Kristina Slocum is the owner of Purple Orchid Weddings + Events. Kristina’s passion for entertaining and being entertained is what led her into wedding and event planning from the start of her career. Having grown up in Maine, and returning as an adult, her passions include all that Maine has to offer – skiing, kayaking, hiking, and enjoying the scenic Atlantic Coast. Kristina resides in Topsham, Maine, with her supporting husband and three very busy children.
My wedding was a total hot mess! After years of working in the hotel and restaurant industry, I should have known better. You have to assume that anything that can go wrong, WILL go wrong. Pinterest didn’t exist yet, and I thought I could DIY every step of the way. Forget my DIY design. It rained, and so many things went wrong. I forgot to pack my veil. We didn’t rent a sound system for the ceremony. I didn’t have a plan for moving the ceremony chairs to the reception tent. My husband verbally invited friends after invitations had already gone out. We ran out of food because 20 guests did not RSVP. Needless to say, no one had our backs. Our family and friends supported us the best way they knew how, but what did they know about pulling together a 120-person tented wedding on the coast of Maine? That is where a professional wedding planner would have saved the day. That is when I decided to pull together my experiences, education, and sense of logistics and create Purple Orchid Weddings + Events. I never wanted anyone to experience what I experienced on my wedding day.
WE DON’T KNOW WHAT WE DON’T KNOW
We hear it all the time! “We don’t know what we don’t know.” Clients need to be reassured that nothing will be left to chance. Ultimately, a good planner will successfully guide clients through the wedding planning process, offering assurance and peace of mind. There are so many things a planner can do. They’ll coach, listen, instruct, and guide as needed. They can suggest vendors to help curate their best team. They will be able to help you plan for the husband-to-be announcing that “everyone’s invited” via Facebook and any other unexpected scenario that presents itself. Ultimately, a good planner sees the big picture and expects the unexpected.
THE VALUE OF A PLANNER
The value of a planner goes well beyond the planning phase, and well beyond the inspiration and design of the wedding. Your planner is available for more than just checking off events on a timeline and lining up the bridal party. The value of a planner is that you will never know what could have been. Your planner will go to the store when the restrooms you rented run out of toilet paper during cocktail hour. Your planner will help you glue on your lashes, because your makeup artist is gone, and you are about to walk down the aisle. Your planner will already have a plan when the best man forgets the rings (or the vows, or his suit jacket at the department store). Your planner will create a boutonniere when the ring bearer REALLY wants one!
WALK THE WALK
Regardless of your decision to hire a planner or not, hire professionals for everything! Hire a professional catering company. Hire a legitimate wedding photographer. Hire a professional band. Make sure your hired professionals walk the walk. Read reviews and check references. Ask around! This is not to say that hiring a friend or using a personal connection is a bad choice, as long as they are experienced professionals. Keep in mind that friends want to enjoy your wedding as guests, not vendors. My sister-in-law photographed our wedding and did a ridiculously amazing job. However, she was not in one of our photos and I now understand the pressure and stress that working that day caused her.
I CAN HONESTLY SAY I’m still happily married —for over 10 years! Remember what is important at the end of the day. Make sure you have a trusted professional by your side keeping track of the details and thinking ahead. Make sure that someone has your back, because you can’t do it all yourself.
Laurie Andrews Design is a full-service planning, design, floral, and production company offering a private collection of curated furniture, props, and lighting. They are truly a one stop shopping experience! The LAD Team has spent the last three decades constantly renewing its inspiration through travel, professional development, and seeking cutting edge fashion and culture to aid in their design process.
By Laurie Andrews, Owner of Laurie Andrews Design
LOOKING BACK at more than 31 years of her career, Laurie says “We have learned valuable lessons, tips, and tricks of the trade, and shared countless stories with a supportive cast of characters.”
How would you describe your path to becoming a full-service wedding, event planning, and design firm?
I opened a full-service flower shop in southern Maine—Apple Blossoms—when I was 24 years old. I loved seeing the trends in the daily designs, merchandising, and retail aspects, but also saw a shift in the wedding business during the 16 years that I owned it. When I started doing weddings in 1989 there was no internet, Pinterest, or Google. There were no websites to learn and gather information from. I learned how to design by designing. I used my imagination. The techniques I learned as a flower designer taught me about texture, movement, structure, and mechanics. Design became part of my DNA. I decided to leave the retail side of things and move to Hawaii to become a full-time designer. I spent three years planning weddings on Maui, where we did three to four weddings a week. Every day is a weekend in Hawaii! I then took a job in Texas as an event designer for Parie Villyard at Parie Designs—one of the best event producers in the south. This is where I learned about space management and experiential design. Using this knowledge much later, I remember being one of the first companies in Maine to offer a lounge concept. People thought I was crazy!
How does your design process help each client find and develop their own unique vision?
We very much believe that while we are partners with our clients, they are ultimately the
decision makers. Consideration, communication, and compromise are essential in planning and designing a successful wedding. I opened a showroom/warehouse in Portland four years ago so that all of my clients and colleagues could come into the Design Lab to view and hand select flowers, linens, décor, chairs, furniture, custom bars, backdrops, and lighting—every item for their event. Our team members each have specific strengths within different areas of design, planning, building, and procurement. Our mission is to create a curated experience that begins with the first consultation and ends with the final moments of each event.
What is the secret sauce?
For me, it is being able to think on your feet, never getting stressed at an event, and continually pushing boundaries. Ask my team and they will tell you—I am “go big or go home” when I have the opportunity. In the 1990’s everyone knew what a bookstore looked like until Amazon came along and thought “maybe it could look like this.” That is how I think. I think in terms of what’s next and develop a multi-sensory
experience for each client. Imagine a jungle-themed event that incorporates all five senses and makes your guests feel energized and excited the second that they step into the room. They hear the sound of a waterfall and smell a hint of coconut in the air. They can see and touch botanicals and décor that tie in with the theme. Tall jungle flora moves slightly overhead as carefully selected hors d’ouvres begin to circulate. What we are ultimately trying to achieve is a human to human connection. The event is just the tool. The goal is the connection and experience.
Is there anything you are particularly excited about working on?
Yes! I like to push the boundaries and I believe lanes are meant for passing, and I’m really excited for my newest project called LA Blue—a collaboration with my friend Fausto Pifferrer at Blue Elephant Events and Catering. We have a few projects we are working on now. One is Maine Venue Partners. We are currently working with four venues who have asked us to come on board and broker their properties. We are developing a co-op space in the Maine Mall that will be a showroom and meeting space for brides and planners to come and collaborate with other vendors. I am also currently looking to expand my warehouse space. Never a dull moment!
What design tips would you give a modern couple planning their wedding?
Keep it simple and don’t over-exaggerate. Too many unrelated ideas from Pinterest can make your wedding look like a garage sale—a little bit of everything. Let me as your designer walk you through the process to help you achieve a cohesive look. Let me help you bring your ideas to life and develop a story for your event that connects from start to finish.
E Grace Design is a dream come true. Through hard work and determination, Elishia Townsend has had the honor of planning and designing hundreds of weddings and events in Maine and throughout New England. With more than 16 years in the wedding industry, Elishia’s passion for floral design blossomed into a love of event planning and coordination. She has a true passion for making her client’s visions come to life.
By Elishia Townsend, Owner of E Grace Design
I’m thinking about hiring
a wedding planner.
Where do I start?
A wonderful event has occurred…you’re engaged! If planning your big day feels overwhelming, or you simply don’t have the time to put your vision into action, it might be time to consider hiring a wedding planner.
You need to find the best planner for YOU. Just because your best friend thinks her wedding planner was simply amazing, it doesn’t mean they’re a good fit for you and your big day. Below is my step-by-step guide to hiring the best wedding planner for your special celebration:
What is your vision for your special day? When you close your eyes and envision your special day what do you see? Make a list of the colors and location as well as the emotion you want to evoke.
Decide on a budget. This can be hard work, but it’s absolutely necessary.
Do your research. Find planners who are familiar with the location of your wedding, have captivating websites, and look for references.
Set up a meeting with each of your top three picks. This can either be in person or, if distance is an issue, over Skype or FaceTime.
Come up with a list of questions to ask. See this as an interview where you get to learn about each one and see if you click.
Pay attention to the following:
Are they able to handle all of the aspects of your special day?
Could you envision spending the next few months working closely with this person?
Were they open to hearing YOUR ideas?
Did they give you their undivided attention?
Did they answer all of your questions?
I’m having trouble
choosing a wedding venue.
Do you have any advice?
Once you have interviewed each candidate, talk it over with your partner and choose the best fit for you! Then celebrate! Your wedding planner will help you truly enjoy the process of planning one of the biggest days of your life.
I have worked with hundreds of couples over the years, and I was able to help each of them find the perfect wedding day venue. This is hard work!
Working with a wedding planner can make this decision easier. If you’ve hired a knowledgeable professional, they will be able to guide you through the process of finding your dream venue. If you’re planning your own wedding, here are some topics I suggest you and your partner ask yourselves in order to narrow down your search…
Look and style. Figuring this out will help you decide where to have your wedding. For example, if you’re going for a city chic feel, you wouldn’t want to get married in a rustic barn. If you’re planning a casual affair, you probably don’t want to celebrate in a grand ballroom.
Location. Maine has a bevy of options when it comes to locale. Are you envisioning your event by the ocean, mountains, or lake? In a city, farm, backyard? Hotel ballroom or rustic barn? We really do have it all, so making a decision on where you want to hold your celebration is a huge first step.
What type of experience do you want your guests to have? Some people want to offer their guests a weekend away, and thus hold their weddings in popular vacation spots that have a lot of activities outside of the wedding itself. If most people are local, perhaps hold your wedding someplace that’s easy for them to get to.
You’ll also need to take into account the number of guests, the dates available, and your budget. Narrow your list down to your top five and schedule tours of each. Make sure you ask what is included in their wedding packages and if there are any additional costs. Here are some other questions to ask:
How late can your guests party?
What, if anything, do you need to rent?
Can they run the bar or do you need to hire another vendor for that?
Choosing your venue is oftentimes the hardest decision to make, but know all the other wedding planning decisions will fall into place once you’ve made up your mind. Always remember that your wedding day is YOUR day! Stay true to yourself and your wedding day will be a beautiful experience for you and your loved ones.
Sarah Goodwin is the Owner and Creative Director of DAISIES & PEARLS. With a foundation in interior design, DAISIES & PEARLS is deeply rooted in design. Taking both a conceptual and technical approach to events; DAISIES & PEARLS starts with the overall design concept, then breaks it down to every little detail, while simultaneously working through logistics. DAISIES & PEARLS’ greatest aspiration with each event is exercising creativity to deliver a truly personalized, detail infused occasion.
By Sarah Goodwin, Owner and Creative Director of DAISIES & PEARLS
What should be considered when contemplating an outdoor Maine wedding?
The spectacular Maine landscape can provide the most breathtaking of wedding backdrops. There are some important factors to contemplate before committing to an outdoor celebration. From a budget standpoint, the most crucial component to consider is infrastructure. It is vital to get a clear understanding of what is required and the cost for these amenities. Depending on the property these items can include tent(s), flooring, electricity, heat, water, lighting, restrooms, and parking in addition to tables, chairs, linens, china, flatware, and glassware.
The most obvious factor to consider when planning an outdoor fête are the elements. Yes, Maine is Vacationland, but even those al fresco events of Southern California we all swoon over need a rain plan. Peace of mind is very valuable, especially on a wedding day, and comfort for not only the couple but guests is essential. No one should ever say, “It cannot rain on my wedding day!” Following the Scouts’ motto of “Be Prepared”, Plan B is a must and should still be beautiful, enjoyable, and joyous for all. With an outdoor Maine wedding this means not only rain but the occasional summer heat wave, snowfall of late autumn, coastal breeze, and of course the uninvited guests like mosquitos and black flies.
What information should be included in an invitation suite and when should these be sent?
The save the date, whether paper or electronic, is a great means of announcing the wedding and website. I highly recommend a wedding website especially for a destination celebration because it is an effective way to inform guests of wedding details, including event(s), travel, and lodging specifics. A few advantages of a wedding website is that nothing is set in stone and the pages can include as much information as needed. Some details, like you registry and transportation schedule, do not need to be listed before the save the date is sent. A simple note asking guests to check back for updates works well. A successful wedding website should cut down on the number of questions asked by guests and the amount of information included within the formal wedding invitation suite, which ultimately cuts down on paper, hence overall cost.
I recommend sending save the dates no earlier than one year prior and once the wedding website is live with the established room blocks indicated, if applicable. On the side of caution, it is helpful to have a conversation with the wedding party and families prior to sending save the dates to the entire guest list, if these individuals should book lodging at a particular place.
Personally, I think the formal invitation should be clean, simply providing the who, what, when, and where, so the invitation can be a keepsake. If the save the date announced the wedding website, perhaps the invitation suite could consist of the formal invitation regarding the wedding itself and an additional information card mentioning the website and wedding events again, along with the RSVP card or instructions.
The RSVP, whether card or online, should ask guests to indicate if they are attending the celebration and other wedding events. If so, providing the names of the attending guests. It can be awkward to write “and guest” on an escort card. With plated entrees, it is important to ask the caterer how they would like guest entree selections communicated. If the guest entree selection needs to be communicated on an escort or place card, it is essential to request each guest initial their selection on the RSVP. It is helpful to ask guests where they are staying to aid in coordinating guest transportation and distribution of welcome bags, if applicable. It is also a nice gesture to ask guests if they have any severe dietary restrictions.
I suggest the RSVP due date be at least six weeks before to the big day, as final numbers need to be determined at least one month prior, and it typically takes a few weeks to track down any guests who have not replied. I recommend sending invitation at least one month prior to the RSVP due date, leaving ample time for guests to receive and reply.
How do I build a successful wedding day timeline?
Cushion is key when building a wedding day timeline. Weddings are very organic and multifaceted. If the ceremony begins later than the anticipated start time, the timeline can quickly snowball into an avalanche. This can result in stressful situations like the photographer departing before the cake is cut or only one hour of dancing even though the band was contracted for longer. The wedding day is a beautiful whirlwind and building in extra time will allow a few quiet moments to take it all in and relish in the celebration with family and friends.
Audrey Zahares is the founder and creative director of Azalea Events, LLC. For more than two decades she has been crafting elegant, fun, beautiful, and stylish weddings, never forgetting the element of surprise. The success of her events stems from her eye for style, her feel for elegance, her consideration of the client, and her sound relations with local vendors as well as vendors around the country. She was born in Maine, traveled the world, but continues to call Kennebunk home.
A good starting point is to work backwards from the last dance, then ask the caterer how long dinner service will take, and request a photo timeline from the photographer. I think it is also important to leave time to enjoy cocktails with guests. If the First Look and majority of photos do not take place prior to the ceremony, consider extending the cocktail hour to a cocktail social of 90 minutes. Another helpful tip is asking those individuals giving toasts to keep their sentiments under five minutes and spreading toasts out during dinner in order to keep guests attentive.
By Audrey Zahares, Founder and Creative Director of Azalea Events, LLC
Can you suggest how we can create a unique wedding with some ideas that guests will notice?
Creating something unexpected is a great way to make your wedding feel unique and reflect you. It will show off what makes you as a couple special.
As an example, lighting is the most dramatic way to create an incredible space. From your names in a spotlight to intimate candlelight, lighting is one element that you definitely shouldn’t overlook.
When planning a wedding I always like to find that ‘surprise’ element to bring to the day that guests will be talking about for months, and years, to come. There are so many ways to add a little unexpected flourish to your party:
• A “secret” lounge space where guests can relax, hydrate, and put their feet up.
• Gift bags for destination wedding guests. You can have them ready upon your guests’ arrival at their hotels with some essentials they’ll need for their stay: maps, snacks, restaurant recommendations, etc.
• Surprise entertainment is always a hit. From music during your ceremony to table-side magic at dinner, it’s a memorable way to get guests attention.
• Late night snacks. Truman Capote would bring out decadent late-night meals for guests at his famous Black & White parties. Yours doesn’t have to be a multi-course meal, maybe something savory will help keep the party going all night long.
Remember that inspiration for your wedding can come in unexpected places, too! Try to think outside the box and find those little unique parts of your relationship to celebrate. It could be from the story of your first date, vacations you’ve taken together, or where you’ve chosen to get married. Work to find those sweet details to make your day all about you.
Should we do a First Look?
One of the wonderful things about a First Look is that it gives you as a couple a quiet, private moment in what is most likely a very public day. Couples who choose to do a First Look are always happy with the decision because it takes some of the stress off of capturing photos between the ceremony and reception, allowing them to enjoy more time with their families and guests. The First Look can be a private moment or you can share it with your bridal party and close family. I find that couples that plan a First Look feel more relaxed walking down the aisle and are able to embrace the entirety of their ceremony.
However, for more traditional couples, I may not recommend a First Look as it may be more important to them to have the big reveal happen as the bride walks down the aisle.
In order to decide which is best for you, speak to your planner or photographer. Since they’ve experienced countless wedding celebrations, they can help you make the right decision and ensure that you enjoy as much of your day as possible.
Do we buy our parents a gift to say thank you for the wedding? Any ideas?
A wedding is an exciting day for parents, too! Today’s families come to a wedding in many different ways—divorce, step parents, and with varied economic resources. A gift can be a thoughtful way to make all family members feel cherished.
Including your parents in your wedding day by giving them a personalized gift is a great way to show your appreciation. It is also a great way to create a keepsake they will cherish for years and help them remember this monumental day fondly.
You know your parents better than anyone. You know what they’d like and appreciate so keep in mind hobbies, weekend getaways, or even restaurants that they love. It doesn’t have to be a large gift. The thought and gesture will mean so much.
I invited my friend and her boyfriend (by name on the invite), but they recently broke up and now she wants to bring someone I don’t like. Can I tell her no?
It’s tough to be put in a position where you invited a couple and they break up before the wedding. Since you worded the invitation correctly, using the ex-boyfriend’s name and not the generic “and guest,” you do have the right to refuse any new guest she wants to bring.
Explain to her that you are sorry, but you would rather she not bring another guest you don’t know as well and aren’t comfortable with. The invitation you wrote was specifically for her and him, and since he won’t be coming, you’d prefer the guest list to remain filled with good friends and family.
If she is worried about being alone, you can make sure she is seated with friends she knows so she isn’t uncomfortable.
This is one of the many situations that will arise and distract you with negative energy. Your wedding is about you and your fiancé. Handling these situations quickly in a thoughtful and discreet way will help get them off your shoulders so you can dwell on the wonder of the event.
Should I hire a full service wedding planner and what can I expect?
Your wedding day is one of the most important days of your life. A planner’s job is to make sure it lives up to every expectation you have. Wouldn’t you want to make the big decisions, like who to invite and the location of your celebration, and leave a professional to handle the details? A planner will work to make your ideas and vision come to life from the moment guests arrive, to when you walk down the aisle, and until the last guest leaves.
A wedding planner is a friend, support system, confidant, and advocate to make sure every little detail takes place, because nothing is more important than you having the perfect wedding day.
Wedding planners help make the planning process for your big day as stress-free as possible! They’re your partner from conception to completion. They’ve executed many weddings over the years and their job is to always be one step ahead. They will provide ideas big or small to create a unique, memorable experience for you and your guests.
The first step for a wedding planner is to understand you and your vision. Then they work with your budget to make sure that it can be allocated to the appropriate vendors and suppliers to meet every executional need. Their established relationships with wedding industry professionals allow them to find the right people to deliver your vision for the big day.
Every wedding planner’s goal and job is for you to enjoy the wedding process, not stress about the little details, and make your wedding day dreams come true!
Kristen Winters is the Queen Bee and Creative Director of Beehive Creative Events, LLC. Kristen’s approach to wedding planning and design is to create truly meaningful, fun, one-of-kind celebrations inspired by her clients. Each wedding is unique and customized to reflect the couple’s personality and style of living. Born and raised in the south, Kristen now calls Rockport, Maine home. In her down time she enjoys spending time with her family, hosting playdates, and entering the world of make-believe with her daughter, Molly.
By Kristen Winters, Queen Bee and Creative Director of Beehive Creative Events, LLC
You’ve taken a moment to celebrate your engagement. Now what?
It’s important to sit down together and discuss what kind of wedding you want. Often times, couples have different visions for their celebration based on their personal interests, styles, upbringing, and experiences. Here are some questions to consider to get the conversation going: Time of year? Indoor or outdoor wedding? Maybe a combination of both? Local or destination? A small, intimate celebration or a blowout with all your family and friends? Elegant or casual? What do you want your guest experience to be? After taking some time to think about these things you can prioritize! Evaluate what you have in common and where you’re willing to compromise.
Now that you’ve determined your priorities, it’s time to set the budget. Be realistic! Very rarely does a wedding come under budget, so I encourage couples to come up with two numbers: the target and the max. Know the maximum amount you and your families are willing to spend on the wedding. Once everyone comes to an agreement, you can set the target number. My formula for setting the target number is to subtract at least 10% from the max number. This helps to create a safety net for last minute changes or additions that could impact the overall budget. You might think that $500 more here or a $1,000 more there does not seem like a big deal, but keep in mind it can add up quickly. After the wedding is over, and all the bills have been tallied, I never want a couple to regret a decision because they were over budget.
Look over your priorities and your target budget. Will your priorities work within the set budget? It’s not uncommon to make sacrifices when planning a wedding. Let’s say you have found an awesome band for $8,000, but you have determined that a welcome party before the wedding is a top priority. You may opt for the $5,000 band that’s good in order to make the welcome party doable. Knowing your priorities and your budget will help make the important financial decisions easier throughout the planning process.
What should I expect from a wedding planner versus a wedding coordinator?
Many people are confused about the roles of a wedding planner versus a wedding coordinator. The confusion arises because so often these terms are used interchangeably, even within the wedding industry. However, there is a distinct difference in services provided by a wedding planner and a wedding coordinator.
A wedding planner is with you throughout the planning process. After sharing your vision for your wedding, a planner will offer guidance and advice on how to make your vision a reality. Planners will help with creating and maintaining a budget, finding a venue, and recommending a team of wedding vendors who are the right fit for you. They will also create a layout of your ceremony and reception, manage logistics, and facilitate production schedule. It’s important to note that not all wedding planners provide wedding design and styling, but those who do not will have wedding designers with whom they collaborate.
The biggest difference between a wedding planner and a wedding coordinator is a wedding coordinator provides a “day-of” or “month-of” service. They are responsible for managing the wedding day, overseeing the logistics and schedule, and potentially creating a timeline for how the day will flow. Coordinators act as a liaison on your behalf to ensure all the work you spent the last year planning is executed as you envisioned. This way you can kick back, relax, and celebrate the day!
How do I create my guest list?
If you have prioritized what’s important to you and know your budget, then you will have a clear idea of how many guests to invite to your wedding.
Before you start jotting down names, decide if you want guests to bring a plus-one. If you cannot afford to allow everyone to bring a date, it’s best to determine it on a case-by-case basis. I often suggest extending a plus-one invite to engaged couples, those who are in a long-term relationship (year or more), and couples who live together.
Another decision to make when creating your guest list is whether you plan to include children. Inviting children is a personal preference, and may be influenced by the time of the wedding or the age of the child. If you opt not to include children, please be sure to notify family and friends so they can make arrangements for childcare. If you elect not include children, you will likely receive some pushback--hold your ground! Keep in mind you are making decisions that are best for YOUR wedding.
Lastly, with more and more couples paying for their own wedding these days, the question arises about parents inviting their friends. If you are paying for your wedding, and can allocate a number of invitees for your parents, it would be the thoughtful and considerate thing to do.
What should I consider when planning a Maine destination wedding?
Maine is one of the top places to host a destination wedding. Those of us who are lucky enough to call Maine home know exactly the reasons why! With so many diverse locations, from the mountains to the coast to the lakes and farmlands in between, there is something for everyone. If you have never traveled to Maine, then the first place you will want to start conducting research is online. Take some time to browse and see all that Maine has to offer. Traveled to Maine before? Well, then it’s likely you already have an idea of where you want to get married.
Next, decide on a setting and the season. Are you envisioning a mountainside wedding in a rustic barn highlighted by the beautiful fall colors? Maybe your dream is to dance the night away under a tent on warm summer evening with the moonlight glistening on the water. After you decide on the region, setting, and time of year, it’s time to begin the task of finding the right venue. When researching venues, keep in mind the size of your guest list; proximity to airports, train stations, and overnight accommodations; and if it fits the style and vision for your wedding. Now that you’ve selected your venue, hire local vendors. They’re familiar with area and can keep true to the Maine experience and feel.
Should we provide transportation for our wedding guests?
Although not necessary, providing transportation for your guests is a kind and thoughtful gesture. It’s one of the wedding details not often on the forefront of most couples’ minds when it comes to planning their wedding, but is the sort of attention to detail noticed by their guests and overwhelmingly appreciated. Transportation allows your guests to relax and enjoy the wedding celebration rather than being concerned with directions, parking, and getting home after consuming one too many cocktails. Not everyone is able to work transportation into their budget, but if you are planning a destination wedding or have a lot of out of town guests, try to make it a part of your budget planning. It’s important to remember these guests have likely gone to a great expense to be there for you in creating a memorable wedding celebration.
By Lindsey Brook Norton, Founder and Creative Director of L.brook events
I just got engaged. What is the first thing I need to do?
Congratulations on your engagement! The first thing you should do is pause, take a step back, and enjoy and savor this moment. There are a lot of exciting things to come, and there will be big decisions to make, but the most important thing is that you give yourself a little time to let it soak in and celebrate this moment. As soon as your friends and family find out that you are engaged, there will be an onslaught of questions, but know that it is okay to tell people that you are focusing on enjoying the moment and that you will let them know as soon as you start planning the wedding!
I’m ready to start planning. What is my first step?
The very first thing you should do is determine what your priorities are with your partner. I suggest that all of the couples I work with do this activity: I ask that they sit down separately from each other and write down four priorities each. These can be really broad—for example, “convenience,” meaning convenient location, convenient time of year, a lot of options for accommodations, etc.—or they can be pretty specific things like “amazing Italian food.” Then I ask that the couple compare their lists and talk through their priorities in order to compile one master list. Once their priorities as a couple are defined, I suggest that they write them down on paper, because this list is going to act as your guide throughout the planning process and you want to be able to refer back to it. Your priorities will help you figure out where to invest your resources, which is helpful in figuring out how to allocate your budget and what professionals to hire first. Your list will also help you stay focused on what really matters to the two of you throughout the planning process.
I should book my venue first, right?
Before you pay a deposit and are locked into a contract, there are a lot of things you will want to consider—the biggest being your overall budget and the number of people you will be inviting (in that order). The venue can dictate almost all of your wedding planning decisions and it can be one of your biggest expenses. Ask the venue what the average overall budget is for weddings hosted there. Ask what the average size wedding the venue hosts is and for floor plans and layouts that show the number of guests you are planning to invite. Does the venue have space for the size and shape table you envision? Do they have enough parking on-site for all of your guests and the wedding professionals you will work with? Bathrooms that will accommodate all of your wedding guests? These are important questions related to how many guests the venue can accommodate.
I have no idea how much a wedding costs. How do I set a budget?
Every couple is different and no two weddings are alike, so every wedding budget is going to be different, too. There is a lot of information out there that suggests what the average cost of a wedding is, which is often skewed because it doesn’t account for your priorities, guest list, where you specifically are getting married, or what your financial situation is.
The bottom line is that you need to decide what you feel is reasonable to spend on a wedding and also what you are financially able to invest in a wedding. Be honest about this. Rather than come up with one number, I suggest coming up with a budget range, because there will most likely be expenses you didn’t account for or know to budget for.
A lot of couples ask me who typically pays for what at a wedding, but the reality is that it is different with every couple I work with. Rarely does one family pay for the entirety of the wedding anymore. More often the couple pays for some items, parents chip in, and then other family members may chip in as well, but it really is different for every couple. You will want to communicate directly with everyone who is involved in order to come up with a budget range. This can feel a little awkward, but remember that everyone is excited for you and respect that people will offer what they feel comfortable with and are also able to. I also find that people are willing to contribute for parts of the wedding they value. This may mean they want you to work with a certain band, so they offer to cover that cost, or if they want to make sure their best friends and co-workers are invited, they offer to cover the cost of the reception. You will want to make sure that any expectations are communicated directly and early on in the budget conversation.
How many guests can I predict will come to my wedding?
You may have heard that, on average, two-thirds of your guests invited to your wedding will be able to attend, but it is really important to plan and be prepared for the fact that everyone you invite to your wedding may attend. There are a lot of factors that impact this (time of year, when save the dates or invitations were sent out, location of wedding, etc.) so you need to be prepared to host a full guest list. Make sure your venue can accommodate all of the guests you are inviting and that all of the quotes you receive when budgeting (catering, rentals, florals, etc.) account for your complete guest list. This may mean you need to evaluate your guest list a little more closely, which can often be one of the most difficult decisions you make throughout the planning process. A few questions I ask couples to think about when they are struggling with their guest list are: When was the last time you spoke to this person on the phone or in person? Will this person always be a part of your life? If you move or get a new job will you still keep in touch with them? Your guest list should reflect the relationships in your life that you care most about now, but also relationships that you will value in the future.
I have so many ideas for my wedding. Where do I start?
When it comes to weddings, there is no shortage of inspiration or tools to help you plan. Once you have established your priorities it's time to define your wedding style. To do this, first look at your closet and your home. Are there common themes or colors you notice? Do you prefer classic pieces and neutral colors, or bold, trendy pieces? Write down three adjectives to describe your personal style, and three colors you notice that are repeated a lot in your wardrobe or home. Next, think about how you met your partner and what you like to do together on the weekends. Are you social and met at a party in college? Are you introverts who prefer to stay in and watch movies? Are you the outdoor type? Write down three adjectives to describe how you met and what you like to do together.
The adjectives you came up with to describe your wardrobe and home should be able to guide what the overall aesthetic or look of your wedding will be. The colors you listed can guide the color selections for your wedding, but think about how you can incorporate them to create the aesthetic you just outlined. Finally, the observations you made about how you met or what you like to do together should help you describe the mood you are trying to create at your wedding and the kind of experience you want your guests have. Now that you are able to describe your aesthetic, have colors in mind, and can describe the experience you want to create for your guests, your wedding style is defined. When you are gathering inspiration or making decisions, make sure you are constantly referring back to these two lists. Your priorities are what will make your wedding meaningful and personal, and your wedding style is what makes your wedding uniquely you. Remember this and you will be able to stay focused and create a cohesive look for your wedding.
By Kate Martin from Beautiful Days
Where do I find ideas and inspiration?
Design is a process; it is expansive, it can click, it can be stubborn, and sometimes you need to just walk away for a bit. Design has a different language all it’s own. I hear so many times from my brides, “I know what I want I just can’t express it!” and that’s ok! My first line of advice is go with your heart. There are so many pretty things out there that anybody’s head can spin at the possibilities. Go with what you love, with what speaks to you, and you can’t go wrong.
Pinterest is a great tool for exploring, collecting, and organizing ideas, but it can be a rabbit hole—do not let yourself go down it. Turn it off! Pick up your favorite book or magazine or listen to your favorite podcast—anything to get you away from potentially doubting what you love as well as potentially thinking that the customized caricature cake toppers of you and your fiancé in the mix is a good idea.
Of course blogs are great, but again, a potential rabbit hole. You know how sometimes you are online and you are looking for the perfect dress and you keep searching even though you already have three different ones in shopping carts on three different sites? Just buy the dress! Stop looking! It’s the same with wedding inspiration—stop searching for THE one when you have already collected about 20 that you love and are inspired by! I have a current client who wisely stopped following certain feeds on Instagram because she didn’t need the wedding overload.
Look at the trendsetters beyond the wedding world—fashion designers (because the color and design of your wedding dress and maids dresses are trickling down from them), interior design (because the colors and patterns of linens are trickling down from them), and fabulous iconic movies that have the most amazing set designs (because, I swear, the whole family style farm table thing is s direct result from all those damn Harry Potter movies). There is a wedding from an Anne Hathaway movie called “Rachel Getting Married” that I wish I could replicate!
Start with broad strokes identifying the feeling you want on the day, the colors, what’s most important to you—then get more detailed from there. And then go for a walk, take a few deep breaths, and have a cocktail.
Do I need to invite all my guests to the rehearsal dinner?
With the evolution of the wedding weekend, especially with “destination” weddings, there has been the seemingly compulsory addition of a party for all your guests on the evening before the wedding day. I do love the idea of gathering your nearest and dearest who have traveled across the globe fueled by love (or familial obligation) to celebrate with you beyond the wedding day…BUT that doesn’t mean you have to throw them another party! If it’s in the budget then hosting a lobster bake or food truck picnic for 150 the evening before the wedding day is awesome! But don’t give up on having a more intimate rehearsal dinner—or even luncheon—for your wedding party and immediate family. I think missing out on that opportunity is a shame.
We often suggest to our clients having an intimate rehearsal dinner followed by a hosted drinks and desserts for all guests at the same venue as the rehearsal dinner. That way you have your lovely smaller rehearsal dinner then have the opportunity to hug and say hi to everyone else who has rolled into town without footing the bill for lobster and beer for 100.
I'm stressing out about money!
First things first...Oy! If only there was a formula that worked for all budgets! Don’t pay attention to the online budget estimators—those tend to take into consideration national averages, which do not adequately represent the market you are “shopping” in.
First things first—have an open honest conversation with the very generous people in your lives who will be contributing to your wedding celebration. Find out who will be contributing what. Have them give it to you and your future spouse to manage the spending from a separate wedding account. Your future mother in law might say, “I’d like to pay for the flowers, so just let me know how much it costs.” But she got married in 1972 when baby’s breath and daises were super hip and her flowers cost $750. When presented with your flower proposal for $6,320.73 she might say, “Well, I wasn’t expecting it to be this much. I was hoping to spend $2,000.” Then you are in the middle of a familial sticky wicket and back to starting from scratch. Unless parents have hosted (i.e. paid for) a wedding in the past 10 years, they do not know how much it costs, and it is up to you to educate them. But you haven’t done this before so how should you know?! Get where I’m going with this?
Secondly, don’t invite so many people! I’ve heard something like this many times: “I have a budget of $50,000, and we are inviting 250 people, but so many are from so far away we know at least 75 won’t come.” Wrong. People love Maine and are just waiting for the excuse to make the trip! And Maine is hip and you are so awesome that of course they are coming! So either come up with at least another $25,000 or more to entertain the 200 who will be at your wedding, or tighten up that list!
Lastly, don’t buy the horse before you have the cart! You have booked an amazing venue for $5,000 and right away booked a band that is just as awesome for $7,500—good for you! Your 150 guests will have a great time eating hotdogs and dancing to a kick ass band in a barn that has no decoration or lighting or tables to sit at because you didn’t realize that the venue just comes with…nothing! No tables, chairs, linens, forks, knives, glasses, catering facilities, or even a bathroom! And the average cost for food the budget calculator that BIG website gave you said you should be able to feed everyone for $35 per person—but that doesn’t include staffing, tax, tip, service fees, transportation, etc…). And you want local organic and seasonal ingredients, which not does not cost less but more.
And you don’t want your guests to pee in a Porta Potty, but that’s all you can afford now because you blew 1/3 of your budget on two items. Granted, they are two very important pieces, but their costs are making it pretty darn hard to afford all the rest.
Lesson learned: figure out what is most important to you for you wedding day, do the research, break down the budget, then commit.
Do It Yourself—Oy! Don’t Do It All!
The cost of having someone produce something for you on Etsy is short money for the pain and suffering you will endure making all those hand-painted dessert and directional signs (that you were inspired by Pinterest one late Tuesday night and gosh they look soooo cute and I can totally do that).
I had one couple a few years ago that did a ton of stuff—invites, programs, favors, etc...—but the groom was actively involved (not just a “Yes” man) but actively involved and engaged in the decisions, resourcing, and production of wedding pieces. I'm not saying your betrothed isn’t awesome, but let’s be real, the actual production of the 100 welcome bags, 150 escort cards, and the 120 jars of honey from your aunt’s farm, typically falls on our lovely brides. Most brides are lucky if they can get their man to choose a suit that actually fits, decide on a mother/son dance song, and get his guys off the golf course without being two sheets to the wind before they need to be photo ready on the wedding day.
If you want to DIY, pick, choose, and plan ahead. And remember, you don’t have to do it all!