Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Age-appropriate flower girl and ring bearers

Whether a child is ready to act as a flower girl or ring bearer is perhaps the most important consideration when selecting him or her to participate in your nuptials. We wish we could give you a hard-and-fast rule about the age when a child will make it down the aisle. But, as you know from our previous post “Girls Cry, Boys Freeze”, we can’t. We’ve seen two year olds make it down the aisle without a hitch and have had six year olds freeze at the end of the aisle upon realizing that all eyes are turned their way.

What we can recommend, however, is considering:

The child’s age: normally, the older the child the better because this increases the likelihood of his or her making it down the aisle and decreases the chances of a tantrum.

The child’s personality: shy children are less likely to make it down the aisle, or at least not without some moments of fright.

We know that these considerations are very general. However, without knowing the child or the child’s relationship to the couple it’s impossible to determine whether a child should participate in a wedding. However, the fact of the matter is that, unfortunately, some children just aren’t ready and shouldn’t be asked to act as ring bearer or flower girl.

This sentence is never an easy one to say, and is sometimes impossible to relay to parents of youngsters expecting their beloved child to be involved in your ceremony. Note the use of “parents”. I use that word because the people most likely to be upset about their child not participating in your wedding are the child’s parents or your other family members. Several of our couples have admitted to asking children who are not ready to participate in a wedding to act as a flower girl or ring bearer to avoid arguments with family members.

While our couples know best, we have been asked how to address the issue of why a child is not being asked to participate in a wedding. In these circumstances, we recommend calling upon:

The church or ceremony location’s rules: having a limited amount of time for your ceremony is a good reason to exclude sometimes slow-walking children.

Having a small wedding party to avoid stress: wrangling more attendants is always more stressful than managing a few. Not having children involved in your wedding is entirely acceptable if your wedding party is small.

Not having any other children in the wedding: if you decide that one child isn’t old enough to participate, you might have to not have children in your wedding at all.

Asking the parents whether the child is ready to participate: starting a conversation about the child’s abilities to walk down the aisle often leads parents to the (correct) conclusion that he or she can’t. Although the parents might not admit it then and there, many couples have received phone calls a day or two later in which the parents say that they don’t think their child is ready.

If you really can’t get out of asking a child to participate in your wedding despite knowing that he or she isn’t ready, we recommend not having the child walk down the aisle. Instead, have him or her be carried by his parents during the processional or even when family members are seated. Guests will still know the child’s special designation by their attire and mention in your program.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Should my wedding have a theme?

Theme weddings have been occurring more frequently lately, a fact that we simultaneously love and dislike. Before choosing to have a theme wedding, we recommend that our couples think long and hard about what, exactly, throwing a theme wedding means.

Before going further, it’s necessary to explain what a theme wedding is not. A theme wedding is not one in which a color scheme, pattern, or other decorative element is carried throughout the event. That scroll work you love and have put on your invitations, menus, and the ribbon on your bouquets? That’s not a theme, that’s a décor element.

A theme wedding is one in which a main idea covers the entire event. We like to define it as a “noun that decorates your wedding.” If you remember back to elementary school English class, a noun is a “person, place, thing, quality, or idea” (at its most basic definition). “Circus” is a noun because it identifies a thing; therefore, a “circus” can be a theme. Scrollwork does not fit within any of the definitions of a noun, so therefore it’s not a theme.

Okay, enough English lessons (it’s still early in the day, I know). What I hope you take away from that mini-lesson is that throwing a theme wedding means having a noun dominate every aspect of your planning. Does that sound like a lot of work? It most certainly can be!

There are two general rules for planning a theme wedding:

The theme must dominate and be pervasive. The theme you select must be apparent and present in every aspect of your décor – from main elements (tents) to small items (glassware or escort cards). Subtle hints, décor, or other indications of a theme almost always fall short of and leave guests confused: “Why was there a circus billboard as our table number when everything else was pastel colored?”

The theme must be apparent. Remember the noun rule – any theme must be easily identifiable.

Now, for what it means, exactly, to throw a theme wedding:

You will have to always keep that theme in mind. Not only in terms of whether something you want will fit the theme in terms of color, size, or function, but whether it will look right doing so.

You will have to put the theme first in everything. This means that your theme will have to dominate your choices. For example, you probably shouldn’t pick a circus theme if you don’t want your bridesmaids to wear bright colors.

Everyone else will have to be on board. You and your fiancé must be on the same page regarding the theme, otherwise it just won’t work. If your fiancé hates clowns, you can’t have a circus-themed wedding because he won’t want to pick anything that matches the theme.

You will likely get sick of the theme. We’re sorry to admit it, but the all-out dominance of the theme often means that couples never want to see anything having to do with that theme ever again, or at least not for a few months after the wedding.

If you’re debating whether to have a theme wedding, consider:

Whether you really like your chosen noun enough to have it be the focus of your wedding. We hate to admit it, but a theme wedding can somewhat overshadow the couple.

Whether you really like your noun enough to have it appear in your photos. Photographs of your wedding are permanent and can’t be redone. It’s also impossible to have your photos NOT show your theme (remember the pervasiveness of your theme). Make sure you want to always remember that theme for the rest of your life.

Whether you really like your noun enough to have it be your main thought throughout the entire planning process.

Whether everyone involved in wedding planning is on board with your chosen noun.

Uncertain about a theme wedding? Let the idea ruminate in your mind for a few days or weeks. If you’re still unsure whether a “night in the clouds” theme is right for you after thoroughly thinking it through, it most likely isn’t. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Budget Woes

One of our main tasks – and definitely the most important one – as wedding planners is to help our clients stay within budget. To do so, we create spreadsheet after spreadsheet, update those spreadsheets at least once a week, and project, predict, and estimate every cost a couple is even remotely considering incurring. Why? To prevent going over budget, which is one of the most stressful and problematic events that can happen during wedding planning.

Sometimes, our clients come to us in the middle of planning. Many times, these clients have reached out to us at that stage because they’ve found that they’ve lost control of the budget.

“Help! I’m halfway through wedding planning and already over budget. How can I fix this?”

The good news is that fixing an over-budget wedding halfway through planning is not impossible. In fact, fixing this problem at this stage only requires some work and serious decision-making. The great news is that it’s better to fix an over-budget wedding earlier (no matter when that earlier happens) rather than later.

The main way to fix an over-budget, half-planned wedding is to revisit your previous decisions. Yes, you might have put down a deposit with a vendor, and that deposit might be non-refundable. However, with very few exceptions that deposit is always applied towards your final bill. Therefore, you can change your order and not lose your deposit.

For example, if you deposited $500 for a $2,000 floral order, if you later amend that order to $1,000, your $500 deposit still applies against your final bill. Not only do you now have a smaller (and hopefully within budget) total floral bill, but you have a smaller check to write when final payment is due ($500 versus $1,500).

To start fixing your budget, you must begin with the budget. Many times, couples find themselves over budget because they did not create a realistic budget, did not investigate average prices for vendors and other wedding costs in their area, or, even more problematic, did not create a budget at all.

Clearly, if you didn’t create a budget and find your bank account stretched beyond its limits, now is the time to create one. To find out how to format your budget and what values to put into it, research typical wedding budgets in the nation and average budgets in your area. And, as always, be realistic: start with your maximum amount – the total that you and anyone else contributing to the wedding add up to. Don’t anticipate receiving money or that promises of money will come through , only count on what you have in hand.

Still confused? Don’t worry, call HJ and inquire into our partial or full planning packages!

Next, with budget in hand, enter in the amounts that you’ve already spent. Compare those amounts with what you should have spent (which you entered in during the first step in this process) to determine how much over you spent. That overage is the amount you need to cut. To keep with our floral example: if you have a $2,000 floral order but your budget only says that you could spend up to $1,000, then you must cut $1,000 from the floral order or somewhere else.

“Wait, cut from somewhere else? What do you mean?”

Yup, somewhere else. If you absolutely cannot cut your floral order (you love flowers or your mother put so much time into picking your flowers that you cannot imagine changing her selections) then you need to delete $1,000 from somewhere else, like your dress, accessories, or photography. Moreover, unfortunately some expenses cannot be cut. If you’ve already put down a deposit on a venue and cannot find another one in time or will lose your deposit if you switch, you’re going to have to reduce your expenses in another area of your budget to accommodate that venue.

A budget is like a balloon: you can squeeze one part tight and the air moves to another part. With a budget, you can lower (squeeze) the cost of one item, say your dress, and the money will shift to another part, like your floral bill.

The key to fixing an over-budget wedding is to cut, cut, cut. When you think you’re done, cut some more. No, cutting is not fun, but it’s necessary. 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Meet Jess George!

It's been awhile since we've interviewed one of our planners, but we think you'll love Jess as much as we do.

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 arrive prepared, know what to anticipate, and are able to 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. Your wedding day is 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, 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 something 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 a 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 doable, consult several 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!