Being in the wedding industry I was curious to understand what a wedding planner/coordinator’s job entails and what difference they could make to a bride’s planning of her special day. I got hold of Lesley from Serene Bride to help me out:
All photographs are from weddings that Serene Bride planned and coordinated.
Why would a bride go the route of a wedding planner?
Most bridal couples are planning a wedding for the first time, and whether this is the case or not, the process can be quite overwhelming with all the available options to choose from; details to remember and time consuming research and decisions that need to be accomplished. A wedding planner/consultant is a professional whose expertise and contacts within the wedding industry will ensure the couple is able to locate the services and suppliers required for a successful and well organized wedding.
With a planner’s experience and knowledgeable ability to be able to recommend the various suppliers that are reputable, reliable, honest, professional and suited to the couple’s style as well as their budget, the foundations for a fabulous wedding will be laid.
Most brides have dreamed, some for many years, of their perfect wedding day with the expectation that it will eclipse every other day in their lives to that point, and to achieve this takes an unbelievable amount of careful and considered research, planning, time, effort, stress and worry. For this reason, turning to a professional consultant has become the accepted sensible route for busy working brides and is no longer thought of as only an option for the rich and famous.
What are the benefits of going that route?
There is no question that a good wedding planner will save the bridal couple time; money by negotiating better rates on the basis of repeat business; and most definitely stress not only on the wedding day, but over the months leading up to the wedding. Apart from guiding the couple towards a selection of great trustworthy wedding suppliers, their consultant is going to instil confidence from the word go that their wedding day will flow so well that there will be few, if any, hiccups. Wedding planners generally assist with floor layouts, seating arrangements, timelines, music choices, marriage ceremony options as well as guidance on requirements for the documentation and marriage registration. Of course, they help to conceptualise wedding decor and flowers for the ceremony and reception tables as well as wedding favours and other gifts.
Most people have heard some wedding “horror” stories about chairs not being delivered, caterers not arriving and even marriage officers not appearing and the couple only realising they have no officiant when the bride arrived at the altar. A good wedding planner will prevent such catastrophes from happening, or in the event of an emergency situation, will at least be able to timeously put a backup plan in place.
What should brides have ready before meeting with their wedding planner?
It is a good idea if couples have met with all parties that will be playing an important financial role with the wedding. Wedding planners are often asked how much a wedding will cost. This is an impossible question to answer honestly, although some planners do give an outright quote without a complete understanding of all the requirements which may lead to disappointment and confusion as the wedding day approaches. Service providers and venues are available to suit most budgets and a good wedding planner can recommend many cost saving flower and decor designs as well as other options that will assist with budget restrictions, but this should be done without compromising any area of the wedding as the alternative options must be stunning and in keeping with the couple’s style. For this reason, it is most helpful if the couple have an idea on their overall wedding budget so that their consultant can guide them to keep within their budget. It is a good idea to have chosen three wedding date options. Often, a couple will already have an idea on the setting they would ideally choose as a background for their wedding such as beach; garden; bush; city etc.
Is it best to just hand everything over to your wedding planner or would they try guide the couple?
Most wedding planners will first meet with the bride and groom or, if the couple are not able to be in SA before plans are in place, the couple and planner will have in-depth discussion so that the style, setting, aspirations, expectations, colours and themes, budget, are fully understood by everyone. The planner, having learned exactly how the bride and groom envisage the way their day will unfold, will devise a wedding plan or “brief” to present to the couple. It is next up to the planner to “get the ball rolling” by beginning to locate suitable and available suppliers and services from the data base of recommended services and should continue to constantly liaise with and guide the couple. If the bride and groom are able to trust the wedding planner will work in their best interest at all times, it is easier for everyone to proceed in the right direction and this will make the entire planning process more relaxed. Whilst the planner offers wedding company options and gives guidance and advice to the couple to help them make perfect selections, the final choices must be made by the couple and the wedding planner should not apply any undue pressure. It must be remembered that the consultant’s role is to assist with the choices, not make the decisions for the bridal couple.
How does a wedding planner work with a couple who are based overseas but holding their wedding in South Africa?
When couples live overseas and are unable to even visit South Africa prior to their wedding; when they have not viewed any venues or met with any service providers; they should really spend some time speaking with wedding planners and asking a host of questions, particularly about their wedding industry experience, because so much has to be taken on trust between both parties. Both the couple and the planner must be 100% positive that they have a “connection” without which, it would be most difficult to give the couple the wedding of their dreams which is something that every bridal couple deserves to have. Although this sounds clichéd, it is undeniably the most important aspect of the relationship between bridal couple and planner. The planner needs to give as much time as necessary to ensure he or she fully understands the couple’s expectations, taste and personalities, so that every detail that is booked and secured on their behalf would not only meet but surpass their expectations because only then can it be said that a planner has completed a job well done. All the timing, entertainment, designs of decor, flowers, stationery, wedding cakes, gifts must also be as the couple have envisaged them to be and at all times, it has to be kept in mind that a wedding day is a once-off performance and the day cannot be repeated again in order to correct mistakes! Great communication is naturally extremely vital and is the key to getting this right and so emails, telephone calls and even Skype conference calls are used to keep in touch.
Wedding planners are often asked by couples living outside of SA, if they will be the point of RSVP contact and to assist travelling wedding guests with accommodation bookings, airport transfers, car hire as well as activities and tours. The planner must have a good understanding of weather patterns in the wedding location vicinity as well as tidal tables where necessary. It is not unusual for the consultant to send out “newsletters” to guests advising them on what to bring if they have not visited the area before, as well as maps, directions and local special places of interest.
What are the key personality and working traits of a wedding planner?
A wedding planner has to be people driven, has a strong eye for detail, and must be passionate about weddings and/or helping people to fulfil their dreams. A wedding planner must be prepared to really “hear” the expectations, likes and dislikes and to meet those accordingly. Being a wedding planner takes mental and physical hard work and should not be taken on as a hobby, but as a full-time commitment. He, or she, is expected to be versatile, knowledgeable, resourceful, and able to instantly act on whatever curve ball is thrown (and this will happen in the build up to the wedding as well as on the actual wedding day). The planner needs to be able to bear the brunt of the daily chores, plan and manage the event from behind the scenes and the couple must know that they can rely on their consultant for support as advisor, co-ordinator, supervisor, mediator, manager and financial advisor.
Is it your day or theirs, sounds funny but I think some providers think that?
Their wedding day belongs to the couple, not any service provider or supplier, and for this reason, not only does the wedding planner really need to have perfected the art of listening but must also be prepared to put aside his or her own tastes, likes and dislikes. At all times, a planner should work within the framework of the best interest of the couple, and that has to include ensuring that their choices and expectations are met and not someone else’s. Wedding planners/consultants exist to assist the bride and groom in their endeavours to organise their wedding. Whatever is required, no matter how seemingly small and insignificant or extravagant and over the top it may appear, their job is to help make the wedding day present exactly as the bride and groom would like it to be.
The wedding planner’s priorities lie solely with the bridal couple, their wedding objectives and keeping within the confines of their wedding budget. That is why it is so important that a bridal couple find someone that they feel they can trust and feel comfortable with.