway Gable.

 

Flower Duet's modern centerpieces, pinspotted by TMMPro Lighting. Photo by Callaway Gable.

Flower Duet’s beautiful monochromatic centerpieces, pinspotted by TMMPro Lighting. Photo by Callaway Gable.

 

Cakery Bakery's glamorous cake, surrounded by Flower Duet's florals.

Cakery Bakery’s glamorous cake, surrounded by Flower Duet’s florals.

 

Closeup of Ceremony Orchid piece by Flower Duet.  Photo by Callaway Gable.

Closeup of Ceremony Orchid piece by Flower Duet. Photo by Callaway Gable.

For the Zoroastrian ceremony, Flower Duet provided sleek, modern stands and elegant orchid centerpieces.  Photo by Callaway Gable.

For the Zoroastrian ceremony, Flower Duet provided sleek, modern stands and elegant orchid centerpieces. Photo by Callaway Gable.

 

One of my favorite shots!  www.callawaygable.com

One of my favorite shots! www.callawaygable.com

 

Guests tucked well wishes in bottles that represent milestone anniversaries.  It's a guest book idea that can truly be treasured for years.  www.callawaygable.com

Guests tucked well wishes in bottles that represent milestone anniversaries. It’s a guest book idea that can truly be treasured for years. www.callawaygable.com

Wedding Planning, “Godfather”-style

By | Godfather Wedding, Wedding Planner, Wedding Planning Checklist | No Comments

There is a rule in our household – whenever Jaws, the first three Star Wars movies, or Godfather 1 and 2 are on TV, we turn it on and leave it running. There is something timeless about each of these stories – and some great lines that stick with you, that are suitable to so many situations. (“There is a great disturbance in the Force”…”We’re gonna need a bigger boat” – etc.) Nora Ephron wisely tied in several Godfather lines into her rom-com classic, You’ve Got Mail.

AMC ran Godfather 1 and 2 marathons for both Thanksgiving and the day after Christmas, and darnit, they pulled me back IN! So much in Francis Ford Coppola’s rich telling of Mario Puzo’s book (which is a good – if pulpy – read) seemed to apply to wedding planning.

Cocktail Hour at Castle Green. Not quite the same era, but there's something about the sumptuous red accents and wood details that remind me of setpieces from the Godfather.

1. It’s not personal, Sonny. It’s strictly business. Weddings are full of heart, emotion; the agreements and transactions involved – with everyone from your venue manager to your photographer – are business. Try not to get wrapped up in the emotional aspect and let your stress wreck the booking and negotiation process, as well as the planning period overall. Hard-bargaining with a videographer for your Saturday night wedding in peak season will lower your credibility and negotiation power with them; try a different tactic. When communicating with vendors leading up to the wedding day, keep your tone pleasant, evenhanded, and reasonable. It will make for an ideal working relationship.

2. Keep your friends close, keep your enemies closer. That might sound dramatic, but when your engagement is announced, there may be some feisty friends or relatives that come out of the woodwork and bring their baggage with them. I’m not saying they are enemies – but they may be meddlesome at the least, disruptive at the worst. Stay neutral, receive their commentary or opinions with a smile and a nod, and change the subject. If they are known as party-wreckers, chat with a mutual friend or relative and see if they can ‘keep an eye’ on said guest at the wedding, or have a kind but frank talk with them using evidence (dates even, if possible!) of times where they caused a ruckus at past events. Staying calm throughout all interactions – even walking away if you need to, before losing your cool – will save you stress during the pressure-packed lead-up to wedding planning.

On the business side, wedding pros often have to work with a new round of vendors for nearly every single wedding. Each has their own quirks, routines, and sometimes, there’s a vendor or two that maybe promised more than they can deliver or do not hit deadlines. (Sorry, it’s the truth.) Yet, being diplomatic, patient, and working together in the best interest of the client is what’s important. By the end of the night, all that matters is everyone – particularly the bride and groom – is happy – not who happens to be the better professional.

Another vintage space, with plenty of dark corners for talks with the capo...Cicada. Photo by Elizabeth Etienne / http://www.eephoto.com

3. Find a good consigliere. As Michael explains to his girlfriend Kay at the beginning of the movie, a consigliere is a counselor, advisor, to the family. The Godfather’s consigliere is Tom Hagen, who was taken in by the family as a kid. Now grown up and a lawyer, he has the unique position of being familial, but not actually family, thus he can act objectively (for the most part) on their behalf – rarely losing his cool (as eldest son, Sonny, would). Note he was the only one who could tell Don Vito that his son had to be shipped off to Sicily after killing a rival.

I have often started to describe what i do as a bit of a consigliere to potential clients, but realized by the time I explained what it was to them, it wasn’t a very succinct way to describe wedding planners. Still, in a sense, the comparison does fit. We are caring, we look out for our clients as if they are family; but ultimately, we are professional and will let clients know what the right options are, even if it’s not necessarily what they want to hear. We hardly ever say “no,” and if we do, we make sure to tell the clients why, in great detail, and after exploring all other options.

At the least, we recommend hiring a day of consultant, but it’s also important to have a neutral, funny, wise friend with no emotional agenda, to be your right-hand-person.

4. Don’t forget the cannoli. Any unique dessert – from cupcakes, to mini pies, to cooked-on-site donuts – delight guests and accentuate a traditional wedding cake. Clemenza’s wife had her priorities straight before he left to take care of (ahem…) Paulie.

5. Style/design notes: At the beginning of the first movie, it’s Godfather Don Corleone’s daughter’s wedding. As he takes meeting after meeting in his study (cue Luca Brasa…), outside is a boisterous wedding that many designers and brides work hard to replicate on blog after blog – that perfect, antique, vintage, homespun wedding. String lights, handmade tablecloths, lucious platters of Italian wedding cookies. (Wouldn’t it be nice to also have that silk bag being loaded up with cash gifts??) My favorite touch: The very 1940s boutonniere of white carnations on all the gentlemen. Once touted as having a comeback during the Great Recession, I still feel they are under-used. There are types of carnations that are lusher, more full, than others.

Always-charming string lights, seen here at a Terranea rehearsal dinner. Photo by www.samlimstudio.com

And check out that cake! I actually miss the crazy-over-the-top tiered cake…. I also love that the guests drink wine out of short chimney style tumblers, not wine glasses. While perhaps wine purists would fret (sorry, guys, Reidels don’t necessarily enhance the wine-tasting experience), this is an authentic touch that I’d love to see replicated at truly rustic weddings.

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!