Let’s talk about weddings for a minute. They can be big and extravagant, public, private, small, and intimate or anything in between. In any case they take time and organization to coordinate and bring together. From popping the question all the way to turning the lights off after the event there is a lot to consider. Since buying our shop in 2008 when I was a complete newbie (Trish was the experienced manager and floral designer, I jumped into the deep end with her from a completely unrelated industry!) to now I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to bring these events together. I will admit that because Trish and I own a floral shop that I may be slightly biased, but I will do my best to keep that influence to a minimum. Here is my list to bring your event to fruition with as few hiccups as possible.
Book early!! This is number one on the list because, frankly, it’s the most important. As soon as you have a tentative date chosen for your event immediately get on the phone. I say tentative because sometimes the date you thought would work just won’t. Venues book up, sometimes years in advance, and without a venue your plans can stall quickly. After the venue is sorted, find your Wedding Entertainment Director, MC and/or DJ. These professionals are a great resource for the next planning stages and their knowledge may affect some of your plans. Next you will want to find your caterer, photographer, decorator, officiant, hair/makeup artists and of course, your florist. The sooner the better for all these professionals. Not only do they often book up fast, sometimes over a year in advance, but many of them also need time to gather what is needed for your event and booking last minute may cost you more if they need to rush order supplies. For example, while we don’t receive the flowers we use for weddings or everyday orders until the week of, those orders are prepped and sent off weeks and often months in advance. This is done to allow our suppliers time to source the flowers we are looking for and helps to spot potential problems with supply due to circumstances beyond our control like weather, increased demand, etc. The more time we have, the better the odds we can get exactly what you want when we need it and if not, it gives us time to work with you on an alternative. You should be at least talking to these professionals within a month of picking your date and booking your venue, preferably at least 6 months to a year before your event. Remember its never too early to start communicating with your vendors.
Be flexible with your budget and expectations. This is a tough one. We all have and idea of what the final cost of an event should be to fit our needs and may even have an idea what each piece of the puzzle will cost. This is very important for any successful event, and everyone involved in making yours happen wants you to be happy with the result. That said, you must be flexible. Sometimes what we have in our head just doesn’t mesh with reality. For example, if you want to serve steak to your guests but it isn’t working with your budget, you have two choices; adjust your budget or adjust your wants/expectations. While we want your event to be perfect in every way there are hard costs associated with us doing business and it may not be possible to provide exactly what you want for the budget you have set. That said, talk to us and be open to considering our suggestions. Often we may have a solution that will help get what you want (or very close to it) while also respecting your budget. This applies to all these professionals. Trust that we want your day to be perfect as much as you do!
Expect the unexpected. With the events of the last two years, it became common for issues to spring up out of nowhere. While most of that is behind us there are still lingering effects. Some of us, such as flower shops, have fewer suppliers. That translates to limited options when things out of our control happen. We have all gotten pretty good at navigating problems that come out of nowhere, but sometimes there’s just no choice but to come up with an entirely new plan on short notice. If things like this happen, the professionals you’ve chosen will first try and look after it before you even know anything is amiss. That’s part of why you hired us; to make those problems seem non-existent to you, the client. Every once and a while though something pops up that cannot be solved without consulting our client. Don’t panic. We will have alternative solutions for your consideration and want the same thing you do; the perfect day!
Ask your vendors for recommendations of other professionals. Chances are we have all worked together at some point, and this directly translates into an advantage for you. How you ask? Well for starters we will know what to expect from vendors we know, and we won’t be likely to suggest a company we aren’t completely comfortable working with. There’s a lot of coordination that happens behind the scenes in the days leading up to an event. Florists need to know when tables will be set so they can time their arrival to place center pieces. Caterers will want to know that the MC will keep things on track so the food is served on time, hot, and fresh. Decorators will need to know when they can access venues to set up for the day, and the list goes on. Any one of multiple facets that need to be coordinated can cause cascading issues for everyone if they aren’t all working together. For example, if the decorator is late starting to set up the venue that could translate into delays all the way from the florist to the officiant or caterer. Each event is unique, so having vendors who work well together has tremendous value. It’s sometimes hard to see the connections, but I assure you they are there. Using professionals that have worked together in the past gives you and them an extra bit of protection in keeping your event on track. At the end of the day all these vendors need to work together as a well-oiled machine, literally what affects one will in some way effect all of us.
Read your contracts. This is imperative so you clearly know what to expect from your vendors and they know what to expect from you. These contracts will spell out what will happen if certain events unfold, warranties, when deposits and payments are due and what happens if either side fails to meet certain commitments. These can be tedious sometimes but are well worth the time to go over before you sign so you have the opportunity to ask questions if any clarification is needed.
Finally, and this is a big one, let everything go the day of and take it all in. Relax, enjoy the day, and above all laugh about those things that are out of your control. Designate someone to step in for you the day of and make any last-minute decisions that might need attending. It could be someone in your wedding party, a sibling, parent, a wedding coordinator or whomever you choose. Their whole job the day of is to solve any issues before they become so big that they must come to you. Think of them as a buffer and their number one priority is to make sure you can experience the day without unnecessary stress or interruptions. Make sure they are up to speed on how the day is supposed to go, contact information for vendors, and that the professionals you have hired have their contact information too. Discuss ahead of time what their boundaries are including what would constitute them needing to come to you instead of solving the issue themselves. If there is some big issue that absolutely needs your attention, ask them to consider whether bringing it to you will change anything. In rare instances bigger issues just can’t be solved the day of, so if nothing is going to correct an issue just roll with it and worry about it after. There’s no sense ruining a wonderful day stressing over something that cannot be changed or affected that close to the final event. Remember, it’s likely only a handful of you will even know something is amiss, so if you don’t make it a big deal your guests likely won’t either.
This is not a complete guide by any means, but hopefully it should point you in the right direction to making your day a success and as stress free as possible. If something doesn’t go to plan, chances are ironically that is what will make the rest of your event truly memorable for years to come. Cousin Jimmy running down the aisle right before the bride while trying to find his seat because he always runs late will only be the conversation starter, your guests will remember the weather, people they hadn’t visited with for years, and how beautiful the bride and groom were!