Wedding Tips from a Pro for the Newly Engaged
By Kelli Gould
Valentine’s Day may be over, but here at GOTG we aren’t quite ready to stop celebrating love. And by the look of our Facebook and Instagram feeds, our newly engaged readers aren’t either! If you’re sporting a new, shiny rock on your finger, we know that you have a few burning wedding-planning and design questions— and as always, your wish is our command, ladies. For your viewing pleasure, coveted tips and tricks of the trade via celebrity event planner Hailey Erin Silver, owner of Sacramento-based event production and design studio, Pretty Planner Weddings & Events.
What is your philosophy when it comes to wedding planning and design?
I think I’m a little different in that to me, wedding design isn’t just about creating something beautiful to the eye (though that’s certainly important). A wedding is more than pretty flowers—it’s a visual storytelling endeavor, a way to showcase how unique and special a couple is through the things they love: food, wine, décor, ambience, music. Each wedding should be as unique as the couple being celebrated… guests should leave with the feeling that they’ve experienced something truly one-of-a-kind. And I like to emphasize that weddings are as much about the journey as the destination. The planning process shouldn’t feel like a series of never-ending phone calls, emails, and decisions— it should be joyful, thoughtful, deliberate, and creative.
Why hire a wedding planner?
Firstly, because your sanity matters! When you’re planning a wedding, sanity is an important and sometimes undervalued commodity. There is so much emphasis on the wedding day that oftentimes brides forget that they’ll only be engaged once, and that your engagement is also a really special once-in-a-lifetime event. Brides who spend their engagement happy, creative and organized will feel that way on their wedding day too. It’s hard to be a happy, radiant bride if you’ve spent the entire year prior anxious and overwhelmed (because who knew that it would take literal MONTHS to find a wedding venue, and days of your life to correspond with floral designers?)
Secondly, it is absolutely tempting to take the reigns and do all of the hard planning, and I get that. Many brides have great taste, a can-do attitude and are very capable. So logic follows that if you are mentally, physically, emotionally capable of planning, you should save thousands of dollars in forgoing a planner, right? Wrong! Since it’s your first time planning a wedding, you’re not sure what each element costs, so it’s difficult, if not impossible, to itemize a budget and make realistic plans from the get-go. Never underestimate the power of emotions over your decision-making process! And because brides don’t have the relationships with vendors that incentivize lower pricing, brides without a planner oftentimes pay a higher premium for their team than those with a planner.
Finally, a wedding designer and stylist makes sure that your wedding design is cohesive, that your wedding is a visual representation of your love story, and that the details you’ve poured your heart into are expertly executed. The average wedding in Northern California costs around $35,000, and can cost upwards of $100,000. Leaving your investment in the hands of a seasoned professional is one of the most important decisions you can make leading up to your wedding.
How do you choose a planner?
Ask friends and family for referrals, check Yelp, and peruse your favorite wedding blog’s vendor lists. Once you’ve created a list of planners you’re interested in, take a look at their websites and evaluate whether they feel professional. Read their business philosophies. Do any of them speak to you? Peruse portfolios and decide whether you like the quality of their work. Remove anyone that doesn’t make the cut from your list, and schedule a phone or in-person consultation with the ones that do.
During your first consultation, ask yourself: Does this person put me at ease? Do we have chemistry? You’ll be spending a lot of time with your planner. If the spark is there, request their standard packages, and give some focused thought to what your needs are. Be realistic here, not idealistic. What kind of assistance would it take to make you enjoy wedding planning? Does a preset package work, or do you need something a little more customized? Is their pricing within your budget, or do you need to remove services to get you to a comfortable price-point?
Lastly, prompt communication matters. A successful planner may not get back to you the same day, but the right fit will get back to you within a week. Don’t hire anyone who isn’t responsive.
Many brides have a hard time getting started and don’t know how to prioritize. What steps come first?
- Develop your vision
Pinterest, along with a few select wedding blogs (Style Me Pretty, 100 Layer Cake, Refinery 29’s wedding section, Ruffled Blog and Once Wed are my favorites) are awesome first sources of inspiration for your wedding. My number one tip here is this: while you’re perusing outside, don’t forget to look inside. Your life, your personal style, and your love story should play a major role in your overall wedding design.
- Show me the money
Have the hard conversations with anyone contributing to the wedding before you even take a first look at venues, photographers, or flowers. Tough love moment— knowing where you stand financially will save you a lot of disappointment and heartache down the road when you’ve fallen in love with something for your wedding that you can’t afford. Once you’ve done this, the hard part is over!
- Pick a backdrop for your love story
Narrow down the time of the year that you would like to get married, take favorite seasons, colors, and weather into consideration. For instance, if you have always envisioned a summer wedding, then you can narrow down your date to May-July. Next, determine the geographical region that is ideal for you, your love, and perhaps your families. These two factors, combined with budgetary considerations, will narrow down your prospects enough that the process isn’t too overwhelming. Compile a list of 10-20 venues that work within your chosen geographical region. Make phone calls to each venue and find out what their venue fees and guest accommodations are like. If a base venue fee without any upgrades is more than 40% of your entire budget, cross it off the list. Likewise, if you are planning on having a 200 person wedding and the venue only holds 50 guests, it’s got to go.
- Hire a wedding guru
Before you even take a look at venues or secure your date, call and consult with a planner. Your planner should be brought in at the beginning stages to itemize a realistic budget, to offer any further venue referrals, and to make sure that your first and biggest decisions don’t negatively impact the rest of the planning process.
- Take a road trip
On a day when you can really relax and enjoy, take someone you love (and who’s opinion you trust!) with you to check out 5-10 venues. This may take a couple of weeks, but there is no substitute for seeing your venue in person. Finding the right one is somewhat like finding the right partner. You might fall in love at first sight, or it may take a few days of mulling. But when you know, you know. Find out your venue’s availability within your chosen season, write down 2-3 dates that work for you, and coordinate with your planner on selecting a date and finalizing contract logistics.
What is the best approach for brides that are working through details and contracts with vendors?
Along the road to finding my passion for wedding design I became a licensed attorney, and a trained negotiator. But even during pricing negotiations (which are certainly necessary) I’m cognizant of the fact that oftentimes you get what you pay for, and that there’s a delicate balance between pricing and product. Think of choosing your vendors as compiling a “dream team.” The right vendors take great pride in their work and care immensely about each individual project they work on. Don’t ever hire a diva! There is something to be said for experience and prestige, but there is also something to be said for an up-and-comer with a fresh vision. When making final decisions, chemistry, responsiveness, and artistry is important. Willingness to work with your budget is also important, even if in the end there’s a compromise. Ultimately, if you select talented vendors your wedding will reflect that. And always have your planner review your agreements before signing anything!
How does one avoid becoming an infamous Bridezilla?
I think that being in the moment is key, focusing on your engagement and making logical, timely choices. Brides get overwhelmed and easily mired in details, dates and a seemingly never-ending to-do list. Instead of rushing to get to the altar, my advice is to fight the urge to jump into planning from the get-go and let this be a really special season of your life. Allow yourselves time to explore, seek inspiration, and mull over the details of your wedding. If you allow yourself a little time to muse, hire the right planner, and get centered, you’ll be ready to experience the designing and planning of your wedding as a beautiful, creative, collaborative moment.
What’s next for Pretty Planner Weddings & Events?
This is a really exciting time for us. We’re blessed with amazing clients, and just booked our girl crush from The Bachelor, Lindsay Yenter’s wedding!! This year we’re designing weddings and photo shoots at some amazing locations… a private cliff-side estate in Big Sur, an ocean-front wedding in Santa Monica, a retreat in Malibu, a forest lodge in Auburn, amongst others. One of the projects I’m most excited about is FRESHbash, Northern California’s first event design showcase and competition, launching February 25th at Beatnik Studios. Fresh design is something that is so important to me, and I’ve had the best time collaborating with some of the most talented vendors Northern California has to offer. Finally, we’re going through a re-brand that I believe really showcases our style and what sets us apart. Stay tuned for some big surprises, and feel free to connect with us on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook! We love making newfriends!
Photo cred: Event Styling: Pretty Planner Weddings & Events | Photo Credit: Coco Tran | Floral: Thistle & Honey | Gown: Vera Wang | Cake design: Ettores