I’m going to be the first to admit I thought I didn’t need a wedding planner. It went straight to the bottom of the budget wish list and I really thought nothing of it. Surely people plan events in shorter time spans than 18 months and if they could do it, so could I. DIY? No problem. Spreadsheets? On it. My mother is QUEEN of interiors and invitations, we have this in the bag.
This was of course before I started OMG, before I realised how much there was to do and how many things I didn’t know. I am still on a daily basis finding things that I have forgotten to plan for and adding them to what seems like an endless and ever extending list of lists.
I remember speaking to a few girls who had just tied the knot and the first thing they said to me was “At LEAST get a wedding planner for the day. Its the best decision I ever made, hands down, no contest, I’d do it again in a millisecond.” Hrm. Ok. So I spoke to a few more friends and their mums, all of whom confirmed this without hesitation. I then began to think of what I would have to do over the course of the next 18 months and felt slightly daunted. But in a good way. Weddings are awesome. I love gushing with people about flowers, and colours and designs and venues. I love comparing pantone colours and centrepieces and I love dresses and shoes and jewellery and bags. I was somehow under the (very wrong) impression that if I hired a planner, he or she would do all of this for me and I wouldn’t be able to own my own wedding. I’m not sure where I came up with that, but its totally and completely wrong.
Over the course of the next few months, I began to realise that all the planning and time spent on making our wedding turn out the way we wanted it to, would go to waste if I was stressing and running around like a crazy person on my wedding day. Ok so what about MOB and my 8 bridesmaids? Surely they can make sure everything is ok, right? Well, I trust them, but I also want them to have a good time, plus they are not professional event planners! The run up to a wedding is massively intense and dramatic and emotional and exhausting in a fabulous way, but I want my guests and family to enjoy the day, not feel the pressure of receiving deliveries and liaising with vendors among other countless tasks. Enter my new friendship with the fabulous Mary Lee Herrington whom I met after featuring her wedding on OMG and I do believe it was a match made in heaven. As my mother and I had gone through a lot of the design process by this time, we were over the moon when Mary agreed to be our day of coordinator. I knew without a doubt she would do a great job as she is the most detail oriented person I have ever met and after working with her on many a project, I knew I would not have to worry out anything on our big day.
Mary with her ADORABLE dog Sammy at the Lazy Sunday Lunch with Flowers event she arranged last year.
I’m going to be honest and say Mary has done so much more than this already by being a constant listening ear and amazing friend. Amoung other things, we are now having our rehearsal dinner at a restaurant she suggested, have made numerous decisions based on endless conversations and chats about loads of wedding details and could not be happier about having her help.
Mary checking out Peter Langner’s latest designs at Browns Bride.
Mary is also queen of answering etiquette questions and has a wealth of wedding knowledge that spans the atlantic in terms of vendors, venues, and sources of inspiration. This girl knows her stuff and is very good at her job. I consider myself a very lucky girl to have her on my side. Aside from being a great planner, she is a super nice person and I’m so pleased to have a friend like her. Anyway, gushiness aside, this article is supposed to be less about me and more about you! So, without further adieu, allow me to introduce the lovely Mary Lee Herrington of Forever & Ever Events.
Dear OMG brides,
I was so flattered that Alexis asked me to write this article for her to help describe how a wedding planner can help brides in the UK. Since she would like to really inform its brides-to-be about the benefits of hiring a wedding planner (and this is where I just have to brag that I am Alexis’s own day-of-coordinator for her wedding later this year!) I figured the best way to approach this question is to give you a small history lesson and also pick out some frequently asked questions that I receive from actual brides-to-be.
As a wedding planner with American roots, I find that the question, “Why hire a wedding planner?”, is more often asked in the UK than in the States. Across the pond, you’ve got movies like Father of the Bride, The Wedding Planner and Bride Wars, all of which, while over the top, do present a central role of the wedding planner (although, please note: no self-respecting professional wedding planner would EVER schedule two weddings on the same day, much less the same venue!).More than 50% of weddings in the US involve a wedding planner or coordinator – and most of these weddings involve an average wedding budget, not necessarily a luxury wedding.
Compare this to the UK, where only since 1994 could civil ceremonies take place in licensed venues outside of a registrar office and where wedding planning businesses began popping up just 10 years before. Suffice it to say, in the UK, since the industry is younger, the different services that a wedding planner offers is not as well known. This, I believe, is why OMG approached me to write this article – to answer some questions that brides-to-be may have as they decide whether they need some help in planning their big days.
So, here are some common questions that I receive from brides-to-be like yourself and hopefully they’ll help you in your own wedding planning…
For full wedding planning (where the planner organizes your wedding from engagement to your honeymoon departure), most wedding planners will charge onwards of 10% of your overall wedding budget as their fee for full wedding planning. While this may seem like a hefty fee, it actually isn’t – you’ll likely end up saving from discounts they obtain from vendors, pass it onto you, and you also save time in your life by having someone else take care of all the boring admin.
In the UK, many venues refer to their internal events managers or catering managers on their website as a “wedding planner”. This is slightly misleading to a bride, because she may assume now that she has a wedding planner as part of her venue package, but does not realize that they are more akin to catering and operations managers who oversee the internal workings of the venue itself on the day of the wedding and may not agree to other aspects of planning, such as decorations (that are not from the venue’s own stock), oversight of additional vendors (musicians, photographers, entertainment, stationery) and directing the ceremony, especially when held at a separate venue. And as for all the endless coordination between the venue and outside vendors – they will not pick up the phone and make those calls for you. Certainly these venue managers will not plan any welcome events or rehearsal dinners beforehand that do not take place at their venue, and most often not even the coordination of all the vendors and set-up on the wedding day itself. To put it bluntly: the venue managers report to their employer, a.k.a. the venue. While the venue’s client is the bride and groom, the venue managers are acting on behalf of the venue and overseeing everything that the venue has contracted for itself, including other weddings that are held at the venue on the same day as your wedding. Wedding planners, on the other hand, only report to you throughout the whole of the wedding planning process and on the day itself.
I highly recommend having at least a day-of coordinator if you are planning your entire wedding and the day involves a lot of set-up, decoration, transportation for guests and more than one venue for the ceremony and reception. This service is actually a really good value when you break it down: a day-of coordinator will commence work on your wedding at least one month before your wedding. It is actually a lot of work: they finalize all the remaining things on the to-do list (and believe me, there is usually a lot left to do), contact your vendors and confirm what times they plan to arrive for set-up, produce an overall production schedule, and make sure everything you planned up until then is delivered. They also stay behind and oversee the tear-down the next day and close the loop on any remaining issues.
You know the saying “time is money”? – well, most conversations with vendors have to take place during business hours and they too, like yourself, take lunches around the time that you do. Especially for couples who have demanding jobs, you probably don’t have much time during the day to call your vendors before 5pm (and you certainly don’t want to get in trouble for planning your wedding on your boss’s time!). It’s never too late to approach a wedding planner for help. If you are working flat out, then it will really help you relax about the wedding if you have a wedding planner who can do all of that work for you and remind you of the essential items that must get done in order to get married (e.g., any necessary approvals and visas – you won’t believe how many couples forget about this and scramble at the very end with a lot of stress!).
So those are just several of the most popular questions brides seem to ask in the UK. Next week, I’ll be back with some more frequently asked questions about the different wedding planning services that you can seek from a wedding planner. Until then – happy planning!
Isn’t she cute? Photo courtesy of Chloe from Caught the Light