The Value of Hiring a Wedding Planner

A wedding planner can be a great addition to your wedding day. They can address the unexpected situations that pop up, and relieve you and your parents of the responsibility of managing the schedule and flow of the day.

I’m seeing more couples investing in either a wedding planner or at least a day of coordinator. You may have demanding jobs that prevent you from handling the wide array of wedding details. Or you may know that you’re not a Type A person who enjoys making all the decisions and tracking all the tasks to successful completion. Or you may be holding your wedding far distant from your home, and need someone who can be your arms, legs and eyes closer to the wedding venue. Or you may have a very specific vision for your day, and want to do everything you can to try to bring that to life. In any of these situations, or others unique to you, the cost of a wedding planner may be money well spent.

I’ve seen planners handle the following situations:
– an unexpected thunderstorm that popped up minutes before the ceremony time causing the ceremony to be relocated to an indoor space.
– coordinating and managing the extended families as they arrived for family photos, keeping the process moving smoothly and quickly for the photographer.
– directing guests to restrooms, the gift table, and the ceremony space so they were comfortable and felt welcomed.
– working to find/make space for unexpected guests, and engaging with the caterer to accommodate them for the dinner.
– finding a band-aid for the mother of the bride who needed one only moments before the processional began.
– working with all the vendors and the bridal party to keep the day on schedule.
– and being a buffer for the bride – answering questions from vendors and guests, confidently making last minute decisions, allowing the bride to enjoy her day.

It is certainly possible to hold a wedding without hiring a planner or coordinator, in fact, most of the couples I work with take on the planning role themselves. But if you can swing the planner’s fee in your budget, they are a great way to relieve stress for you and increase the chances that your wedding flows as you want it to.

Summer Wedding Strategies

An outdoor summer wedding requires special strategies to ensure that everyone stays safe and as comfortable as possible. While you can’t control the temperature or the amount of sun and wind that will grace your wedding day, you can and should make plans to accommodate possible conditions.

The first set of considerations revolves around the ceremony space. Consider your ceremony’s scheduled start time and look at the venue in terms of both shade that will be available for your guests and the position of the sun. If possible, orient the ceremony space so the sun is to the side so no one is looking directly into the sun. If the ceremony venue is fixed, and your guests will be looking into a setting sun, consider providing inexpensive sunglasses or visors for the guests. These can be favors/takeaways, and also very practical. If possible, position the chairs to take advantage of any available shade, too. If there just isn’t any shade, consider inviting guests to mingle in nearby shade until just before the ceremony begins.

Once you’ve done what is possible with the actual ceremony space, the next thing to consider is how you can increase your guests’ comfort in other ways. Having cold water available for guests to take as they are seated can help them stay cooler during the ceremony. Mounting your ceremony program on a stick provides a fan for guests to cool themselves with during the ceremony. You can also fill a large tub with rolled inexpensive washcloths sitting in iced water for them to take to wipe faces, hands and pulse points as they leave the space after the ceremony. (These washcloths can be laundered and donated to a homeless shelter, womens shelter or other charitable organization later.)

Beyond the ideas above, the best way to keep people comfortable is to start your ceremony on time. Don’t leave your guests sitting in the unrelenting sun and heat for 10 or 15 minutes beyond the published ceremony start time. Start promptly to allow your guests to enjoy the ceremony with you and then move to more comfortable spaces. And finally, if you know that you’re likely to have a hot and/or humid wedding day based on your location and wedding date, consider the length of your ceremony. You can do a very meaningful ceremony in 20 minutes, or even 15 if necessary, and your guests will appreciate your consideration.

Outdoor, summer weddings can be beautiful, but they can also be uncomfortable or even hazardous for you and your guests, so consider likely both weather and venue in your ceremony planning efforts. And don’t forget to consider the possibilities available for lovely indoor wedding ceremony options, too.

Bad Weather Blues… Avoided

No matter how organized and well planned your wedding day is, the weather is one aspect you cannot control. In Minnesota, hot, cold, windy, rainy, snowy and stormy weather all can and do happen. So while outdoor ceremonies are very popular in our area, it is essential that you have a real bad weather plan identified and ready to execute. That was never more true than last weekend.

Scattered thunderstorms had been forecast for Saturday afternoon, but we woke to sunshine on Saturday morning, and a revised forecast indicating that the rain would hold off until around 7pm. In light of that the couple and venue moved forward with plans for an outdoor 4pm wedding ceremony. At 3:40pm the skies grew suddenly dark, the temperature dropped, and radar showed strong, possibly severe rain to the west, and heading our direction. When the first lightning was sited the bride and groom made the call that the ceremony needed to be moved indoors.

With only 20 minutes until the scheduled ceremony start time, everyone scrambled to help. The venue staff moved the chairs into the barn loft (the bad weather ceremony location), turned the lights on upstairs, quickly mopped the floors and turned large fans on to try to cool the space down a bit. The DJ and my tech support moved the sound system to the loft and did a quick sound check. The bridesmaids and groomsmen moved the floral decor and unity ritual props and table into the loft, and the parents greeted guests and directed them to the loft for the ceremony.

The skies opened and rain poured down about five minutes before ceremony start time, but the processional began and the ceremony was underway, on time, in the dry loft space of the barn. The cooperation of all parties involved was wonderful; the couple was calm and relaxed about the last minute change; and the ceremony came off without a hitch. But all of that was only possible because of the on site bad weather option that was available. There was no time to contact all guests and route them to a different location, as would have been necessary if a park ceremony had been planned, for example.

This story demonstrates the necessity for a real, executable bad weather backup plan, for while all couples hope for a picture perfect wedding day, it doesn’t always happen. As last Saturday shows, if you’ve got a good contingency plan in place an unexpected rain event can be only a minor blip in your day. Disaster averted, couple married, guests safe and dry, and the celebration enjoyed by all.

Little Ones Steal the Show

It is true that if you include little ones (children under about 7 years of age) in your ceremony, there is a good chance that they will steal the show. They’re just so darn cute, especially when you dress them up and give them signs to carry or flower petals to scatter. As long as you have reasonable expectations of the children’s behavior and limits, and are willing to “go with the flow” a bit, children can be a wonderful addition to your wedding party.

But children can be unpredictable. They may opt to run down the aisle, refuse to let go of their mother’s skirts, or simply melt down at the last minute. For this reason, I recommend that you identify a person they know well who can be their “minder” for the time before and during the ceremony. This person can ensure that the children have food and water at the appropriate times, and may even be able to sneak in a nap if you’re really lucky. Then they can be with the children until they walk down the aisle, and are available to whisk the children away if they just aren’t able to follow through with the plan. A day care provider or grandparent from the “other” side of the family may be perfect candidates for this job.

Very small children in the wedding party need even more consideration. Recently I worked with a couple who wanted their niece (about 4) and nephew (less than 2) who were siblings to be the flower girl and ring bearer for their ceremony. They made arrangements for a decorated wagon for the little ones, to be pulled by the junior bridesmaid (about 9). This plan worked well – the flower girl sat in the back of the wagon with her (very sleepy) little brother propped in her lap. The junior bridesmaid was able to control the wagon, safely deliver the little ones to the front of the ceremony space, and then move the wagon off to the side. An aunt carried the sleepy ring bearer from the cart and held him for the ceremony, and the flower girl popped out and sat with other family members. The children were adorable… and well cared for.

Another approach for the very young flower girls and ring bearers is to have them carried in by their parents, grandparents or other familiar faces from the wedding party. It’s perfectly fine to deviate from the traditional placement of these little ones in the processional, and works best for everyone.

If you decide to include children in your wedding party, plan for their needs well in advance of your day. There are ways to make it a fun experience for all, but can also be very stressful if not well thought out. So while you’re making plans and schedules for your wedding day, don’t forget about the special needs of the littlest members of your party. Then you can stand back and watch the children steal the show.

Welcoming Guests with Mobility Assistance Devices

By planning ahead for wedding guests with mobility assistance devices, you can ensure that everyone feels welcome and ready to celebrate with you at your ceremony. If you have guests who use walkers, crutches or wheelchairs you’ll want to evaluate potential ceremony venues for accessibility. Elevators, ramps, a lack of steps, and wide aisles are things to look for during site visits. You’ll also want to consider the flooring – is it uneven or slippery? Are there loose area rugs that could be trip hazards? If outdoors, are there hills, gravel or narrow paths that could be impassable for some guests?

There are a few more considerations and accommodations that can be made as you set up for the wedding, too. If you have parents or grandparents who will be sitting up front who use mobility devices, make arrangements in advance to remove chairs to make space for wheelchairs, and plan for a convenient location to store walkers or crutches during the ceremony so they are out of the way, but can be quickly retrieved when needed. Make sure ushers and the guests are aware of the plans, too.

And finally, if you are using a runner (which I generally advise against), plan to have your guests using mobility assistance devices seated before the runner is put down. Most runners these days are made of a non-woven fabric (also known as fancy paper) or plastic. At a recent ceremony the runner was torn when a wheelchair traveled over it just before the processional began, leaving an unsightly hole right in the middle of the runner. Runners can also be trip and slip hazards for people using crutches or those who simply are unsteady on their feet. Outdoors runners create an even larger hazard as they cover any holes or uneven areas in the ground, which can lead to twisted ankles for any of your guests. Even if you put the runner down just before the processional, remember that your guests will be walking on it after the ceremony, so ensure that there is a safe exit route alternative, too.

With some forethought and advanced planning all your guests can feel welcome and accommodated at your wedding ceremony, allowing them to fully share in your special day.