Monday, August 31, 2009

Seating Your Guests, The Organized Way

I learned several valuable lessons this weekend at a wedding that I was the Day-Of Coordinator for. While I was beyond thrilled for the bride and groom that the torrential downpour predicted subsided and they had a rain-free affair, I did learn how to organize your guest list for your vendors.

Whether or not you are doing escort cards, or place cards, you need a thorough and detailed guest list. Your list should include EVERY NAME of EVERY GUEST that is attending. And that name should be a complete name. For your vendors, we unfortunately don't know your guests and while you may called Mr. Christopher Smith, "the Chris man" ... we don't know if he's the Chris sitting at Table 2 or Table 19. This is also extremely helpful for when guests are being seated in the dining room. Without fail, as the planner, I always get asked, where am I sitting? If I have a thorough and complete list, I can easily answer that question. If its a list with just first and nicknames, I won't know whose who, especially if everyone has the same name. Lastly, if you don't know the guest that someone is bringing as their date - ask. Its awkward for them to pick up an escort card that says "Mr. Bob Jones and Guest" ... makes them feel a bit unwelcome and uncared for.

You don't need to become crazed by excel, just make sure that every name is clearly listed!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Insuring Your Wedding Day

While your wedding day is meant to be the most incredible day of the year {duh}, you do need to insure that it just that. And by insure, I don't just mean having everything planned out and detailed, I literally mean insured. My husband and I had a fun time attending his cousin's wedding this past weekend back in their hometown of Grand Rapids. Their grandfather has an over sized barn which was perfect for their chilled out, homespun wedding day. The party was fun with extra touches {read: beirut and bride and groom pinatas} that really showed the bride and groom's personalities. There was only one small incident that deterred from the wedding day fun when one guest slipped on a spilled drink and was rushed to the hospital for stitches. Not the best part of the day. While it's very clear that she isn't going to sue Granpa for damages, there is something that the bride and groom could have done to ensure that as hosts of the party, they are fully protected: wedding day insurance.

Its very standard these days for venues, caterers and tent companies to include a clause in their contract stating that the bride and groom must get certificates of insurance. These certificates really do provide protection for all involved at the event - from staff to hosts to guests. If you are serving alcohol, you'll definitely want to get a Certificate of Liquor Liability, which will not make you responsible for anything if your guests do anything stupid while drinking alcohol that you've paid for. It really would be a downer if one of your guests had an incident on the way home. While yes, none out of ten times, nothing is going to happen, you want to guarantee that your wedding day is insured. These certificates can also protect you and your money if any vendors totally flake out or if there are any major weather forces that cause a cancellation. Check out WedSafe, a website that specializes in wedding day insurance!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Fourty Random Things About This Wedding Planner

I thought I would take a moment and answer 40 Random Questions so you could get to know me better!

1. What time did you get up this morning?
7AM. I used to be a night person and now am a morning person. I blame the dogs wanting to go to the dog park at 7AM everyday. On the flip side, by the time my husband wakes up, most of my chores are completed.

2. How do you like your steak?
Medium Rare.

3. What was the last film you saw at the cinema?
Julie & Julia - cute but made me hungry. I have a long list of movies I want to see, but we'd rather stay at home and watch them on our TV than pay $30 to go to the movies.

4. What is your favourite TV show?
It changes all the time but at the moment, NCIS. There's something about crime shows that intrigue me.

5. If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be?
Wow. That's a tough one. Lots of places: LA, San Francisco, Paris, London, Cape Town. My goal in life is to have apartments and small cottages all over the world so we can just pack up and go whenever.

6. What did you have for breakfast?
My personal trainer's cereal mix. Whole wheat flakes, rolled oats, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and pecans with lots of berries. Yum.

7. What is your favourite cuisine?
Hmmm ... italian, sushi and Afrikaans {ok, not a cuisine, but certain Afrikaans foods are amazing and I only get to have them once a year :(}

8. What foods do you dislike?
Fish. I have irrational fears.

9. Favourite Place to Eat?
Any place that has great food and really good atmosphere and where I can hear my dinner partner. If its too loud, I'm not a fan.

11. What kind of vehicle do you drive?
We have an X3 but mainly walking and subway. NYC isn't the best place to drive.

12. What are your favourite clothes?
Jeans, T-shirt and fit flops. I love being comfy and put together.

13. Where would you visit if you had the chance?
I'm jonesing to go to Portugal for some unknown reason these days.

14. Cup 1/2 empty or 1/2 full?
Half full. Life is too short to be pessimistic.

15. Where would you want to retire?
Near my eventual children.

16. Favourite time of day?
The relaxation time.

17. Where were you born?
Durban, South Africa.

18. What is your favourite sport to watch?

19. Bird watcher?
Not particularly, although at one time my grandfather had the largest collection of birds in captivity in the entire continent of Africa.

20. Are you a morning person or a night person?
Morning for sure. I blame my South African heritage for that.

21. Do you have any pets?
The two most adorable and lovely French Bulldogs, Lulu & Maxwell.

22. Any new and exciting news you’d like to share?
Stay tuned to my website for some awesome changes that are forthcoming!

23. What did you want to be when you were little?
Psychologist. Not sure I even knew what that was.

24. What is your best childhood memory?
Growing up with my amazing best friend and our fun adventures. We weren't allowed to watch TV which forced us to be seriously creative in order to entertain ourselves.

25. Are you a cat or dog person?

26. Are you married?
Yes! On September 6th, it'll be our One Year Anniversary! And, of course, I'll be coordinating a wedding that day. The husband is a workaholic too, so he gets it. In fact, I have a suspicion that there's a surprise trip for me afterwards!

27. Always wear your seat belt?
Absolutely. I live by the South African police force motto: Arrive Alive.

28. Any pet peeves?
Procrastination although I suffer from it too on occasion. Just get things done!

29. Favourite Pizza Toppings?
Pepperoni although I don't think the personal trainer allows it.

30. Favourite Flower?
Where do we begin? Peony, Ranuncula, Garden Roses, Chocolate Cosmos, Hydrangea ... there's a long list. I LOVE FLOWERS!

31. Favourite ice cream?
Sorry, not actually a fan!

32. How many times did you fail your driver’s test?
Not once!

33. Which store would you choose to max out your credit card?
Target, Prada, Paper Presentation, Etsy.

34. Do anything spontaneous lately?
Hmmm, what counts as spontaneous?

35. Happy with your job?
Absolutely. I am so blessed and fortunate to be a wedding planner. I love my clients and I love bringing together all the wedding elements.

36. What was your favourite vacation?
There are so many! My first trip with my husband to show him France, my many adventures during Study Abroad in Europe, all the trips to Plettenberg Bay with the family and above all, any time Safari has been involved. I've been so lucky to come from a family that loves to travel.

37. Last person you went out to dinner with?
Last night! My husband and our friends Adam and Kim who are getting married in 2.5 months on a very swanky cruise!

38. What are you listening to right now?
The hum of the A/C unit.

39. What is your favourite colour?
Black and pink.

40. Coffee Drinker?
No. English background means I am a tea drinker!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Questionable Wednesdays: Time Between Ceremony and Cocktails

Every Wednesday, I will try to shed some light on a Question that I find floating around the wedding'sphere.

Question: "My ceremony will be starting at 2:00PM. It will probably last an hour and a half...The reception site is at a resort, 15 minutes away. Most of the guest live in the city. Cocktail reception starts at 6:30 PM. I feel bad that the guests have to wait 3 hours before the festivities begin. What do you do as a guest who has had to wait long in between? What should I do to help relieve guests of that down time??"

Answer: The most common debate is regarding the wedding day timeline! How to time between the ceremony end and the reception begins is very important not only for your guests but for your vendors. This question is obviously avoided if your ceremony and reception at the same site. But if you are having the ceremony in a different place to the reception, you need to factor in a couple elements:

Firstly, if the place where your ceremony is taking place has time restrictions on wedding ceremonies, you need to adhere to them. Most Catholic churches for instance won't allow weddings to begin after 2PM. If you are having a black tie evening, its probably not going to begin at 3 or 3:30PM right as the ceremony concludes.

Secondly, driving time. Please remember to factor in the amount of time it will take guests to get from either the ceremony site or their hotel {depending on what you want them to do during their down time} to the reception area. Also be sure to provide very clear directions especially for those who aren't familiar with the area.

Obviously, if you have a few hours between ceremony and reception, for the bridal party, this is the best time to go and take some amazing photo's. For the guest, you're all dressed up with basically no where to go! I would suggest including some sort of tour {self guided or bus with guide} of the area, particularly if there are some great things to see in your area, you could create a map with history bites for guests to follow. Otherwise, I find that most guests will either go back to the hotel to relax or they will begin celebrating without you in a local watering hole.

While its definitely an issue regarding timing, don't let it be a huge cause of stress in your wedding planning. Your guests are there to celebrate with you, not cause anxiety!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Defining Luxury

Today's post is directed towards you, dear reader. I am currently reading a book on Luxury and how through the age's the word alone has come to be defined. It's quite something to think about, especially when it comes to weddings. Years ago, luxury was thought of something that only the upper upper classes could afford. Luxury items and / or lifestyle was seen as only for the very rich and elite. These days, the word luxury has morphed into something much more. Luxury is not only the finest things in life {which are more accessible to the masses} but also experiences. Free time is now considered a luxury. Travel and amazing perks on your trip are now considered luxury.

How does Luxury play a role in your wedding? Is it the luxury of a budget that allows you to fulfill all your wedding day wishes? Is it the luxury of having the best of the best? Is it the luxury of having all your friends and family be there to celebrate your vows? Is it the luxury of knowing that you are going to say 'I Do' to your soulmate? Is it the luxury of knowing that your day will be smooth, seamless and amazing because of the fabulous vendors you've hired and the trust you have in them?

What are your luxuries in life and in wedding planning?

{Personal note: some of my luxuries in life include a healthy happy family, being able to travel and having a seriously comfy couch}

Monday, August 17, 2009

When Vendors Seem To Be Too Good To Be True

I am inspired to write about this topic based off of a consultation I had this afternoon. Apparently, my services + prices were too good to be true. Both the bride and the groom were looking for the catch, the hidden loophole, any reason to believe that what I was offering them was not reality. {Reality: What I offer is the reality, no strings attached, no hidden anything} It got me thinking, how often in the wedding planning process do you think "its too good to be true?". Turns out, fairly often. Its as though life, education, advice and experience have taught us to be skeptical of everything from guarantees to promises, and everyday we face situations that seem to be too good to be true. How do you know when it is that good to be true?!

Leaving gut instinct aside {which yes, I do firmly believe plays a massive role in how we perceive services and make purchases}, what impetus allows you, the purchaser, to believe you're getting the best that you can get?

When planning a wedding, the first rule of thumb everyone tells you is to not mention that you're planning a wedding, since the word alone encourages vendors to jack the price up. In same instances, yes, this does happen and its best to pretend you're just having one extravagant affair. But, in other instances, letting a vendor know that its your wedding may lead to getting a lot of extras on top of what you are paying for. Obviously, some vendors you need to hire will automatically know its a wedding {photographer, videographer for example} and you won't be left wondering if you didn't mention WEDDING if the price would be less.

If during your meeting with a vendor, they show their expertise, they are concise in their descriptions, they understand your goals and they generally seem like they get you and your wedding ... take them at face value. I rarely come across a vendor who is out to screw you. In fact, its quite the opposite ~ people who work in this industry generally have a passion for weddings, happiness and their clients. They want their clients to have a happy wedding day. And, they want their services to be what contributes to a happy, seamless wedding day. They usually aren't sinister, quoting one price when the bottom line is actually multiples more. But, if during your meeting you feel like they won't develop on their services or they aren't going to be the best match, then move along.

Try not to base your decisions off of the bottom line, try to base your decisions off the value add that this vendor is going to provide in your planning process. The best compliment a vendor can receive is that they are invaluable regardless of what they charged you.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Developing Your Wedding Day "Theme"

While you don't need to "theme" your wedding {i.e. Sandra and Billy's BBQ Throwdown}, it is good to have some sort of vision / theme for your day. While you don't want everything to be matchy matchy, you want the entire look of your wedding day to have some underlying element that gives it cohesion. Whether its a color, motif, logo, flower, you name it, it should be reflected in most aspects of the day. But ... that doesn't give you license to just use anything. Use something that makes sense to your union. I once attended a wedding where the couple had stamped a bicycle on everything: invitations, programs, menu cards, place cards ... neither of them were bicycle enthusiasts and I have no clue what the bicycle meant. I actually still have no clue and my sister in law has tried a million times to give me some clarity on it to no avail.

Anyways ... having some direction stylistically will be an immense help when choosing your decor. While your vision in no means needs to be carefully thought out and presented, it does need to have some meat behind it.

Par Example:

Style notes: warm tones, romantic candlelight, low and lush, rustic, country feel

When you find inspirational images you love, take a moment to write some notes about what you love about the image. These notes will serve as a great foundation to create your wedding day look!

{images from}

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Questionable Wednesdays: Plus One's or Plus None's

Every Wednesday, I will try to shed some light on a Question that I find floating around the wedding'sphere.

Question: "We are very limited on space and finances and I didn't put "and guest" on the invites unless I knew a single was attached or in the better case I knew the name of their significant other. However I'm beginning to receive response cards back that say +1 when I know they aren't in a committed relationship. However I really don't have the room or financial resources to deal with this. I wish I could just let it slide but these +1's are beginning to add up. What could I do to smooth over the situation without offending anyone and politely requesting they do not bring a guest?"

Answer: Your Guest List is one area that you and your groom need to stand on firm ground together. You need to have a united front on what your "door policy" will be in regards to guests. That said, single guests are always cause for controversy because they seem to forget that an additional person means: paying for another meal, bar, larger table, more rental items, maybe another seat on a bus, an extra place card ... this stranger winds up costing the couple a few extra hundred dollars just so your original invitee can have someone to talk to all evening.

One approach that I always recommend {based off of Mrs. Etiquette herself, Emily Post} is this: married couples or engaged couples are obviously invited in twos. Non-engaged couples must either be living together or dating for well over a year. If you've spent time with both people and have formed a friendship with the significant other, than its appropriate to invite them, but if you've never met said significant other or its only been a few months, don't waste your money. A wedding is never the right place to introduce your boyfriend or girlfriend to the Bride and Groom. Its awkward for everyone involved ... including your significant other. If you haven't been dating all that long, going to a wedding together may not be the best idea for the relationships long term health.

If you've received RSVP's stating a plus one when the option was never given, its time to pony up and call that person and explain that your financial resources are only for those who know you. Its a rough conversation to have, but in the end, what matters is that your attendees know and love you both. If your friend goes by way of the cuckoo bird, well then, just wait until they get married. Wedding's bring out all sorts of emotions in people {good and bad} so just try and be calm and rationale when explaining your door policy. Or, just hire security on the Wedding Day!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Questionable Wednesdays: Flakey Vendors

Every Wednesday, I will try to shed some light on a Question that I find floating around the wedding'sphere.

Question: "I've been searching for a caterer and have barely made progress. It seems like every single one I have contacted has either not responded at all to my inquiry or vaguely responded with promises to respond in a few months time"

Answer: Flakey to inquires = flakey in business. At least in my experience. When doing research for vendors, not just caterers, take note of how they interact with you. Are they prompt to respond? Deliver the information they promise in a timely fashion? Do they make you feel well taken care of and like your business matters? If the answer is NO to any of the above, move along.

Your business {more importantly, your dollars} should matter to whatever vendor you hire. You're taking the time to inquire about what they offer, they should take the time to make sure you're a happy customer. I find that if I am inquiring about menu's, pricing or availability, if I don't get a prompt response or that I seem to have to pry information out of them ~ they aren't going to be that great to work with. No matter how amazing their food is, if they flake out on the wedding day, not having anything for your guests to eat is just too horrendous to even think about.

With email and phones readily accessible, it seems silly to me that vendors wouldn't return calls or emails promptly. If you find that a vendor is ignoring your attempts to give them cash, delete and find someone else who is prepared to treat you like the amazing Bride and Groom that you are.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Five Lessons I've Learned About Wedding Planning

I thought I would take the time today to discuss Five Lessons that I have learned throughout my wedding planning adventures. Some are personal, that I've learned along the way about myself and some are related to wedding planning.

1. Get everything in writing ~ even if its the stupidest, smallest detail. Firstly, as hard as I try, I can't remember everything and if I don't write it down, it might as well have never been a thought. Take notes during your meetings and file them away. Somewhere down the line, a vendor will want to know which direction the table runner was going and since you wrote it down, you'll be able to quickly give them that information. This principle also applies to contracts and other promises that vendors give you: if its in writing, they can't renege on it. If it's not, well then its "he said, she said" and that is an ugly route to go down.

2. I can only be as great a wedding planner based off the information a client and a vendor tells me. Its unfortunate, but I have yet to master the art of mind reading. Which means, that as a wedding coordinator, I rely on everyone telling me exactly what they are thinking / feeling / wanting. I can usually make any desire happen, I just need to be told about it first in order to get the ball rolling.

3. Think about your guests comfort, to a certain degree. Obviously, while planning your wedding, you've thought about guest comforts: feeding them, providing them libation, entertainment, a thoughtful welcome bag, the small details to make your wedding as fun for them as possible. But, don't continuously make decisions based off of what you think your guests will like / prefer / want to do. Your guests want to see you get hitched and they want to eat, drink and be merry. Anything after that is just a bonus. The best part about a wedding is that despite your guest having been a guest numerous times, they come to every wedding with a fresh slate. Everything is new, novel and exciting and since the Bride and the Groom are the hosts, they will follow your lead.

4. Bathroom locations are extremely important. We don't really need to discuss this in detail, but just remember that having an easy to locate bathroom is high priority.

5. The wedding is one day, a marriage is a lifetime. I personally subscribe to this motto everyday, and I am a wedding planner! You spend so much time planning and planning the wedding, but something its easy to forget that the wedding is actually only one day and that your marriage is a lifetime. Take time in your planning process to discuss important matters and questions that you will encounter in your marriage. Take time to work on your marriage before the wedding, setting the foundation. Regardless of what may happen on the actual wedding day ~ its one day. Your marriage is for the rest of time {I am a total romantic at heart}, so whatever happens on the wedding day, its just small potatoes.

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Value of Planning

We're just getting back into the swing of things after a fantastic wedding up in Saratoga Springs this past weekend. While we had planned the logistics and created our timeline for the wedding, a few snafu's did arise throughout the day and I thought I would bring them up for discussion and awareness. Even the best laid plans can somehow get pushed back.

During your planning process, its easy for the Groom to give up the reigns and not be involved. In fact, some couple's prefer this method planning. As a wedding coordinator, I remain indifferent to this. Some wedding's I never meet the Groom until the wedding rehearsal, and some wedding's I converse more with the Groom than the Bride. My job isn't to mettle in the couple's relationship, just to plan their wedding day! That being said, if you've got a hands off Groom ~ the week prior to the wedding, he needs to become a hands on Groom. He needs to be briefed, either by the Bride or the Coordinator, on all aspects of the wedding day. Timing, expectations, room layout, what has been discussed with the venue, band, transportation, photographer and any other vendors. This way, on the wedding day, its not all new to the Groom. He won't be 30 minutes late to board the bus and claim he didn't know the time. He won't want to change the order of dances and speeches. He won't question any aspect of the day. While as a planner, we are well versed in making quick decisions based on the flow of events and the needs of the newlyweds, its difficult to be discussing changing logistics one to two minutes before something else was supposed to happen.

Remember, timeline's are your friend and are created to ensure that the wedding flows seamlessly.

Happy Planning!