Planning A Wedding: 10 Secrets That Will Make Or Break Your Wedding Day …And Save You Thousands

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Planning A Wedding: 10 Secrets That Will Make Or Break Your Wedding Day …And Save You Thousands

Author: Jud Yaski

Your wedding is the most important day of your life: Don’t compromise it by missing a few critical details. After producing countless weddings, we have distilled a few key points you won’t want to miss:

1. Get the right team. We strongly suggest allowing an experienced event company handle your wedding day plans and execution. If you can afford it (get a quote or two) you will be both relieved and relaxed on your wedding day. It is a big enough event without wondering if your mother in law coordinated the catering with the rentals as you are walking up the isle. If you do the numbers and get a couple of bids, and you are sure you can do an adequate job for much less money, then cross your fingers and build your team: When wonderful and terrible things happen in your life, your true friends shine, and others that you thought were your closest allies don’t show up. Make sure you entrust critical elements of your special day to those in your life who have already demonstrated their ability to stand up and go to bat for you. In addition to reliability, make sure competency is in the equation. This is a delicate situation when working with your friends: If your best friend will do your flowers at cost, be sure to ask her to bring a sample to your bridal shower, and/or state innocently that that sounds like a wonderful idea, and you would love to see pictures of other floral designs she has done to get an idea of what you want. If she can’t come up with the goods, just pass it off, and hire a professional.

Some of the elements you may be able to enlist your team for:

• Day of Event Manager
• Flowers
• Food if it is an ethnic party or you have a friend who is a professional caterer.
• Help finding a venue
• Help picking a wedding dress
• Help finding a cake vendor.

2. Pick the right venue Here are some critical factors in picking your venue:

•First and foremost: Does your venue allow adequate load in and out time? If you plan on having lighting, draping, or other décor, you will need to give your vendors at least three hours, and preferably five hours to set up. Some venues give you 5 or 6 hours for your event, but that includes the set up time, and may charge you hundreds more for every extra hour needed.
•Is your venue near the majority of your guests? Make sure you did not pick a beautiful, impractically located venue. Many of your guests may be driving an hour or more to your event, so after a long day of your wedding, don\’t ask them to drive long distances.
•Are there steps or other difficult load-in issues? Remember, rentals companies and event caterers will often charge premiums for difficult, time consuming and labor intensive load-ins.
•Vendor friendly: Make sure your venue has a nice kitchen if you are having caterers that are cooking on-site. Make sure there are enough outlets, and at least 3 to 4 breakers for the outlets in the main room if you are planning on having wedding lighting (strongly encouraged). If you are doing lighting, pick a venue with light colored walls so you can make the room the color theme of your wedding using lights. Dark walls will not allow for this.
•Is there an on-site manager who will help your vendors if a circuit blows or you need a mop?
•Do they offer Tables and Chairs included? If you are having a large group, that could save you hundreds! Remember to hire crew to set them up and put them away though.
•How much is the deposit? If you are running a tight ship, and they are keeping a large deposit, this could drastically affect your wedding budget, or force you to max out your credit cards.
•Any hidden fees? Many venues require insurance and charge you for an on-site manager, security, clean up, use of the kitchen, etc.
•Curfews? There is nothing worse than forgetting to ask the all important question: Are you in a residential district? If so, what is the latest that my reception can go until? Many venues in residential areas must finish their events by 9 or 10pm. This might be way too early for your crowd.

Catering: tables/ staff/ gratuity/ Buffet vs. seated, passed appetizers vs. stationed

3. Get your catering right: Here is a list of issues to consider in keeping your catering costs in check and having a quality event:

•Hidden fees. Once again, look for TOTAL out the door cost. It is critical that you get a final cost quote in invoice format from your caterer BEFORE making any decision. A $30 per person dinner can easily sky rocket to $70 per person after adding in staff, gratuity, tax, travel charges, and rentals.
•Appetizers: Passed vs. stationed. My favorite is a combination of passed and stationed appetizers. As a guest at events, I personally hate being at the will of the prep cook and wait staff as to when the next morsel will meet my lips. For your hungry guests, allow them to fill a small plate (and only provide small plates or napkins) at an appetizer station. On the other hand, if you are deep in conversation with Aunt Edna, it may be just too rude, even if desirable, to exit your conversation and head for the appetizer stations, so that passed appetizer may just save you. When deciding on catering, it is always a delicate balance between paying for the food or the staff. Both are costly, and obviously more staff with minimum 6 to 8 hour shifts will cost a pretty penny, just to have a lot of passed appetizers. On the other hand, loading up food stations with expensive individually made Horse devours is an expensive prospect as well. Passing limits the consumption, while stationed limits the staff requirements. Try a hybrid. You will thank me.
•Dinner: Buffet Vs plated. I am a fan of the buffet. I will readily admit that the buffet has the distinct disadvantage of not being as elegant and requiring more food per guest. However, the logistical nightmares and intensive staffing that it saves, makes it a great choice. A nice served dinner requires one wait-staff per every 10 people or so. If you have 150 people, you will need 15 staff. At $150 to $200 per staff, this adds up very quickly relative to the 3 to 5 staff needed at a buffet (one to two at the buffet and 2 to 3 to bus/ replenish). It also greatly reduces the back end kitchen staff. Have you ever attempted to plate 150 meals in a ten minute duration? Don’t! The other major issue with plated dinners is the issue of ever changing minds. Many a time my clients have gotten RSVPs, made table tags, and assigned food preferences for each guest, only to find out that after countless hours of labor and coordination, many of their guests decided that they weren’t vegetarians after all, once they saw their neighbor get the fillet of sea bass. This will lead to many of the guests that did order a particular dish, not getting it, as it is impossible for the caterer to buy two of everything for all guests. If you must have a plated meal, I strongly suggest doing one split meal. Offer plate with surf and turf or fish and chicken, and let your couples barter at the table if one wants fish only and the other prefers beef.
•If you are brave enough not to hire a planner, I suggest you let the caterer get all of the rentals. You may or may not save a couple of dollars by getting a separate rental company, but it will be minimal if the caterer is fair, and you will not need to spend countless hours on spreadsheets, calculating creamers and napkins. Caterers get a 10TO 20discount from the rental company so generally, they don’t mark it up above retail. They are able to make their margin from their discount, not from marking it up above retail. In fact, sometimes the caterer will be picking up the rentals via will call, or may own their own linens and china, and will not charge you the delivery fee a rental company will.

4. Party Timing: Timing is everything as they say, and this is certainly true with events. Keep your event at four hours. Vendors may not tell you this, but this is the industry standard. Go under this magic number and it will cost you the same as if you kept your event at 4 hours. Go over it and you will be paying for overtime. From Venues, to DJs/bands to caterers, and more, you will find this the case.

5. Vendors: There is nothing more telling than the old event planners adage: you are only as good as your vendors. Follow these tips and you will reduce your chances of ending up with a lousy vendor, which will make a lousy wedding. This is probably the single best reason to hire a tried and true professional: They will know who to bring, and more importantly, who NOT to bring to your event.

•As is true in most other aspects of life, it is doubly true with event vendors: You get what you pay for. This is a service industry, and you just can\’t take shortcuts and get away with it. If you get a cheap caterer, DJ, or cake, that is exactly what it will appear like. Get 3 quotes if you are doing it yourself: don\’t take the cheapest. Go for the middle or the highest.
•Be a detective. There are two things in life that all products and services are judged on: Price and quality. Your job, if you are venturing into the unknown land of finding vendors for your wedding, is to source the most reliable sources for your special day. After you have selected your best candidate, ask them for three references. Preferably ones that have used them more than once. Call up their references, and make sure to ask the hard questions, such as: ‘I know you think they are great, and I am sure they are. However no one is perfect. This won\’t go beyond you and me, but if you had to change one thing about vendor X, what would it be? ‘

6. Rentals: Event rentals are literally a world of their own. In order to not get taken, I suggest one of the following: Get your event planner to manage this or get your caterer to handle it. If you are absolutely determined to have a go at it yourself, then roll up your sleeves and make sure to take care of the following issues:

•Load in/out windows. Most rental companies offer a 3hr window for their standard delivery fee. This means your rental items are guaranteed to come any time in a 3 hour time frame. If you have just 3 hours to load in to your event, this little detail could melt down your event. Imagine your guests standing around as table cloths and chairs are being set up by sweaty rental employees. If you have a limited load in time, make sure to ask the rental company to do a one or two hour load in window. Try and negotiate with the venue for a 3hr load out the next day, if at all possible. If not be prepared to pay for a short load out window and/or late night after hour fees. Also keep in mind, if your event is on a Saturday, some rental companies charge premiums to load out on a Sunday.
•Stairs, elevators, long carry ins. Make sure you do not have any of the above. If you do, tell your rental company, and get a quote before you commit.
•Extras. Never order exactly what you need. Always bring at least two additional tables and 10more flatware, glasses and napkins than your guest count. Did you remember that the DJ needs a 6 foot table, or that the bartender needs both an 8 foot table (with risers) and a 6 foot back bar?
•Do NOT wait until a couple of days before your event to make final guest count changes. Most rental companies will not make any changes 48hrs before an event. Give yourself a week before the event to finalize the RSVPs.
•Who is setting up the rentals and breaking them down? Did you consider this? The rental companies will not do this, unless they are paid additionally for it. If your group size is 120 people or less, it is usually cheaper, and always easier to have the event rental company set up the tables and chairs, while your caterer will often set up the linens and fold the napkins, set the plates, etc.

7. Load in times: Make sure that you thought through all of the issues with vendor load ins.

•Is there only one loading dock?
•Did you coordinate the load in so the same vendors are not trying to access the venue at the same time?
•Did you coordinate the load ins with the venue accessibility, and calculate load outs for best price based on venue and vendor requirements and charges?

8. Day of event planner: Remember, without a day of event planner, you will be compromising your special day. Ultimately if you hire a good event company, they will come with one. Our Day of event planners will cost you just $300 to $400 if you use our services, compared to the $1,200 to $1,800 that a day of event planner normally charges. If you must have a friend do it, make sure they make up a form with all of the vendor names, phone numbers, load in start times, finish times, and load out times on one sheet. Be certain they get the vendors cell phones and office phones on the sheet so that if there is any issue, it will be easy to track. They should have the venue managers phone number on that sheet as well, and know where the broom, mop, etc. is.

9. Lighting: No event is complete without lighting. Lighting transforms a dismal space into a dynamic atmosphere. Although lighting a venue is not cheap, it is considerably less than decorating it with draping and other elements, and has a powerful impact on the emotions elicited, which will shape how the evening evolves. By incorporating lighting and draping, you can colorize any room to your event theme. Keep in mind there is no good way to only partially light a room. In order to have up-lights, cake lighting, and dance floor lighting be visible, you must turn down the ambient lighting of your venue either off, or to 25of the normal lighting. This will allow the colors of the lighting to saturate the space and create the ‘glow’ that you are looking for. When you do this, the bar, buffet, speeches on the dance floor, gift table, and anything else you need to have visible will disappear. It is important to make sure all of these elements are well lit by your lighting company. The impact of this is dramatic: a room glowing with every important event element at your reception. Take a look at some lighting packages to get an idea of what types of event lighting to look for:

10. Set up and clean up. It is easy to get so involved in each of the event elements, that you forget the event basics: Set up and clean up. Although your caterer will be setting up the linens and the table settings, if you are doing other décor, putting out votive candles, or needing other elements, make sure that you have defined crew who do not need to be at the ceremony to do that. It is not fair to ask your friends to look great for your wedding, and set up the reception. You will run them ragged! Remember, the same goes with breakdown. Most venues require all loose items to be picked up off the floor, and if you are using their tables/chairs, they must be put away. Your caterers will not be expecting to do this. Again, don\’t ask your loved ones to do these jobs in an evening gown. A turn key event company like inspire has dedicated staff for such jobs, or if you are doing it yourself, either make sure to make a deal with your caterer or hire specific staff for that purpose.

I sincerely hope these priceless tips and tricks will make your wedding day a wonderful one. If you enjoyed this information and would like more of the same or advice on different issues, please email us on the ‘contact u\’ link on our site mentioned below and we will be happy to share more valuable insights into the complicated and exciting world of event planning.

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About the Author

The author of this article is Jud Yaski. For over ten years, Jud\’s company Inspire Productions has been involved in premier event production all over the world with a focus on San Francisco and the Bay Area. If you need help or advice in organizing your event, feel free to contact Jud through his website

September 12, 2014 |

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