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The Ten Commandments of Wedding Planning

Whether or not you follow the actual Ten Commandments, these are the ones you really need if you're planning a wedding!
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Whether or not you follow the actual Ten Commandments, these are the ones you really need if you're planning a wedding!

1. Thou Shall Not Share the Timeline with Everyone

One of the most important and time-consuming jobs a Planner has, is putting together a comprehensive timeline for the Big Day. I start this timeline at least one month prior to the wedding day and work with every vendor involved to incorporate them into the schedule. This means coordinating with the stylists, transportation pick ups and drop off, rental set ups, flower and decor, DJ and musicians, photographer and videographer, etc. The timing of one vendor relies on the timing of another, and the timeline isn't just something that's put together in an hour with no regard for the actual logistics of the day. There is a reason that the hairstylist wants to start at a certain time, there is a reason the transportation is picking your guests up at a certain time, there is a reason for everything.

Personally, I give the timeline to my couples to review at least a week (in some cases more) prior to the wedding so that they can ask any questions they have and we can make any adjustments necessary. Once that's done, the hard and final copy goes to all the vendors involved. There are instances when couples will share the timeline with friends and/or family, and inevitably receive their two cents. I cannot tell you the amount of 2 a.m. emails I have received the week of the wedding from my clients saying something along the lines of "my father reviewed this and thinks you should change blah blah blah". The bottom line is that I am not going to tell them how to do their jobs, and I certainly do not want to be told how to do mine. This timeline is very intentional, carefully crafted, and takes weeks to prepare and finalize. There will never be a time where I (or any other planner) is remotely interested in comments from your guests. To keep this all from happening, simply do not share your timeline with anyone but your other half. Besides, Aunt Sally doesn't need to know what time the flowers are being set on the tables. The only timing your guests need to know is already on your invitation.

2. Thou Shall Not Listen to the Peanut Gallery

In correlation with The First Commandment of Wedding Planning, this second one. The moment you announce your engagement (and sometimes even before), you will start hearing opinions as vague as the colors you should consider and as specific as the vendors you should hire. When people find out I am a Wedding Planner, I always (for real, always) get the same reaction: Wow! That must be so amazing and glamourous. Are you like J.Lo in that movie...what's it called? People have this concept about wedding planners and wedding planning in general that it's easy, fun or both.

While some things are easy, fun, or both, there is a ton of work that goes into planning a wedding and it's a full time job. MY full time job. Frequently, I will be challenged by a relative or a friend either directly or indirectly about my planning skills. Recently, a bride challenged me with regard to her flower budget. She insisted that a friend of hers had twice the amount that she wanted and only paid $1,000. I took the time out of my day, tracked down this florist and asked him how he did it. The answer? He was paid $11,000 plus travel expenses to multiple cities across the country. The $1,000 was what he charged them for flowers because he was already receiving $10,000 to plan the entire wedding. When I brought this back to my bride, she was shocked and asked me why her friend would lie to her. Here's the thing: your planner is going to be realistic with you. Do them a favor and don't bring the peanut gallery into your planning. In fact, if something like that happens to you, just tell them to be silent. Seriously.

3. Thou Shall Keep Appointments and Be On Time

Repeat after me: I am not my planner's/DJ's/photographer's/etc. only client.

"Only Client Syndrome", as I call it, is when the client forgets that their planner and other vendors have other people they are working with. They might even possibly have a family, a social life, and a desire to sleep at least 6 hours a night. Always be respectful and remember that although you are paying these people, you still have to treat them like human beings.

If you need to change an appointment, there needs to be at least 24, preferably 48 hours notice. Why? Because there are other clients and other work that needs to be done. Your time slot (that 7 p.m. on a weeknight that 30 other people wanted) needs to be kept on time because, odds are, there are other things going on that day for the vendor you are meeting with. Obviously emergencies happen, but I cannot tell you the amount of grandmothers that have died in my years as a wedding planner. If you have to cancel, especially late notice, pick up the phone. Do not text and do not email! Have the common courtesy to let the person hear the sincerity in your voice, and that will go a long way. Of course, if you are going to be late to an appointment, call and let someone know that right away too. Then, when you arrive, understand that there might be an appointment coming in after you, and thus, your one hour appointment just got cut by however many minutes you were late. Again: other clients do exist. You cannot complain about being "rushed through" an appointment if you were late, and you can't be a jerk about it either.

4. Thou Shall Not Lie to Thy Planner

A planner is like your doctor or your attorney in that you have to be truthful. They are on your side and want to do what is in your best interest. However, if you withhold information or bend the truth about things like your budget, why you flaked on an appointment, what your real guest count is, or anything, then you are really just hurting yourself. Odds are, your planner is working on your file every single day in the office, or at the very least, every other day. Any work that your planner does using information you provided that is a lie, is a wasted amount of work.

For instance, if you tell me that you want a live band, and your budget is $10k, I will reach into my vendor book/bag of magic tricks and come up with a suggested list of bands who have the style that you want, that are available for your wedding date and within your budget. That doesn't happen 1-2-3. Then, when I present you with your options, the absolute last thing that I want to hear is anything along the lines of "can you find anyone cheaper?" That basically makes me either go back to all of your options and ask for a less expensive option (making the initial work I did, a total waste of time), or have to start over from scratch.

Other things I've been lied to about? Guest counts that were really double the original number I was given (changing my venue search), reasons for canceling an appointment (grandma isn't really dead, it's just a nice day for the beach), and the list goes on. Look: sometimes when a planner asks you a question, you might not know the answer. That's totally acceptable. Tell them that you don't know, and don't just make something up.

5. Thou Shall Heed Warnings from Thy Planner

Looking into a particular venue and your planner can list 479 reasons why you shouldn't get married there? Interested in a certain DJ and your planner makes it clear that they go rogue and show up drunk to weddings? Heed the warnings your planner is giving you. When you a pay a planner, you are paying for their experience, who they know and what they know. You may read a fantastic review online, or your cousin (who is not a planner, because they never are) recommends this "perfect" venue that you *have* to look into, but if your planner has negative things to say: listen!

I personally know plenty of vendors, and I know the ones that are easy to work with and the others that are impossible to work with. I'm honest with my clients and tell them when to stay away, and I will even give real life reasons why they should listen. There isn't anything worse then when my actual experience is questioned by the groom's best man who basically is saying "Bro, trust me, this place is perfect," to a venue that I know will not deliver on what you actually want.

If you choose to ignore the warnings that your planner is giving you (verbally, and then confirming in writing if they are smart), then you are not allowed to complain when everything falls apart as predicted. Oh, that radio DJ that your bridesmaid said you totally have to hire (despite that they have no wedding experience, are impossible to reach and can't be bothered to hold insurance) showed up drunk to your reception and botched the names of everyone entering, including your parents? You can get mad at her, and get mad at yourself... but if your planner warned you, you don't get to be mad at them.

6. Thou Shall Not Complain About What Thy Isn't Willing to Pay For

During the planning process, you will probably hear, at least once, "you get what you pay for." Everyone has a budget, whether it's $40k or $200k - and there is always a number that couples want to work with. Things cost what they cost and sometimes what you want is expensive. Just because you won't spend $1,500 on a pair of Jimmy Choo's that you want, doesn't mean you get to cry about it. Something that you want is outside of your budget? Ok, fine. When this happens, I will work with my clients to try and restructure their budget and decide if we can allocate money towards getting them what they want. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't.

In general, it's easy to put a range of pricing in any vendor category. For instance, a professional videographer, with two cameras and the ability to edit the DVDs in the NYC area, is going to start at $4,000 and can go up to over $10,000. That's just a fact, and that can be applied to everyone in the wedding industry. (Yes, there are exceptions, but they are few and far between and often already booked way in advance.) It's more than likely that when you start planning, you will not know what anything costs. It's your planner's job to give you an idea, that way you can compare it to your budget, or use that information to develop your budget. Once that step is completed though, if you are simply not willing to or unable to pay for the exact thing that you want, you need to come to terms with that fact. Meditate, do yoga, have a glass of vodka, do whatever you need to do to get over the fact that you're not getting that flower installation that you saw on Pinterest because it's more than what you are willing to or can spend. You cannot enter on an elephant if you don't have the financial resources. It's really that simple. Therefore, you cannot complain about the items that you're not getting, if the answer to the complaint is essentially: this can be done, just write the check.

7. Thou Shall Notify the Correct People that Thy has Hired a Planner

Notice how I said "correct" people? The reason is because everyone has that person, or sometimes people, in their lives that has a jaw that hits the floor, eyes that roll back in the head, and verbal diarrhea when they find out that a wedding planner was hired. This goes back to the general idea that all planners are like J.Lo in *that* movie, everything is glamour, and people that hire planners are throwing 6 figure shindigs. I have had brides of mine come to me and tell me how their cousin cannot believe they hired a planner and what could they possibly need one for/what does a planner do anyway? It's seen as a "fake job" to many, which is laughable to me and any other planner that does this professionally and full time. It's not all picking out linens and tasting appointments (which many don't go to anyway), and plenty of the time we're in the office handling major logistics and contract negotiations. Last week alone I was in my office until 11pm working on a timeline. Redoing a seating chart for a 4th time sound like a glamorous time to anyone? Cause, it's not. That said, there are people that do need to be aware of your choice to hire a planner. These people include: immediate family involved in the ceremony, your wedding party, and any vendors you hired on your own. As a planner, I typically run the rehearsal the day or two before the wedding, and it's more than difficult when everyone involved doesn't know who I am. I typically am given as much respect as a substitute teacher. Give these people the head's up and let them know who is running the details at the rehearsal and the wedding day.

Another thing you need to tell them: your planner is not their personal servant. I, and my team, have had fingers snapped at us, shoes thrown to us to be put away, diaper bags handed to us to "hold onto"...the list goes on. That's not my job and frankly, if a planner wasn't there, your friends and family would have to figure something else out. Plus, we do not want to touch your bridesmaid's purse or your uncle's jacket. Why? Because then we're responsible for it, even when they get drunk and lose it later on. Sorry, we won't do that and it's your job to make sure they know that. Any vendors that you hired before the planner was hired - they need to be notified, by you, about the presence of a planner. I have had vendors ignore my calls and emails because, despite my full explanation of being the planner for the wedding, my clients never told them about me. Makes for a great start. Not!

8. Thou Shall Tell Your Previously Hired Vendors to Play Nice

There is no way that the planner you have hired knows every single vendor in the area, which means there is a strong chance that they don't know your stylists, DJ, or others that you hired pre-planner. Due to the fact that there are those planners that basically take over and have no regard for other vendors, as well as the fact that many brides decide they are going to be a planner just because they planned their own wedding, many vendors and venues push back the planners. I've even had a venue coordinator say to me, in front of my clients (they booked the venue first) the following, "I'm not sure how they do things in Jersey, but we don't have a need for wedding planners here because we handle everything."

This was in New York, by the way. I'm glad my clients got to hear that because it is an attitude I deal with frequently, especially when the venue or vendor was booked before me. In fact, many of the vendors I work with have made it clear that I am the only planner they care to work with because of how respectful I am with them. There are plenty of great planners out there, all capable of working well with vendors, but a few bad apples can spoil the bunch. Whatever you have booked prior to the planner, make sure you notify them in an email, and introduce your planner by CC'ing them and including their contact information. The vendor needs to know that you are comfortable handing over control to the planner and in what amount. The trickier situation is when you hire a vendor after you have hired a planner, completely disregarding their recommendations. There's a general attitude that many vendors will have if they were hired even while you have a planner, is that they don't need to communicate with your planner. The reason for this is because you've sent the message that you don't trust/like/use your planner's recommendations. Since the planner has to make the timeline and it involves all of the vendors, make sure your vendors know that there has to be open communication all the way around.

9. Thou Shall Not Spend Countless Hours on Pinterest Pinning "Crazy"

I personally follow all of my clients' Pinterest boards. I also have it set up where I receive an alert on my phone when they pin something new. This has resulted in phone calls that went a little something like this, "Unless you just fell into an extra $50,000, I'm recommending you remove that pin". Pinterest is great for inspiration and ideas, but it can turn into hours and days of pinning one crazy thing after the next. Yes, a ceremony aisle over an infinity pool would be amazing. It also will be expensive, difficult, and come with plenty of issues. You are seeing a finished product on Pinterest without a price tag. Sometimes clients have difficulty imagining a "scaled down" version of what they want, and since they are so visually stimulated, if they can't actually *see* what they are getting, they don't want it. This is why Pinterest is so popular: you can see something you want, bring it to your florist, planner or whomever and say "do that". Sadly, sometimes those flowers won't be available, or the clear top tent will be about $30k outside your price range. It's best to set aside a certain amount of time a week to do your wedding planning, including the time that you spend on Pinterest. Otherwise, you will fall down the rabbit hole and could easily start wishing for things you never thought you wanted (and you probably still don't) and possibly cannot do or afford.

10. Thou Shall Write Reviews Post-Wedding

The wedding is over, everything was spectacular, and you're back from the honeymoon. You're writing out thank you cards to your guests, and the vendors and planner that you hired are all a distant memory. You're busy moving on in life as a married couple and getting back to work and not planning a wedding. Then you start receiving emails from these vendors asking if you would please write a review. You don't delete the email because "you'll get to it"...except you never do.

Think back to your wedding planning process and all of the emails, texts and phone calls you made. How fast were the responses? Did you always hear right back? Was one of the reasons you hired your planner their incredible online reviews? All of these questions illustrate why writing a review, and doing it promptly, is the right thing to do. Of course everyone gets busy and you're not in wedding mode anymore, but these vendors will go on working on more weddings, and to help them get hired, they need your review. If you looked at even one review ever for anything, then you know how important they are.

Remember: A great way to thank your vendors for their help is to make sure you write your review and post it where they are asking for it to be posted. There are plenty of awards given out that many vendors are after, and they depend on a certain number of positive reviews. Is it anywhere nearly as fun as pinning pipe and drape photos while you were planning? No. But, if those logistical emails, last minute changes, and other issues that you sent to your planner or other vendors got taken care of (those aren't fun either, trust me), then a review can be handled as well. It does amaze me how many clients completely vanish from the planet after their wedding when asked to write a review, when just weeks earlier you could call them at 2 a.m. and interrupt their pinning session and talk timeline.

Please write the reviews. Most vendors will even send you an email with a link....all you have to do is click on it, type a few words, and hit send. If you spent 15 hours a day sending them emails during the planning process, you can spend 15 minutes typing up a review.