Wednesday, March 10, 2010

What I Know For Sure

I did the math today – I’ve been in the wedding industry for ten years! In 2000 I started decorating weddings, and in 2004 I became a certified wedding planner. Where has the time gone!

I've planned weddings in Winnipeg and Edmonton, and no matter the location, the fundamentals are still the same.  Over the years I’ve learned so much, and I am still learning every day. That’s the great part about my job, it never gets boring! I am always growing, and my skills continue to evolve. So what have I learned over the past decade? Here is what I know for sure.

Expect the unexpected.
No matter how much you plan and prepare, something can always go awry and surprise you. Don’t stress the small stuff, and always have a plan B! Learn to roll with it, and if you’ve hired a good wedding planner, you won’t even know that things went all amuck, because we are usually behind the scenes taking care of all the issues and making sure you don’t know about it.

I remember one wedding in particular where I had noticed that there were no wine glasses on the tables. When I asked the banquet coordinator if they were putting out wine glasses for the wine, he said “What wine?” Well despite the fact that I confirmed it with him the week before, it had been forgotten. But with a quick call and a mad dash to the liquor store, the wine was on the tables in time for dinner, and neither the guests or the couple knew anything went wrong!

And that’s just one story. I could go on and on about a drunk groomsmen with a black eye, or a mother of the groom that was an hour late for the ceremony, or a bride and groom whom I had to write their entire speech for last minute…..but my blog is not nearly big enough for all that. :)

A good attitude goes a long way.
I’ve worked with a variety of people, and let’s face it, not everyone you come in contact with is going to be positive and polite, so I’ve learned to not take it personally, and do the job I am there to do to my best ability, despite someone’s miserable demeanor. A good attitude is contagious, and I do my best to stay upbeat and professional. I never let someone else’s bad attitude affect me. It never has anything to do with me, and I am just the one they choose to take it out on that day. That’s just part of my job, and I’d rather they take it out on me than the bride and groom.

You can‘t control mother nature.
Always have a contingency plan! Outdoor weddings are beautiful, but when mother nature plays havoc on your wedding day, it’s better to be safe than sorry. I always say ‘Hope for the best, plan for the worse.” You cannot over plan in this department. Yes, it might cost extra money to rent that tent, and if it’s a bright sunny day, great! If it rains cats and dogs, well then you have a plan B that can be put into action to alleviate the stress and panic.

And ALWAYS rent a tent that is large enough to fit absolutely EVERYTHING:

- head table
- guest tables
- dance floor
- bar
- DJ
- cake table
- guest book table
- gift table
- punch table
- buffet table
- room for videographer set-up
- room for all of the décor and lighting

This way if it rains, there is room for everything and everyone to fit, and you won’t feel squished. It’s great if it’s sunny and you can put the guest book table outside the entrance of the tent, or open up a side wall to give more room for the DJ, but if it rains, everything has to be under ONE ROOF. I always have alternate plans for outdoor weddings, and carry plenty of umbrellas in my car. And don’t forget an inside option for photos, whether or not your wedding is outdoors.

Don’t assume anything.
Never assume someone else has it covered. Never assume it's included in the price. Never assume a verbal contract is solid. There are no stupid questions, so it’s better to ask and be sure, then to assume and be sorry. I’ve had many couples hire me for day-of coordination service, and I always ask for the vendor contracts and confirm the vendors two weeks prior to the wedding to make sure everyone is on the same page. I often find little details that have been over looked. What the banquet coordinator told you would be included doesn’t matter unless you get it in writing. If he decides to quit, the new coordinator won’t know what was promised and might not agree to the verbal agreement.

The right tool for the job.
Everyone has family members and friends who say they can help out on your wedding day. Plenty of couples take this route to save some money, but in the end, you can't put a price on your wedding day.  I’ve seen plenty a family member go missing in action. From a cousin who says she’s taken a photography class and can take your wedding photos, to a friend who says she will make your wedding bouquet according to the picture you gave her. Hiring the right professionals for your wedding day can make all the difference in the world. I once had to help a groom move two hundred chairs into the wedding tent the night before his wedding because all those ‘friends’ that promised to be there had better things to do. You wouldn’t trust a friend to give you a hair cut unless you knew they were a professional, so why take a chance on such an important day?  You only get one shot to get it right.  It also shows your family and friends that they are guests at your wedding, and you want them to enjoy the day, rather than stress and worry about the details.

Your guests are number one.
I’ve had some clients in the past who want to cut corners, and they usually come to me with these dilemmas. I always ask them the same thing. Does it compromise the comfort and enjoyment of your guests? Even if your ceremony is only twenty minutes long, yes, you still need to rent chairs for them to sit on. People usually get to the ceremony early. Would you want to stand up for upwards of an hour in the hot sun? Your reception is in your parent’s back yard and the mosquitoes are insane. Yes, take the time and money to fog the back yard. Your guests will enjoy the wedding so much more without having to douse themselves, and their nice clothing, with bug spray. Make sure you find out about any dietary concerns for your guests. Talk to your caterer about menu options for guests with allergies, as well as guests who are vegetarian or vegan. You want to have something on the menu for them to enjoy as well, and it will show them that you thought of their needs. The best weddings are those where the guests are first priority – they enjoy themselves and create a positive energy for your day.

It’s YOUR wedding day.
Putting aside the above regarding your guests, this is your day. You have the final say. When it comes to the details, everyone has their opinion! Often family dynamics are the biggest obstacle for couples when planning their wedding, and they can quickly get caught up in the drama and stress of pleasing everyone. Emotions can run high, and usually couples have to take a step back and refocus. I often suggest taking a weekend to get away, just the two of you. Discuss what the two of you want, and stay united in your decisions. The planning of a wedding is often good practice for the marriage! You are a team, and you have to have each other’s back. I’ve seen my share of family dynamics over the years, but in the end, the ones that are close to you will come together on your day for the right reasons. They will laugh with you, shed happy tears with you, and celebrate with you.

An entire decade of weddings – oh my! I’ve worked closely with some amazing couples, and been honoured to share with them the most important day of their lives. I’ve worked with the most talented vendors, and made great friendships along the way.  My passion for weddings has taken me a long way, and I am very excited to see what the next ten years have in store for me.

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