Saturday, February 23, 2013

Guest Post: The inside scoop from a master of wedding chaos

Meet Priscilla.
Can you believe that she's even cuter in person?
I am so excited to share my first guest post with you today! I can't think of a better person to be posting, and it is none other than my fabulous wedding planner, Priscilla

Priscilla is the beauty (and brains) behind Orangerie Events. I met Priscilla through my original wedding venue...and even though things didn't work out with the venue, I took Priscilla along with me. :) She came highly recommended by both my photographer and college friend, well as by the many people I met and spoke to during my extensive venue search!

One look at her website, and you will see that Orangerie Events infuses a hint of southern charm and whimsy, delivering some of the most memorable, personable, and chic weddings I've ever seen. Priscilla has been so wonderful in this planning process, and I am so glad that I can count on her to be there for me on the big day! So here is some valuable advice from one of the best in the business! (And some photos of her beautiful creations too!) Enjoy.

the Bride

The Inside Scoop from a Master of Wedding Chaos

People often ask me, “What do you love most about being a wedding planner?” My answer is quick and honest. I love my clients. I sometimes think back to a time when I worked the corporate world, suited in a collared Express shirt and pleated pants, bored out of my mind, with the numbers of maybe five girlfriends in my phone. Being a wedding planner has given me the opportunity to meet such fabulous couples and as an outcome of being so involved during such a pivotal time in their lives, I walk away with another gal pal and another number in my phone. I’ve never been in a position that facilitates the growth of bonding relationships and it’s the most rewarding part of what I do.

A prime example is Miss Dorothy. I feel privileged to be working with such a creative and inspiring woman. I am so thankful she decided to allow me to take part in her wedding planning process. I’m also extremely grateful that she’s invited me to guest blog to fill you in on my thoughts about hiring a wedding coordinator for your wedding day.

There have been multiple times at a wedding when I’ve looked at my assistant and posed the question, “What would they have done if we weren’t here handling this?” The realistic answer is the bride or the mother of the bride would be facilitating the questions and solving the problems when their butts should be planted in the makeup chair being pampered. The list of life events in which you’ll spend thousands of dollars for a one-day affair is quite short which means a wedding must be something really important. It’s crazy to me that couples will fork over a hefty savings to host a wedding and yet will just trust that everything will go exactly how they imagined on the wedding day without a coordinator or with a “family friend” managing the chaos. Here’s an inside tip, and this might sting a little. Something will go wrong on your wedding day. It’s not a matter of if but rather a matter of when. And if you’re smart and really invested in relaxing and enjoying the wedding day to the fullest, those mishaps will be handled by a professional and you’ll have zero knowledge of their existence. 

A lot of brides have the misconception that a “day-of coordinator” is just that and is only involved in the wedding on the day-of. While that may be the case for some planners, that’s not the practice of Orangerie Events. I want each of my clients, even the day-of brides, to know and feel that they always have someone to turn to and ask questions. On the flip side, some brides are weary of hiring a full-service wedding planner in fear that the planner will take over the wedding. I recently met a guy in line at the post office, struck up a conversation and got an ear full about his daughter’s experience working with a wedding planner. He said she was so disappointed because the planner had a specific way of doing things and insisted on forcing those methods and ideas onto the bride.

My philosophy on helping a couple to plan their wedding is quite simple. We’re partners. I’m here to lead the crusade, clear the obstacles and make the journey as exciting and as easy as possible. I take the bride’s vision, not mine, and bring it to fruition on the wedding day. I’m the voice of reason and the numbers cruncher working behind the scenes to stay on course and on budget. I had my wedding and I did it my way. I’m now working on my bride’s wedding to make it everything she dreamed about and a little more.

I encourage all of my brides to use my expertise and experience for guidance as they navigate through planning their dream wedding from start to finish and regardless of the level of service they’ve secured. Friends and fianc├ęs may grow tired of hearing about in-season wedding flowers and coordinating color palettes but my ears love listening to those details. The bottom line is that a good planner, a really good planner, will be a detail-driven ball of creativity and in the long run, will save you money, hook you up with the most awesome vendors and will allow you to enjoy the wedding day from the beginning to the very end. 

Monday, February 18, 2013

The list.

The Guest List. Dun dun dun.

This is probably one of the more daunting tasks I've had to face so far in the whole planning process. I can't tell you how stressful it is to come up with a "concise" list of a hundred of our "closest" friends and family. I can't even remember all my friends and family let alone come up with a list of them. That being said, let's start with the facts (via Business Wire for weddings in 2011):

  • Average guest count: 141
  • Average wedding budget (excluding honeymoon): $27,021
Take these two numbers, do a little math, and what do you get? The average cost per wedding guest in 2011 was $191.64. Makes you feel kinda guilty about that $20 dented frying pan you picked out from the clearance section for Cousin Scooter's wedding gift, doesn't it?

So let's get to the point. What is the point of this blog entry today? Well, I am hoping that today's blog entry will serve the following two purposes (color-coded for your convenience!):
  1. To help brides (like me) with preparing the guest list, and finding polite (yet firm) ways to field the non-invited
  2. To help guests (and non-guests) understand what is and isn't appropriate to say to a bride who is working on her guest list (AKA etiquette!) and planning her whole entire wedding (among other things!)
The moment you are engaged, you should expect to start hearing from long-lost "friends" and acquaintances whom you haven't spoken to in ages, who hint at, and even blatantly ask to be invited to your wedding. Trust me, it happens. You will hear from co-workers, classmates, acquaintances, friends of friends, family, friends of your parents, friends of your fiance, friends of your fiance's parents, family of your fiance's, etc. You will hear from people you don't consider yourself to be close to or even friends with. Instead of getting frustrated, take a moment to realize that these people who are hoping to be invited are just happy for you, and want to have the opportunity to celebrate you and your upcoming marriage. That being said, unless you have an unlimited budget, it just ain't gonna happen. There's no way you can invite EVERYONE to the wedding, so don't feel like you have to. You just can't.

Remember, it's YOUR wedding, and you can do what YOU want to (given the circumstances). Likely your fiance, his parents, as well as your parents will have a list of guests they'd like to invite. Basically, it comes down to what you can afford, what the venue can handle, and what you want to do. You will probably want to sit down with the aforementioned to come up with a couple of lists and go from there. You should come up with an A list and a B list. The A list will consist of guests that you absolutely must invite. The B list will consist of those whom you would like to invite, but might not be able to. Generally, many brides invite B list guests as room permits once they start getting RSVPs from their A list. Make sure you have a deadline for RSVPs. If guests miss the deadline, make use of those bridesmaids! Have them make calls for you to get confirmations from unresponsive guests. 

Some things to keep in mind when dealing with guest lists and invitations: 
  • Don't get too frustrated. Usually the ones that show the least etiquette are the ones who have never done this before, or just don't know better. Maybe they've never planned a wedding before, maybe they don't realize how expensive weddings are...whatever the reason, they likely just don't try not to get too frustrated!
  • If the guest you want to invite is married, you need to invite their spouse. If you feel like you can't accomodate both of them, then it's better not to include them at all. (In other words, you can't invite one and not the other.) Ideally, this goes for couples in serious relationships as well (though some might say otherwise.) Some say you need to invite their kids too. Ideally, yes, but in some circumstances you may not want to or be able to invite kids. (This is up to you, but whatever you decide on, you should be consistent.) 
  • The names of those invited should be specified on the inner envelope of the invite (i.e., "Mr. James Smith and Guest." The outer envelope can be addressed to one person or a couple (i.e., "Mr. James Smith," or "Dr. and Mrs. James Smith").
  • Politely ask friends and family to stay quiet about the guest list until it is absolutely finalized and invites are sent. Overeager parents may sometimes inform everyone on their wish list that they are invited before the master list is created. Unfortunately, you can't "uninvite" someone who has been given a direct invite from the mother of the bride!
  • Make use of your bridesmaids, close friends, and family. If you know you are going to have a small wedding, use them to get the word out! When they talk about the wedding, they can say things like, "It's going to be an intimate wedding." This helps ease expectations from guests you just can't invite. (This is also a great way to get the word out on where you're registered...but that's another story for another day.) 
  • If you send save-the-dates, you must invite those you send them to. If you invite someone to a bridal shower or wedding shower, you must invite those guests to the wedding. If you aren't planning on inviting them to the wedding, don't send them a save-the-date, and don't invite them to the shower!
  • I have heard of people sending wedding announcements to those who didn't make the invite list. I personally don't think this is necessary anymore, but it's up to you. You don't really owe anybody an explanation...but sometimes you will just come across that occasional family friend, acquaintance, or coworker who ruthlessly drops hints about being invited. Just be gracious. Let them know that you are flattered that they want to attend the wedding, but then explain to them (as nicely as you can) the circumstances. Usually, saying something once will be enough for them to get the hint. Here are some polite things you can say:
    • "We would love to have a huge crowd, but we have decided on having a smaller, more intimate wedding."
    • "Unfortunately, the venue we selected can only accomodate a small number of people."
    • "Due to our large families, we have had to limit the guest list."
    • "Because of budget constraints, we have cut down the guest list."
If you have any other concerns or etiquette questions, a good resource is Emily Post. I am a huge fan of Peggy Post's Wedding Etiquette book!

I am going to finish this post with some information that I feel needs to be said. As I mentioned earlier, many people are unaware of  wedding etiquette, and just don't know better. Here's to hoping that this information is heard! :)
  • Don't expect to be invited to a wedding. I say this now, but only after having begun planning my own. I was once one of those people who would get seriously offended and hurt when I wasn't invited to a wedding. Most recently, a good friend of mine from college didn't invite me to his/her wedding, and even though I had kept in touch with him/her, I still didn't make the list. Yes, that stung, and it did hurt a little, but in the end, I just shrugged it off. It also doesn't mean I'm automatically not inviting him/her to my wedding. I reminded myself that though I considered this person to be a pretty good friend of mine, it didn't necessarily mean that he/she felt the same way about me. I also kept in mind that due to reasons unbeknownst to me (budget, venue limitations, etc.), there was probably a valid reason for not inviting me. I just shrugged it off and moved on.
  • Don't ask (or hint) for an invite. This is the last thing the bride needs! She is planning a wedding, and already under the stresses of everything that comes along with it. The last thing she needs is for someone to be breathing down her neck when she's already trying her best to please everyone. Please just trust that the bride will invite you to the wedding if time/space/budget/etc. permits. Some things not to say
    • "I hope I'm invited to your wedding."
    • "I can't wait for your wedding."
    • "I hope I can bring _________ (insert name of significant other, child, etc.)."
  • Don't guilt-trip the bride into inviting you. Again, the bride is already under all the stresses that come with planning a wedding, not to mention that often times, a bride is also dealing with well-meaning (but sometimes overzealous) mothers, future mother-in-laws, etc. who are adding more and more guests to the list, causing it to grow by the minute. 
  • Don't be hurt if you're not invited. This one gets its own separate list of bullets!
    • Weddings are expensive, and that's the truth. Stationery, food, beverages, alcohol, chairs, china, linens, silver, glassware, favors, cake...these things add up, and directly contribute to the cost of each person. There are also costs that suddenly pop up when you hit a certain number of guests: (tents, servers, sound systems, decor; etc.) Taking that into consideration, can you really blame a bride for keeping her guest list to a certain number? Cutting the list by 10 people can immediately save $2000!
    • You're not her only friend. Think about it. Are you really even that close? Do you hang out outside of class, work, school, church? Do you know how many brothers and sisters she has? If not, are you really all that upset?
    • When was the last time you talked? Yes, maybe you were close at one point in your life, but if you haven't spoken in years, it's possible that since then, the bride has become closer to other people. Unfortunately, sometimes that means that you're moved to the B list. It sucks, but it's life, and it happens. I mean, come on, did you even send her a birthday card this year? ;)
In sum, don't be offended if you're not invited. It doesn't mean they didn't want you there. It doesn't mean they don't like you. It just means that due to extenuating circumstances, there was a limit to how many guests could be accommodated!

So I think that about wraps it up. I wrote this in the midst of talking to two friends of mine who are planning their weddings and getting stressed about their growing guest lists. One's mother is insisting on inviting more and more people that she feels "have" to be invited. The bride doesn't even personally know many of them! The other is planning a small wedding, but has lots of family from out of town that she is worried about offending. Me? I'm dealing with the stresses of narrowing down a large list without offending anyone. My fiance's parents both come from large families, and his family alone takes up 50% of the guest list. We love all of them, and want them all to be there! Unfortunately, that also means that we have to limit the rest of our guest list. It sucks, but, due to our budget, we just can't invite much as we'd love to. :( So I've just come to terms with the fact that I can't please everyone, and that I have to do my best not to take things personally if I happen to offend anyone. 

Aside from all of that, I'm also juggling going to graduate school full-time, working 2 jobs, writing a dissertation, unpacking, dealing with specific illnesses, teaching, and when I have the time, planning this wedding!

I think I need a nap. ;)

the Bride