Thursday, June 28, 2012

“Girls Cry, Boys Freeze”; Flower Girls and Ring Bearers

Traditionally, back when a bath was considered a luxury, a flower girl spread petals to cover up the bride’s less-than-pleasant scent. A ring bearer’s job consisted of carrying the prayer book, bride’s train and rings. A pillow to carry rings later appeared in ceremonies as a sign of wealth - pillows back then being a luxury few could afford. Over time, as showering became more regular and dresses less heavy, the purpose and roles of flower girls and ring bearers changed; today, they’re used as a way to incorporate young family members or loved ones in the ceremony rather than provide a needed service.

Whether to include a ring bearer or flower girl as a member of a bridal party can be a difficult decision. A child’s age, temperament and personality must be included when considering inviting them to participate in a ceremony. A child who is too young will likely not walk down the aisle. It’s not uncommon for girls to start crying and boys to freeze right before beginning their duties. A child who is too old may question why they are not a junior bridesmaid or groomsmen. It’s almost a certainty that a high-stress child will burst into tears immediately before walking down the aisle, and that a shy child will run quite fast to the altar.

Of course, a calm child between the ages of 5-8 can be a quite lovely addition to a ceremony. Few things are sweeter than a nicely-dressed child smiling as he or she precedes a bride down the aisle.

However, there are still considerations when including the perfect child in a ceremony. First, many churches do not permit scattering petals due to their lack of interest in sweeping them away after the ceremony’s conclusion. This means that flower girls are often provided with a small bouquet or pomander ball in lieu of loose petals. While you may be okay with that, a child who has set her heart on scattering petals might find this a little disconcerting. To lessen the possibility of a freak-out when handed a pomander, mention the type of flowers the little darling will receive several times to her in advance of the wedding.

Second, please never, ever send a ring bearer down the aisle with thousands of dollars worth of jewelry that is not securely affixed to the pillow. If necessary, learn some basic sewing skills to securely attach those precious symbols to the ring bearer’s ceremony accessory. Fake rings are also an acceptable substitute. Nothing is worse than asking guests to engage in a hunt for rings under their seats in the middle of the ceremony.

Third, be considerate of the cost of children’s wedding attire. For some reason, there is a severe dearth of affordable, nice-looking flower girl dresses. (Hint: if in need of a flower girl dress, try small, local children’s dress or quinceanera shops and avoid – at all costs – pageant dress shops.) Child-sized tuxedos and suits are usually reasonably priced. Keep in mind that you’re essentially asking parents to spend $150.00 on an outfit their child will wear for about 6 hours.

Fourth and finally, give your child attendants a thank-you gift that is age appropriate, entertaining and fun. Children (and their parents) love a small bag of new toys or goodies to play with during the reception, and it’s usually that gift that the child remembers and talks about the most. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

It's Time to Stop Planning

Yesterday, I had a conversation about how finishing planning early might not be the best decision because it leaves time for other issues or planning details to arise. Essentially, I was reminded of the fact that “a wedding is a marathon, not a sprint”, and to plan accordingly (thank you, Heather).

The fact of the matter, though, is that Heather is right. Planning is a marathon, and is so for a very specific purpose: to avoid over-planning.

Over-planning is a very real problem; I’ve experienced it (but apparently that doesn’t mean that I remember that experience all the time), and found it to be a difficult situation to handle. It’s extremely difficult to tell a bride – or myself – that enough is enough, that something doesn’t really need to be done, or – most importantly - that further planning may just overcomplicate the day.

Planning just for planning’s sake – meaning continuing to deal with things, handle issues or make schedules once every required aspect for a day is complete – makes a wedding day messy. It adds extra elements that may overshadow previous, painstaking details or add just “too much” to a wedding, putting the event over the top and detracting from the original décor, theme or even the main purpose of the day, the ceremony. This is why it’s extremely important to know when to stop planning.

How do you know it’s time to stop planning?
  1. Your checklist is complete.
  2. You’re only a few weeks out from the wedding and have made all of your necessary decisions.
If you’re still confused, ask yourself: “If I make this change, will it cost me something?” If the answer is “yes”, usually because you’ve already paid vendors in full, then stop planning.

If you’re still, still confused, ask yourself: “Is this something I originally wanted, or did the idea of it only recently arise?” If the answer is “yes”, usually because you’ve re-read all your wedding magazines and fallen in love with new photos, then stop planning.

If you’re even STILL confused, ask yourself: “How much work do I expect this to take and is that amount of time worth it?” If the answer is “yes”, usually because you’ll be required to entirely revise an already-planned aspect of your day, then stop planning.

However, just as important as it is to know when to stop planning is to know when to take a break. Momentum in planning is essential – it’s a well-known fact in the industry that most couples fall off the radar for a few weeks when they’re a few months into planning.

That’s just fine. Even marathon runners stop to walk once in awhile.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

How Real are Bridal TV Shows?

Wouldn't it be nice to click your heels and have your wedding planned?

At some time in her life, almost every woman has watched a bridal-focused television show. Regardless of whether that show focused on buying a wedding or bridesmaid dress, followed planners as they worked, or was a reality, do-it-yourself program, it was likely a highly sensationalized account of the wedding planning process.

We here at HJ are rarely asked about the reality of bridal television shows, but we wish that were different. The fact of the matter is that bridal TV shows do not portray the truth of the wedding planning process.

Planning a wedding is hard work – trust us. There are innumerable phone calls made to vendors, dozens of visits to venues and shops, and approximately 50 emails every week about some aspect of the event. There are budgets, checklists and timelines, hundreds of people to coordinate, and details galore that need to be nailed down at least a week before a couple ties the knot.

Wedding television shows do not portray much, if any, of that. They don’t portray the need to create an Excel document for your guest list that contains every single invitee’s response and meal choice. They don’t portray the ways to handle unreasonable requests from family members or the all-imperative need to stay on budget. They most certainly don’t portray the difficulty in juggling working full-time, enjoying an engagement, and remaining connected to family, friends and a fiancé all while planning a wedding. (They also usually don’t portray the numbers of bottles of wine that are imbibed during the planning process.)

Bridal TV shows portray the dramatic and fun parts of wedding planning. True, those parts exist in planning a wedding, but so do the other, more stressful parts.

I realize that I’ve probably scared you at this moment, which is only slightly what I meant to do. Truthfully, my goal is to tell you that what you see on TV is rarely the case for most weddings. Understanding this fact can help you prepare for what you will encounter when you start planning your wedding.

It’s important to understand that planning a wedding is hard work. It requires dedication and hours of work each week. Most importantly, it requires energy and effort. At some point in the planning process almost every couple we work with tells us just how tired they are. It’s no wonder – all the phone calls, details to consider and decisions to make are exhausting!

If you want to learn just what you will face when planning your wedding, consider sitting down with a wedding planner or, at the very least, a recent bride. An open, honest conversation about the tasks necessary to pull off the event of your dreams may be eye-opening.

Go ahead and watch those shows – and have fun doing it. Just remember that what you see is rarely what happens off-screen. When you start planning, you’ll find that you have a seemingly endless to-do list…which is when you should seriously start considering hiring a planner.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Monday's Meeting: Jessica George

Jessica George, Event Coordinator, knows that personal touches make an event. Caring and efficient, she helps clients simplify and enjoy the planning process. Her many years in the hospitality industry have given her an edge in event design and logistics. With an eye for detail and a knack for pulling it all together, she makes your special day truly yours.

What is your favorite part of being an event coordinator? 

I love the excitement of the event, but particularly to see a couple’s “story” unfold through what they have planned.

Is there one common piece of advice you give to all brides?

Don’t miss your own day. Every bride should enjoy her day with friends and family.  So many brides think back and only see a blur – so it’s important to stop and smell the roses (calla lilies, orchids, or whatever your bridal bouquet consists of!) and celebrate the one you love with the ones you love. 

What was the most unexpected circumstance you encountered while planning a wedding?

Every wedding has its surprises, but if you are good at your job as a planner, you come prepared, know what to anticipate, and can roll with the punches. To me, the measure of a successful wedding is not whether everything went perfectly, but that it seems like it did. If there is an issue I worry about it, not the couple or their guests!

What do you wish more couples would do while planning their weddings?

Create time for themselves. It’s a busy and long day: do not over schedule. Make sure you get at least a few minutes with just the two of you to just “be”. This means padding your timeline so that you don’t feel rushed and can truly enjoy everything.

What is the one thing you love that couples include in their wedding?

I love when couples continue or start a tradition. Taking a few minutes to really be in the moment and do something personal reinforces the importance of the day and what it really means. This can be simple: writing each other a note and reading it with a promise to add to it every anniversary, or toasting a loved one who has passed and acknowledging that they are still a part of the day. A song¸ a specific type of wine, or whatever means something to the couple - something that they can take forward through their lives - that will remind them of their day can be the most memorable and important part of a wedding, not only for the couple, but also for the guest.

What is the biggest budget blunder you see most brides commit?

It’s a 3-way tie. First, couples have to have a budget and be honest about what they can afford. The word “budget” typically scares people because they view it as “deprivation”. If couples look at a budget as what they can do as opposed to what they can’t, the planning process is much more pleasant.

Second, couples need to “pick their poison”. There are so many ideas out there and a wedding means needing to make so many decisions. Couples need to identify their priority. Are they foodies? Are they really into music? Is it important that their guests feel at home? Do they want to go for glamour? Couples need to decide what’s important to them and splurge there, if necessary. Everywhere else, they know what their resources are and can work within them.

Third, this new trend of DIY is great, but can be a lot more costly and time consuming than expected. Make sure your DIY doesn’t become a DYI (do yourself in). 

What is the most essential tool you use to plan a wedding?

The timeline and my phone - I need to make sure everything and everyone is coming together. If it’s not, that it will be in the next five minutes!

Do you have any pre- or post-wedding rituals?

I like to think that I must have been a boy scout in my last life because I always like to “be prepared”. Before a wedding, I make sure I have everything in my bag to fix any situation that may arise.

What is the strangest thing you’ve ever had to do for a bride or groom?

There’s no such thing on someone’s wedding day!

What is the most difficult part of event design?

For me, it’s getting too hung up on something. I’m a visual person, so it usually helps for me to select few options, set them aside and keep coming back to them. This is also what I recommend couples do when making decisions. If not, it’s easy to end up overwhelmed and make a decision just to check something off the list. 

Is there any advice about event design that you wish all couples knew?

You would be surprised how well you can mesh two styles, especially if you keep it in the same color family. Try different things together and, if you have a theme in mind, remember that a little goes a long way. Too much of a good thing gets kitschy; use colors and simple details to tie everything together.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

Most people have never coordinated a large scale event before. It’s hard to know where to start and how to go about it. That’s why I recommend hiring a planner. A good event coordinator can pay for themselves with experience, connections, discounts, and even salvaging your sanity. If it simply is not do-able, consult some checklists for when to address different aspects of planning your wedding. Undertake each step one at a time and, if you start to get overwhelmed, come back to it later. Enjoy the process and each other!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Did a vendor hurt your feelings?

In the event planning industry, it’s common knowledge that, to survive, you must have a thick skin. However, it’s not common knowledge that this rule also applies to individuals delving into the industry for a short period of time. Yes, that’s right, couples, too, must have thick skin when planning their wedding.

The wedding planning industry is high-pressure. Professionals in it are under constant pressure to conjure up new ideas, make those ideas work no matter how revolutionary or unusual, and remain within budget while doing so. They are also required to interpret visions, fix problems, put out the “fires” of unexpected disasters, cater to the needs of 150+ guests at a wedding and make sure that every legally required step for a couple to marry is met prior to their walk down the aisle.

With all that on their plate (plus LOTS more not listed), it’s not surprising that some vendors say or do something and upset a couple. As planners, it’s our job to avoid this from affecting our clients; but, since we don’t work for every soon-to-be-married couple, we still feel it’s important to discuss why this happens and what to do after it occurs.

Why vendors lash out:
  1. They’re overworked. Vendors work for multiple couples at the same time. Although most make efforts to not overextend themselves, they sometimes have days where everyone seems to want everything at the same time. This means that they may lash out due to their being frustrated at what’s going on with another event.
  2. They’re embarrassed. Nobody is perfect, including vendors. Some people respond to having made a mistake better than others. Sometimes, a vendor can become embarrassed by their mistake and defend themselves unnecessarily.
  3. They’re worried about how to make something happen. Vendors are not miracle workers, and are limited by time and the laws of physics.
  4. They’ve got their eye on the bottom line. Vendors are excited about your day, but also need to make money. Constant demands for items that exceed their initial proposal and your budget can make them worried about their profit margins.
  5. They’re confused. Last minute changes can cause frustration and confusion – two things that rarely lead to a calm vendor.
None of these five reasons are excuses for lashing out at a couple, just explanations. Many times, understanding what emotion is causing the problem can help resolve it.  

How to handle an upset vendor:
  1. Count to five. Do you want to calm someone down ASAP? The best remedy for any upset person is to look them in the eye, remain absolutely quiet and count to five. You’ll likely only reach three before they apologize. Beware, though, this same trick often leads to being called “intimidating”.
  2. Clearly and succinctly state that the “behavior is unacceptable.” That simple sentence forces even the most irate individual to make a complete 180 attitude turn.
  3. Ask that the vendor state and explain the problem. This instruction usually causes the vendor to realize that the problem isn’t really one as large as they believe or even a problem at all. Many times, all a vendor needs to do is analyze what is going on to calm down.
  4. Direct that the vendor look for solutions and respond to you in 48-72 hours. By leaving the vendor alone for awhile you allow them to work out the problem on their own. At the end of the period, you’ll either receive a statement of the plan to implement precisely what you want or a nice explanation of why the laws of physics or your budget are prohibitive.
Essentially, when it comes to handling a vendor who hurt your feelings, less is more; less speaking and engaging with them while they are upset on your part puts you in control of the situation.

Now, none of this means that an abusive, neglectful or dismissive vendor is acceptable. You are paying a vendor for their service, which means that they should deliver as contractually obligated to. If you believe that the vendor’s lashing out at you is a threat to how they will deliver on your wedding day, seriously consider whether they are worth retaining. But firing a vendor, readers, is a topic for another day.