wedding planning tips

Wedding lessons learned // Part 2 // DC wedding planner

Time for Lessons Learned: Part 2 where I take a look back at this year and impart some knowledge (some silly, some very practical) which will hopefully help you with your own plans. Last week we focused on DIY lessons. Now some more general items:

Lesson #5: Remember to feed your vendors

Most people are remembering this in their plans, but I wanted to mention it again. It’s important that you not only request vendor meals (and don’t forget to check their contracts to see if it has to be a hot meal, or if a sandwich/packed lunch meal will do), but to consider when all the vendors will actually be eating and add it to your timeline. This not only notifies your vendors that you’ve thought of them (which is always nice for us to see), but it also helps inform the caterer so they know when to have those meals ready. Vendors often eat at different times (and some have specific requests, so always check with them first) - but in general, the photographer and DJ eat during dinner, once the guests have been served. There aren’t any huge moments the photographer will be missing (and pics of people eating are never very attractive), and the DJ is usually just playing a playlist they’ve put together for dinner - it’s not as interactive a portion of the evening (like post-dinner dancing). You want your vendors to have energy to do their job well. Most of your vendors are working very long hours on the day-of. So feed them, please.

Lesson #6: Let go

This is a hard one. It’s hard for me as an event coordinator and planner where it’s my JOB to do my absolute best to make sure there has been clear communication, the event is running smoothly, and it’s everything you want it to be. But no matter how hard you try, at the end of the day, you can’t control it all. I was reminded of this at a wedding this year. I’d had a very long conversation with the D.J. I’d sent multiple copies of the timeline with updates and changes based on his input. Despite all of that, as well as the usual confirmation the week-of, there were major issues. He showed up incredibly late for set-up. He didn’t have the couple’s do-not play list with him. He started the hora without my cue and without double checking the bride and groom were even in the room (they weren’t). It was a tough night for me because I couldn’t understand where all that prep work had gone. What he was thinking about during our conversations, what timeline was he reading when he got my copy, where had their playlist gone since I knew he’d been sent it and had confirmed? But I (and you) can only control so much. Despite all best efforts, sometimes people are going to not do a good job or not follow through. I did everything I could (gave him my extra copy of the playlist, worked around the awkward premature hora start) and then had to let go. I knew I’d done my best. And if you know that, sometimes you need to lean back on that and trust it. Let go and move on with life (or the party).

Lesson #7: Outdoor weddings in DC can be… rough.

This is going to be somewhat controversial, but I’m going to say it anyway: DC is a humid, fairly horrid place in July and August (not to mention the potential thunderstorms). Think carefully if you plan an outdoor wedding during that time. Do you have a rain plan? Are you prepared to sweat all day? Do you have adequate cooling devices arranged as back-up? Does the caterer know to provide extra water so guests stay hydrated? Who will buy the back-up umbrellas? Have you clearly let your guests know it will be outside so they dress appropriately? Are you going to be upset the day-of when there’s not a lot of dancing because the guests simply don’t have the energy? Don’t get me wrong - it can work. But you need to consider all the tough parts about the heat and the rain before making the final call.

Lesson #8: It’s ok to sneak away

I thought I’d end on a fun and romantic note. This summer I had a couple come up to me about an hour before their party was officially to end and asked if it was “ok” for them to sneak away without an official goodbye. When nowadays big goodbyes, with ribbon wands, sparklers and photo opps are the norm, I loved this request to sneak off. I told them they should carefully consider if they have any guests who would be genuinely hurt without a goodbye (the Mom who helped set-up, the Grandma who traveled across the country) but that at the end of the day - it’s their wedding. There are no real rules as long as you’ve considered your guests. I adored them quietly walking off together - it meant they were remembering quite clearly that this party was really about them, their marriage and their time together. So romantic and a lovely way to end the evening, just the two of them. (And for the record, no guests were upset or offended at all...they were too busy dancing their faces off).

Wedding Lessons Learned // Part 1 // DC Wedding Planner

As the wedding season finally winds down, I thought it’d be fun to put together a lessons learned post so that you all can learn from my experience and I can take a trip down memory lane. I learned a lot this year - each wedding or event had it’s own particular little lesson. Some were big, some were small, but I think all of these are worth sharing. So here is Part One of my two-part series - these lessons mainly focus on DIY weddings:

Lesson #1: When doing an outdoor wedding, don’t forget about the wind.

Most event planners and coordinators know this already. And I thought I did, too. But one of my outdoor weddings this year was a great lesson in being sure to apply your knowledge thoroughly. I forgot to remind my client of the wind and therefore as I was setting up on a particularly windy day, I found myself with 12 toppled over DIY floral arrangements, as well as blowing placemats. Applying this lesson more broadly - when making decisions on decor or other wedding details, try and take a step back and think about the environment these details will be in. It might save you or your coordinator some grief later on.

Lesson #2: Don’t forget the stairs

Ah DIYers. I truly do love you. But don’t forget about the stairs. Due to several miscommunications beyond my control, at one wedding I found myself (along with several very loyal friends and family members) lugging 28 tables and 150 chairs up two flights of stairs. If you know you’re going to be doing a DIY wedding, consider your venue, consider the day-of, consider your family and friends, and consider how set-up and break down is actually going to work. Where is everything in relation to everything else? Where is the kitchen or catering area in relation to reception area? Where are the chairs stored in relation to where they need to be used? Where is the power source in relation to what needs to be plugged in? You get the idea.

Lesson #3: The garbage

This is a funny one but one that lots of DIYers don’t consider cause we’re not pinning dumpsters on Pinterest when dreaming about our wedding day. When doing a real, down and dirty DIY wedding in which you’re using an untraditional reception venue or self catering, don’t forget about the garbage. In a “traditional” wedding the caterer takes care of the garbage - often actually taking it with them and disposing of it at their own site (some venues don’t allow the use of their dumpsters). I did an unconventional, self-catered wedding this year and the venue did not make it clear that they wouldn’t accept the garbage. So on the day of I, along with the other hired servers (bless them), took the garbage home in our cars. It wasn’t a big deal - but also something most people would try and avoid if possible. So always ask about who is providing the garbage cans, where garbage goes post-event, and know who is handling it.

Lesson #4: Don’t overdo it

I get the DIY crafty bug. I really do. But make sure that you always take a step back and consider whether you’re actually going to use all of the elements you’re creating. If it’s physically possible to use that many votives, or ribbon wands, or napkins. I’ve had multiple instances this year in which the DIYers went overboard. And while it certainly doesn’t ruin anyone’s day or cause any issues, I couldn’t help but mourn the loss of all that TIME they could have spent in other ways. So please be practical in your DIY projects. If you had made 100 instead of 1,000 paper cranes maybe the planning process would have been more fun for you. Or maybe you just could have had more date nights, which are way more fun.

Stay tuned for Part 2 next week! More tips coming your way...