Wedding & Event Planning What to Expect and How to Make Your Day Perfect!!

You’ve met the love of your life and he’s popped the big question, “Will You Marry Me?”  You say “Yes,” set a date, now what?  “Where do I start?”  Hire a wedding Planner!  The next few months are going to fly by and there will be a lot of questions and a lot decisions to make.  I, Sarah Conklin, have been in the hospitality, event business for almost 16 years.  I began my career in the kitchen as a pastry chef in New York.  From there I transitioned into the front of the house with the Ritz Carlton and JW Marriott resort brands.  I loved the event side, especially working with brides and grooms on their big day.  It is wonderful being a part of a family’s once in a lifetime event.

The average wedding can take up to 80 dedicated hours to plan, and I have even spent up to 150 hours planning a wedding.  Most brides are juggling full time jobs and many responsibilities at home.  The days of brides stopping everything to plan a wedding are long gone.  In comes the wedding planner.  A wedding planner or coordinator will help you weed through all of the bridal information out there.  And there is a ton of it; with social media at an all time high it can be wedding overload.

Recently, I had the pleasure of working with an amazing couple, Josh and Andrea Noble who married in September 2012.  They made their wedding into the talk of the town hosting three days of events.   My first meeting with Josh and Andrea was May 2012.  On that first meeting I really spent time talking to them on the feel they wanted for their wedding.  Destinations, drama, elegance were all words that came into play.  Over the next several months Andrea and I were able to plan an amazing event.  They took full use of all The Clubs of Cordillera Ranch had to offer: concerts, ceremony, reception, brunch, transportation.

Choosing the right planner or coordinator is extremely important.  While similar, there is a difference between the titles among the wedding doers of the world.  Make sure you hire the right person for your needs.

Wedding Planners:
Meets with the couple and brings their dream to life from the first meeting to the fond farewell
Organize the team of vendors
Traditionally, they  are professionally trained

Wedding Consultants or Coordinators:
Will put you in contact with vendors and organize your meetings
Put together day-of schedules
Are present the day of the wedding
Usually are not present at all vendor meetings

The person or team that you choose will be responsible for one of the most important days of your life.  Take the time to get to know them and allow them to get to know you and your groom.  Do your research.   Find out how many weddings have they done.  What industry contacts do they have?  Will they be present the day of your wedding?  Many planners have teams or assistants that help them plan and execute the big day.

Now that you have selected a planner, what should you expect?  When I begin with a new couple I always sit with them and begin my research.  What inspirations, ideas and dreams do you have for your day?  Ideas and themes come from so much; family tradition, special vacation, or a favorite color.  Create a story with those and work from there.  Your planner will help you keep the look consistent from beginning to end.

Once the overall look is determined the planning phase begins.  First step… the budget.  I always ask each couple what are your top three non-negotiables?  This will ensure the bride and groom are on the same page and that we stay on track and put the money in the right areas.  For some couples the food and beverage is the most important, for others it may be photography or flowers and décor.    Some couples may disagree on this, it’s ok, your planner will help prioritize and keep everyone focused.

The planning begins!!  Your planner will contact all vendors and begin to set up meetings and acquire bids.  Your planner should obtain vendor pricing and complete a cost analysis.  It is the planner’s job to negotiate contracts and watch out for the best interest of their bride and groom.  Strong industry connections come in handy during this phase as they can get you better pricing.  Make sure you do not sign any contracts without your planners review.  There can be a lot of fine print and you may sign yourself up for more expense than you realize.   Your planner will also narrow down the vendors you will meet with, they may include the following:

Audio/Visual
Cake Designer & Baker
Ceremony Music
Officiant
Childcare Provider (if needed)
Cocktail Music
Dinner Reception & Dancing Music
Draping
Florist
Hair Stylist
Make-up Artist
Photographer
Hotel Room Blocks (Guest & Bridal Party)
Lighting
Linen
Furniture
Rental Items
Staging (if needed)
Stationary Company
Transportation (Guests, Bridal Party, Bride & Groom Departure)
Valet (if needed)
Videographer

There is a lot of organizing in weddings and an organized Planner is critical.  A vendor checklist complete with cell phone numbers is a must and will stay with you till the end.  The planning process is the most time consuming and can take weeks or months to complete.

Show Time: Execution…   A typical wedding day for a wedding planner starts about 7am and ends about 2am the following morning.  As a planner, I oversee all of the instillation and set up.  This is the time all of those handy and revised checklists and timelines are put to the test.  A mentor of mine back when I started out in this industry taught me the 5 P’s- Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance.    Using this motto and running over and over the details ensures my team, my Bride and Groom and vendors have a smooth, perfect day.

With all of the moving parts of the day, I always have at least one assistant, sometimes three depending on the style of wedding.   Having a support team allows me to be with my bride, checking in at the ceremony site, oversee the florist and décor team, make sure the food is on schedule and the groom is dressed all at the same time.   As the planner for all of my members I am also the point of contact for the entire bridal party, family and guests.  My overall goal for each wedding I do at Cordillera Ranch is to ensure my bride, groom, family and guests have the wedding day they always dreamed of while relaxing and taking it all in.  Every wedding is different and special.  Always remember to enjoy this time; it will go by so quickly.

Bride & Groom Testimonial:

“Dear Sarah,
Thank you so much for everything you did for our wedding! We would never have been able to pull it off without you.  You handled everything so flawlessly and you made it so Josh ad I could really enjoy our night!  We had so much fun at our wedding and have you to thank for that.  Thank you so much for everything,” said Josh & Andrea Noble.

Every bride and groom deserves to have the wedding of their dreams.  With research and the right team for support our day can be magical.  A special thank you to all of the brides and grooms that have allowed me to be a part of their lives, each of you have taught me so much.  I’ve planned over 80 weddings and I look forward to many more.

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