Wedding Planner Q&A with Weddings By Alexandra
Planning a wedding can be OVERWHELMING to say the least. We started planning ours about a year and a half ago and while many of our decisions were easy to make, it’s wild to think about how much effort and brain capacity goes into planning the biggest party of your life. I know that I consulted Pinterest almost daily during the planning process to find answers to all of the questions I had.
But you’re in luck! My pal Alex from Weddings By Alexandra took some time to answer some key wedding planning questions that I think you’re going to find VERY useful. Alex is a wedding planner based in the GTA and she’s done some really lovely work so I’m excited to collaborate with her for this post!
Let’s get into it, shall we?
1. What is the absolute first thing that newly engaged couples should do to kick off the wedding planning process?
First things first, take a moment (this can be a day, a week, a month) and pause to enjoy the fact that you are engaged! You are taking the next step in your relationship together as a couple! You have found your person! Revel in that feeling for a little bit.
Okay, now on to the planning! Logic tells us that in order to have a wedding, you need somewhere to have it. Finding the perfect place is without a doubt the least fun part of the wedding planning process but at the same time it is arguably the most important. The venue will be the foundation that you build most of your other decisions on. The venue is a large chunk of your budget and it determines the number of people you can invite, the style of your decor, where you and your guests will stay, what transportation you’ll need and it can even influence the overall flow and timeline of your day.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed when venue hunting, so try these 3 tips to make the process a little easier:
Start with a general guest count in mind. If you’re having a 200+ person wedding, there are a number of venues that won’t even be an option, so don’t waste your time looking at them.
Decide in advance if you want a bare bones venue or an all-in venue. A bare bones venue is essentially an empty space that sometimes comes with furniture, but you will be expected to bring in everything else, which gives you a lot of control. Whereas, an all-in venue will take care of a lot of the big elements such as catering, staffing, the bar, the DJ and more. This gives you less choice but can also mean less stress. Again, having an idea of what you want ahead of time will save you from looking at both options.
Only Visit your top 3 venues. Venues book up fast, so if you get quotes from more than 3 places and then attempt to see all of them in person before making a decision, you’ll run the risk of making the trek only to find out later that someone else has booked the space. Start by narrowing your options on paper and if you really cannot decide, visit your top 3.
2. How would you recommend couples go about establishing their budget priorities?
Weddings are expensive! There is no point in denying that. But working with a budget can definitely help to keep costs reasonable. Start by establishing your overall budget. Do a little research before arbitrarily picking a number, for example, a sit down dinner for 200 people will cost a lot more than a backyard wedding for 60 people. So consider the type of wedding you want and then set an ideal overall budget. Now it’s time to determine where your going to spend your money. For some couples the choices will be very obvious; for example, couples who want to have a raging dance party will want to invest in a great DJ and couples who want to have an immaculate sit down dinner will want to invest in a high end caterer and couples who are easily stressed out by details will want to invest in a wedding planner or wedding coordinator. If you’re having trouble figuring out what your priorities are try this trick:
Start by finding a wedding checklist online (there are tons of free checklists out there). Next take some time to think about how you want your wedding to feel. Do you want to dance the night away? Do you want to feast like a king? Do you want photos or maybe a video that you can always look back on to remember the day? With that feeling in mind, grab a red pen and without hesitation cross off all the things that you just don’t care about. That doesn’t mean you are cutting them out completely, it just means it isn’t a top priority and that's okay! The remaining list items are your top priorities. So give yourself permission to spend a little more in those areas of the wedding and a little less in the areas you crossed out.
3. What is the most underrated aspect of a wedding? Overrated?
Underrated: Scheduling time to mingle with guests - On your wedding day you will be surrounded by all the people you love and yet most couples don’t get a chance to actually spend any time with their guests. Between the speeches, the dances, the photos, the cake cutting, etc. it’s easy for the day to pass by with all the scheduled programming and miss all the people in the room who are there for you. So whether it’s during cocktail hour or during dinner, schedule in time to talk to your guests, have your photographer follow you so that you aren’t losing precious photo time. These conversations may just be some of the most memorable moments of your day.
Overrated: Wedding Favours - A small token of your appreciation to guests is a kind gesture and all but most people don’t need or want these items. A key inscribed with your name and wedding date will just end up in the junk drawer and a year later it will be in the trash. Yet, couples are spending hundreds of dollars on these trinket items. My advice, don’t waste the money. That said, if you really want to include a favour stay away from small plants, trinkets, and anything strongly scented. The only favours that are always taken home are the food favours. I’ve seen everything from fruitcake to chocolate bars to chestnuts to mini bottles of olive oil. If you can eat it then people will take it home. So if you’re going with a favour, do yourself a favour and make it something people can eat.
4. Any tips to help establish a wedding style that is in line with a couple’s personality and interests while ALSO avoiding becoming overwhelmed by all of the Pinterest inspiration?
Pinterest is an amazing, beautiful place where everything is easy and simple and perfect. But it’s not real life and you have to remember that 90% these perfect weddings seen on pinterest are staged and styled and curated or they have crazy massive budgets. There is nothing raw or organic about them, so attempting to replicate exactly what you see online isn’t going to leave you feeling great. That said, Pinterest is a fantastic place to get ideas and draw inspiration, so I encourage you to use pinterest as a tool to develop a vision. For example, if you have a colour scheme in mind, searching it to see how it will look in photos is very smart! If you are getting married in a unique venue, looking at other weddings done in the space can give you some awesome ideas. Just remember that your wedding is going to be unique to you and that will best the best part about it!
5. What are your thoughts on skipping some of the more traditional aspects of a wedding? (i.e. first dance, charitable donations in lieu of favours, etc.)
I say this to every couple I work with – It’s your wedding, so let’s do it your way. All these “traditional” aspects of a wedding are not that traditional, a hundred years ago people were getting married at the local church followed by a luncheon with family. The first dance, the grand entrance, the parent and child dances, wedding favours, a wedding cake, guest books, garter tosses, etc. These “traditions” are all recent creations of the wedding industry and don’t get me wrong, they can be really special moments, but they aren’t for everyone. When you strip those traditions away, the only thing remaining is the real purpose of the wedding, marrying the person you love. All you need to do that is an officiant and a witness, the other elements are extras, so if you aren’t feeling something, skip it! It’s your wedding, do it your way!
6. Let’s talk invitations - what is the timeline for sending save-the-dates and invites and what is the appropriate deadline for an RSVP?
Save the Dates: If you are doing a destination wedding or are inviting anyone who will need to book a flight to attend your wedding, you’ll want to send those save the dates as early as possible. Anywhere in the 18-12 month range is appropriate for a “heads up you need to travel” save the date. If your guests aren’t traveling from afar, then sending a save the date anywhere between the 8-6 month mark is the norm.
Invites: These are usually sent around the 3-2 month mark. Why? Because at this point in your planning process the big timeline pieces are in place. Your timeline, menu, hotel and transportation (i.e. all the things guests will ask you about) should all be figured out at this point. Set the RSVP deadline 3-4 weeks before the wedding date. This gives you time to follow up if need be. Your caterer will want final numbers and your seating arrangements approximately 10 days before the wedding, so a 4 week deadline will give you of time to finalize those details. Note: if you are creating an A guestlist and B guestlist and plan on inviting from your B list after you get responses from your A list, sending out the invites a little earlier, say 4-3 months with a 2 month, is also totally normal.
7. What should you do when someone doesn’t RSVP by the deadline? Is it appropriate to contact them directly for their response?
Don’t take it personally when someone misses the RSVP deadline, it’s not that they aren’t excited, it’s just that people have other things happening in their lives. So regardless if you are doing expensive invites with gold foil and an RSVP envelope, or a paperless post, it is totally okay to send a digital follow up after your RSVP deadline has passed. This can be more personal, like a text or a phone call or you can send a mass email. Whatever feels right for you and your relationship with that person.
8. What has been your favourite wedding to plan so far, can you pick one? What elements of the weddings you’ve planned have really stood out?
The reason I love my job is because I thrive when given the opportunity
to be creative. So, any wedding with an element of different, innovative and
creative will always stand out as special in my mind.There have been a few over the years that really stand out.
Maythe and Matt’s Pop-Up wedding at Cherry Beach
On a cool day in early May 2017 with their dog Frank and 4 of their closest friends, I organized popped up a wedding for under $2,500. I took the design inspiration for the day from the cool shades of lake Ontario in the spring. Maythe wore a grey dress and held a bouquet of purple lilacs and Matt wore a blue suit jacket. They got married in front a gorgeous wooden archway draped in navy tulle and surrounded by trees on the left and the lake on the right. After the ceremony they took some photos and then went to their favourite chinese restaurant for dinner.
Courtney and Kevin’s Intimate Wedding at The Princess Gates & The Drake Hotel
Also, an outdoor ceremony, Courtney and Kevin got married during a hurricane in September 2018. With 25 of their friends and family they said their “I do’s” at the Exhibition in front of the Princess Gates. A live guitarist played as Courtney walked down the aisle. They had a cocktail style reception for their guests on the Drake Hotel Sky Yard Rooftop and at 11pm the venue was opened to the public, so a bunch of their friends and a few strangers joined them as they partied the night away!
Emma and Flavio’s Operatic Wedding
In October 2018 I had the pleasure of planning Emma and Flavio’s wedding at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts. This was the first and only legal wedding ceremony to take place at the beautiful glass building where the Canadian Opera Company and the National Ballet of Canada perform. They got married in a part portuguese and part english ceremony in the lobby overlooking University Avenue but Emma got to sneak on stage for some incredible bridal portraits before the ceremony. Afterwards they had a cocktail style reception at Baro.
9. For couples with a strict budget that plan to DIY, what is the one thing you would recommend they splurge on?
Photography or Planning!
Why photography? If you are spending a lot of time crafting and creating beautiful DIY details, a good quality photographer will be able to capture all of your hard work. A good photographer will ensure that you will always look back on your day and remember all the special moments and important details.
Why Planning or Coordination? When you’ve spent hours planning, organizing and DIYing for your wedding, you should get to enjoy all your hard work on the big day. Live events are stressful and unpredictable, so passing off your plans and stress to a planner (more commonly referred to as a Day-of Coordinator) ensures that you and all your loved ones can enjoy every moment of your wedding day.
10. What trends are you predicting for 2019 weddings? Colours, styles, etc.
Warmer tones – Red, burgundy, burnt orange, jewel tones, these colours used to be exclusive to fall and winter but they are now becoming popular all year round. Pastels had their moment, the bright and vibrant colours are taking the spot light in 2019.
Greenery - Greenery as decor is not going anywhere in 2019. Greens are easy to customize to fit your wedding theme by adding candles, a variety of flowers, wood slabs, props, etc. Whether it’s a thick garland or sparse greenery, greens used as decor is so versatile and it’s relatively inexpensive.
Clean + Fresh Venues - A few years ago rustic venues with exposed wood and brick were all the rage and while that trend isn’t over by any means, clean and fresh venues are definitely on the rise. Venues with white walls and clean lines will increasingly be in demand in 2019 and onward. These venues are blank slates that really allow the couple to show their personalities through decor. Some couples may even choose to not decorate elaborately and let the simplicity of the space shine through.
And there you have it! I want to take a moment to thank Alex for her time and insight. I found this to be extremely informative! Be sure to check out Weddings By Alex on Instagram.
Tell me friends, would you like to see more Q&A with wedding industry vendors?? If so, leave me a comment below.