Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Royal Wedding - New Orleans Style

I did not plan to write about the Royal Wedding in any way, shape or form as I have not mentioned it thus far. But Thursday afternoon, I received an invitation to a viewing of the Royal Wedding and could not pass it up. Mrs. Debbie Perrone invited me to a party that was full-on British style with all party-goers wearing the appropriate hats and gloves, but we were accessorizing our jammies of course. I was the last to arrive at 3:30 am, but the party consisted of a few waves of people arriving as early as 10:30 the night before, midnight and then the “slacker” 3:30 am arrivals.

We spent the hour and a half leading up the wedding watching the coverage of the guests arriving and, of course, judging the people who came on the screen as if we were Joan Rivers on a special episode of “Fashion Police.” Although I would love to discuss the debacle of outfits and hats that arrived to this wondrous event, I would rather give my synopsis of details and traditions that stood out to this wedding planner!

First off, the dress, since this is what everyone was waiting to see more than anything. I believe she knocked it out of the park – 100% perfect! There have been some naysayers out there who believe the dress was not unattainable enough (compared to the details and grandness of Diana’s), but I think that’s what made the dress so right for her. In a time where lace jackets are quickly making a comeback, the lace sleeves were perfectly in tune with today’s fashion, yet still showed an elegance and style that set her above the rest of the population and set her back in time to some degree. As a matter of fact, I felt that way about the entire dress. It said, “I’m classy, I’m classic and I’m royalty, but I don’t need to be obnoxious about it!”

Secondly, for me, the next most noticeable thing about this wedding was the maid of honor. Pippa, Pippa – you are beautiful. In America, brides tend to tone their maid of honor down and an American bride would almost never think to put her maid of honor in the same color as her, but Katherine’s confidence to show off the fact that her sister is stunning was fabulous. The other thing about the maid of honor role is that she was a true maid of honor like we do not see in America. She actually carried that dress around, got the bride out of the car, walked those children down the aisle. She earned her right to steal a bit of the spot light.

Third, and most disappointing, I must talk about Katherine’s bouquet. I thought it was small, plain and looked completely fake. I think because she picked a dress that had such a clean and clear pallet, she could have really made a huge statement with a gorgeous, full bouquet of flowers. It seemed like she might have forgotten to pick a bouquet for herself so they just gave her what was left in the back of the flower shop that morning. I did think that it was interesting that the women did not wear corsages. The queen and Camilla had lovely brooches and I thought they looked good and served the same purpose as a corsage would have. I think I would like to officially claim the brooch as my new idea to brides and their mothers!

Next on the list, the transportation. I love the fact that everyone arrived at the time that they needed to arrive. No dilly dally. Get out of the car and get to your spot for the ceremony! Especially the bride; she was able to get out of the car and start her walk down the aisle. I also love the fact that everyone had their own car so the schedule was laid out based strictly on each individual person’s role and when they were due to arrive to the ceremony. I imagine that the transportation schedule looked something like this:
10:13 am - Prince William and Prince Harry exit the hotel door and get into Car #1 with the car doors closing at 10:14 am – car door will reopen upon arrival to church at 10:17 am and the two will enter the church at 10:18 am stopping to shake the hands of all 5 officials and then 10 guests before settling in at the altar at 10:20 am.

Last, but not least, I loved the fact that everyone wore hats for this wedding, which gave us all something to look at and in some cases, make fun of. Seriously, I loved the traditions of the hats and dressing properly to attend the wedding. One of my favorite things, and something that I think should become a mandatory tradition, is when a couple decides to make their wedding black tie. People do not dress anymore and, in most cases, a wedding should be a proper event that is taken seriously. I think every wedding should be a fun event for the guests to use as an excuse to step out on the town and enjoy the night celebrating with the happy couple. Formal dress always makes that feeling more evident and it always makes for a better party – not to mention better photos.

This concludes the major points of the Royal Wedding, as seen by a professional wedding planner who will leave it up to everyone else to scrutinize the bride’s wedding dress (or other dresses worn to related wedding events for that matter), complain about the lack of flowers in an already beautiful church (although the trees were amazing), point out the obvious shame that was Camilla’s outfit, give credit to the amazing choir, wonder if anyone else noticed the lack of emotion during the ceremony and of course, analyze the kiss. I will say, in closing that I think we should make a bigger deal out of the first kiss at every wedding. I think it’s a dwindling detail that needs to take priority in the ceremony. Overall, it was a beautiful wedding, a beautiful bride and they are a beautiful couple. And I am thankful that their wedding created the opportunity to attend a wonderful party with wonderful ladies all gathered together to do what we do best in this city - celebrate a wedding!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Part Two of "A Planner's Plan" - The List

Last week, I wrote about the outbreak of “wedding planners”, that have joined the industry and I went through several scenarios and red flags to look for. Along with that, I promised a check list for the brides to run through when interviewing the planners. I believe that paying attention or looking for the things on this list will help you weed through the bad and hire the good!

1. Did she mean what she said? Did the contract match what she told you would be included in the package?
2. Is she promising you the world? Do the services and “promises” even sound possible?
3. You get what you pay for. Wedding planners are not cheap so if you find one that is, double check the references. No matter what, when you are pricing, if someone offers you everything for nothing, be prepared to get nothing.
4. Take vendor suggestions. The vendors work with a lot of the planners a lot of the time. Consider what relationship the planner has with the vendors that you’ve spoken with.
5. Ask questions – see if she knows about the vendors (pros and cons) that you want to use and get to know her knowledge in the industry (without expecting her to give you planning suggestions/information for free).
6. Is there a time restraint on communicating with the planner? Does she only offer you time to talk from 8am – 6pm and does she only show up on the day of the wedding 2 hours prior? Make sure that her schedule is flexible enough to work with yours.
7. Will the person that you have your initial consultation with be the person who is taking you all the way to the day of the wedding or will the event be passed off to an assistant?
8. Does she call herself a planner or a coordinator? If you want a planner, you better hire someone who knows their title or they certainly will not know their job!
9. Be wary of what services are offered, other than planning. Some planners are also hair and make-up artists, photographers, florists, etc. Being contracted with a group of people or having a staff to do these things is great, but having one person who thinks they can handle all of these jobs means that she cannot do one thing really well because she is doing many things on an average level.
10. Is this her full time job or does she have another job during the day? Does she have day time restrictions? How flexible is her schedule is for last minute meetings, drop offs, etc?
11. How many weddings does she do in a weekend? Are you one of three brides that will need her attention on your wedding day? If so, think about how she will manage to keep all of you happy.
12. Will she be attending meetings with your vendors? If the answer is no, and you are hiring her for full service, walk away as you will spend most of your planning months filling your planner in on the details of meetings.
13. Are there any other packages besides full service and day of? Ask if you can pay for just what you need and customize something in between the two extremes.
14. Does she know it’s your day? There is a difference between a controlling personality and a disciplined work ethic. Make sure you know the difference.
15. Pay attention to her personality and how it mixes with yours. If you are not comfortable enough to talk about pricing and likes/dislikes in the initial consultation, then do not hire the planner. You will have to hire someone that you can be honest with as you definitely do not want to spend 8 months planning your special day with someone that you cannot talk to.

Good luck and keep in mind that the wedding industry is filled with people who got into the field for the sole reason of making money. Just like any other profession, dealing with the “cash cow” vendors versus the ones that do it because they have a love for the job is the difference in service. The trick is learning to spot the lovers of the wedding world!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

A Planner’s Plan

While planning changes to my account on theknot.com the other day, I saw that there are 21 other companies advertising under the “wedding planner” section in New Orleans. When I started advertising with theknot.com a few years ago, there were only 8 – 12 planners, including myself. The number of planners doubling in only 2 years made me realize that there has to be a guideline of some sort to help the brides out there pick the best planner for them, or a legitimate planner for that matter.
After researching some of the websites for these planners and seeing posts about them on theknot.com, I am pretty confident that I can give assistance in this process – without telling each bride to simply hire me.

For instance, on one planner’s website, she has a detailed description of duties involved in her full service package. She promises to create wedding invitations, favors and gift bags for the bride-to-be and she promises 20% off of the order if the potential bride hires her for full service. My question is: what if the bride just wants a gift bag with Hubig’s Pies inside? How would this planner get you 20% off of a product that she does not produce? While many planners build great relationships with local vendors and venues, it is almost impossible to have a connection with every possible wedding vendor in New Orleans to the degree that you can promise, without a doubt, that you can get the client 20% off of anything they choose to put in a gift basket. Promises like that should bring up a red flag as it will more than likely be a promise that will not be kept.

Another service offered by this same planner is that she will “work with your guest list to develop a seating chart that will help manage the flow of your wedding day.” First off, we all know that only a small percentage of New Orleans weddings even require seating charts, so that’s kind of a nothing service. Secondly, I do not know one bride out there who would appreciate me taking her guest list filled with names of people that I could not possibly know and, at random, creating a seating chart for her reception. That seems a little silly, and it seems like this planner just needed more lines to create a full page of services offered.

The point in bringing up the two examples above is for the brides out there to really think about what is being offered and consider if the services listed will actually be helpful in taking the stress away from the planning process. Just because the contract is filled with bullet points of services offered does not mean that they are services that are worth paying for. A good rule of thumb is to look for the main responsibilities that you know you will need help with – vendor referrals, budget assistance, time lines for tasks needing to be completed, unlimited access via telephone and email, etc.

If the main points are covered, and you are looking for something else to separate one planner from another, then start looking at the extras. For instance, making a seating chart is nice, but, as a bride, I would rather someone who is going to handle getting all of my payments to the vendors so that I am not running all over town dropping checks off or wondering what is due when.

Read through the contract and double check that what the planner told you in your initial consultation matches with what the contract says. Even if the contract is one paragraph, as long as it explains everything the way that you understood it when you met initially, than you are in great shape.

Other details to pay attention to are pricing. I saw on one planner’s site that the full service package was only $1,000 - $1,500 more than the “day of” package. That should be a red flag considering the planner should be doing 80% more work for full service. And if the full service package is much lower than what you are hearing from other planners, ask yourself why that would be the case. I’ve had three clients come rushing to me months before their weddings because a planner that they hired (who was cheaper) cost them more money because she was not holding up her end of the deal. Ultimately, that planner’s actions (or lack thereof) resulted in the brides losing contracts, dates, venues, etc. so they had to fire her in the middle of the process and start fresh with me.

I have created a recap of these and many other points/questions to help you avoid situations such as that. Since this entry is entirely too long, but way too important to cut, this will be a two part entry! Look for the next blog entry which will include the “check list” and remember that, in most cases, the wedding planner is the first vendor you will hire after you get engaged. Ultimately, the planner’s job is to set the tone to make your planning process as easy as possible. The idea is to take the stress away and help point you in the direction that will bring what’s in your head to life. The right planner will save you more money than you could have ever saved on your own. As a matter of fact, the right planner should never charge you more than what she can save you. Keep that in mind when you expect to find a planner who will work for $2,000. Wouldn’t you rather save $6,000?!!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Bustle

For most brides, the wedding dress is the most important outfit that she will ever pick out so naturally, more money and thought will go into this one dress than any other dress in her entire life! Some brides spend months agonizing over the perfect wedding gown traveling to places like New York just to make sure they have seen every available option: strapless or halter, long or short, lace or beading, white or cream. The lists of options are endless. The dress is almost always an item on the “over budget” list and each girl tries to think of every possible scenario before making a firm decision; weight gain, weight loss, shoe style, shoe height, body type, skin color, time of year, etc. With all of these things to consider, one of the most important things – almost always overlooked – is the dress’ bustle.
Most girls tend to think that this is something for the seamstress to figure out, but the seamstress will not be at the wedding when the bustle breaks and you are upset that your $2,000 Maggie Sottero gown is dragging around the reception while the groomsmen leave their footprints and beer drops on the train. If I had to put an estimate on the number of bustles that typically break, I would say that 8 out of 10 of my girls have either had their bustles break or bustles that did not work from the start.
Typically, the seamstress should decide on the best bustle for you based on the material of the dress and the weight of the train. The different kinds of bustles are mostly described in terms of the look they offer once the dress is in fact bustled. Some of the different types of bustles may include the Ballroom Bustle or the Double and Triple French Bustle. (For a complete list and view of the bustle styles, please see http://www.projectwedding.com/wedding-ideas/bustles-for-your-gown).
While the look of the dress after it has been bustled is important, that is not what you should be thinking about when talking to your seamstress about your bustle options. What you need to know is how the dress will actually bustle. Will you have a hook or a button or will you have string under the skirt to create a French bustle? These are the important questions to ask and this is the answer you want to hear. NO FRENCH BUSTLE – NO STRINGS UNDER THE SKIRT!!!
The seamstress will tell you that the idea of a French Bustle is simple. You will have about 20 ribbons hanging from the skirt under your dress and each ribbon will have a certain number of knots in it. Two ribbons will have the same number of knots and you will find the ribbons that match, tie them together and POOF, you are bustled. Wrong. This almost never works and the reason is because either the ribbons break, the seamstress forgets to add the correct number of ribbons, or the ribbons were not knotted correctly so they do not all have a match. If you can avoid this bustling option, you will be saving yourself from a guaranteed broken train and you will be saving the person who has to bustle you from a search party for 20 knotted ribbons.
Talk to your seamstress about having hooks or buttons added to the back of the dress to act as a bustle. Also, talk to her about having multiple (maybe three) hooks rather than just one. Nine times out of ten, even if the material is light and does not have much beadwork your moving around all night and being pulled in one hundred directions will only warrant the support of three hooks as a bustle rather than just one.
Regardless of your final decision after speaking with your seamstress, please keep this in mind as a major component to the dress picking process. No matter how pretty your dress is for the ceremony and how pretty the dress was supposed to be with that gorgeous French Bustle, it will still look like a dust rag after dragging the dance floor all night. It will be worth the extra money to add an easier and more reliable option. But also keep in mind, if the bustle does break, either carry the train on your arm all night, or hang the dress on your wrist using the lingerie hook under the bottom of the dress to keep it from dragging the floor. Do not let it ruin your fun night!