Written by Courtney N. Shale // 12.16.19
Have you ever wondered what goes on behind-the-scenes when a wedding planner is working their magic?
There was a quote I recently came across that said something like “clients want to pay for the wow moment, but what they are really paying for are all the tiny things that have to occur in order for that moment to happen”.
As soon as I saw this, I just knew I wanted to write a blog about “all the tiny things” that I do here to make that wow moment possible for my couples- aka my secret sauce.
Now, there are a lot of tiny things, so I am going to break them down into topics based on the biggest tasks I handle that my couples do not necessarily see (but they know I am up to something!).
If you have met with me, whether you be a couple or a wedding pro, you have likely heard that part of what makes my process so seamless is that I am here to make life as easy as possible not only for my couples, but also for my vendors.
Part of what makes a “wow” moment come to life is all of the behind-the-scenes communication, correspondence and coordination- or what I commonly refer to as the vendor 3 c’s.
When I work with my couples, part of the full-service experience means that I am the point of contact for vendors at all times. Not only does this give my couples the peace of mind of not getting tons of emails and phone calls with questions they don’t yet have the answers to, but this also allows me to work out details with the pros ahead of time so they can show up and focus on what they do best.
Being a full-time wedding planner means that this is my genius zone- that means that I can easily go back and forth with your wedding pros and discuss things that we might not have yet worked on in the planning process because I am familiar with the bigger picture!
My job is to bring these details to your attention in the correct timing and manner so that you aren’t overwhelmed or feeling confused during our time together. Instead, you get to relax knowing that no detail will go missed and all of your pros are on the same page! YAY!
This is HUGE in the planning world (and something my pros love) because this gives them the freedom to flex their creative muscle and show up for what you hired them to do, without sacrificing their process.
Just as I have a process, each of your pros has a process for how they do things. When I work with them, they will be able to work in a way that makes sense and feels good to them, knowing that I will be able to clearly communicate everything to you- the couple.
My couples love this because they now know each of their pros will be focused only on their craft, meaning they will get their ideal end result- the WOW moment.
Your photographer isn’t going to be able to deliver the photos you’re dreaming of if they are also coordinating your whole timeline. Your officiant isn’t going to be able to deliver the ceremony you’re dreaming of if they are also coordinating your reception.
Your venue isn’t going to be able to deliver the dinner service you’re dreaming of if they are also coordinating with your DJ, Florist, Decor Company etc.
A small part of my secret sauce is aiding everyone involved in your day, so together, as your vendor dream team, we can make that “wow” moment your reality!
Part of what goes hand-in-hand with the communication, correspondence and coordination between myself and your wedding pro dream team is crafting the master timeline for your wedding weekend.
Often times, working on a rough draft of the timeline occurs pretty early into the process. Once we have hand-selected your dream team, certain questions will come up that can be best answered by putting an outline of your day together.
When it comes to my timeline magic, there are many things that have to be discussed before decisions can be made.
Choosing your ceremony time is always the most important as everything flows from there. Your ceremony time will dictate what time hair and makeup needs to start, which then determines when you and your bridesmaids will need to be up and getting around.
The time of your ceremony will also dictate your cocktail hour and reception start times.
What most couples don’t know is the adequate amount of spacing in the timeline that is necessary for all of the portraits that you will want. Furthermore, the spacing in the timeline regarding flow of portraits will also dictate the amount of photography and videography coverage you will need.
Are you seeing a pattern?
In order to set a time on one part of the day, there are several other components that must be decided on first.
Timing is HUGE when it comes to having a relaxed day, and more times than not, the best way to achieve that flow is by having a first look.
Now, not all couples want to do a first look, so it is very important that I work with couples on a timeline draft before they set times in stone (times will play a large role in invites, so the sooner this is determined, the better!).
I could write a book on my timeline knowledge, so instead, let’s talk about how my process in working with vendors goes into the timeline.
When I am the point of contact for vendors, we are able to chat through timeline details so they can coordinate their process through me. Everything in weddings is a domino effect, so certain pros can’t do what they need to until at least one other pro starts their process, so it is vital that I work with my couples to determine the flow they are looking for so I can get that locked in with vendor flow, too.
I don’t want to be overwhelming here, so trust me when I say A LOT of time, expertise and detailing goes into having the perfect timeline.
You could say I have it down to a science, an art- pure magic, if you will!
While I briefly touched on venues in the vendor section, venues truly deserve their own category here.
A big part of the time that goes into my planning process is spent working on details for the venue.
From RSVP tracking and meal choices, to master seating charts, to final counts and master meal guides, I spend hours upon hours pulling these details together to help the venue deliver a top-notch dinner service.
Have you ever been to a wedding where you felt like you waited forever to get your food?
If you saw my content over the past few weeks, you likely know that my experience in the wedding and events industry started from years working at country clubs, resorts and other venues across the Midwest.
I can tell you that having organized details regarding your guests, where they are seated and what they are eating will dictate the flow of dinner service.
During my time working at venues, I had the opportunity to serve as a banquet captain and run the majority of the logistics as a food and beverage director. Essentially, I got a behind-the-scenes look at where the bottlenecks were and implemented practices and policies to ensure a higher-value, more efficient dinner service.
Part of that implementation has followed me into my planning business because it holds great value to venues for their ease, but it also holds immense value to my couples because I know the ins and outs of the “back of the house” (BOH) functions that venue coordinators oversee (and many outside planners do not have this kind of experience).
When I work with venue coordinators, 100% of the time I am invited into the back of the house to help with some of these processes because of my extensive background. They will often give me a tour of the BOH so I can grab things, move things and accommodate their staff as needed. You could say “Courtney + Venue Coordinator = Operations Dream Team”!
Here is a brief overview of the documents I build out:
- RSVP Tracking + Meal Choices- spreadsheet of each guest name, number of guests in the party, whether or not each guest in the party are attending, each guest in the parties meal choice
- Master Seating Chart- after the master diagram is made, the assigning of tables and seats begins. This is a master document of each table and seat with guest assignments
- Final Counts + Master Meal Guide- this guide gets merged with the master seating chart, giving us a comprehensive guide of who is sitting at each table, how many meals of each kind will go to each table and how many counts of each meal type will be needed to feed the whole guest list (this often includes vendors and myself as well)
The venue will receive a copy of the master guides so they can properly set the room- account for tables, chairs, place settings and more. These guides also get used in the kitchen when plating meals and servicing the tables so each server goes to their tables with the accurate amount of each meal choice per the guests at that table.
I also carry copies of these guides so I can double check on set-up, ensuring each table has the correct amount of chairs and place settings so when your guests arrive, we aren’t scrambling to make a new place setting or finding an extra chair (especially if you ordered specialty chairs).
I wasn’t kidding when I said no detail will go missed! Afterall, my tagline is “No Stress, Just Details”!
Decor + Design
Speaking of details, let’s chat decor and design!
Design is one of my favorite parts of planning because this is how we pull that vision out of your mind and make it tangible!
Many of my couples will come to me with a vision and they aren’t sure how to make it happen; sometimes they aren’t quite sure how to explain it either.
This is where we take that Pinterest board you have been building for years and scale it down into specific inspiration items that truly speak to you.
From here, I start to get a feel for your vision and can begin to curate your overall design concept in my virtual design studio and piece together all of your details, colors, textures, rentals, florals and more as we work to make the concept a reality.
Design planning usually takes a lot of refining, which is why my collections of services offer different tiers of support throughout each phase.
On average, I would say my couples start with roughly 3-4 similar “mood boards” in mind and as we continue to refine, we are able to create a design that incorporates pops of each into one master concept.
A lot of time, design can be thought of as overwhelming because this is the phase that sets the tone for your appointments with your wedding pro dream team. It is my job to make design fun, stress-free and enjoyable so you can begin to see your dream day come to life!
When I am asked about my design process, I always mention how two minds are better than one- while I work on the logistics of the design phase, I will work hand-in-hand with your chosen vendors to execute the design blueprints we have made together.
This is why I love getting to know you as a couple; when I am matching you with your wedding pro dream team, the end goal is always that you will not only know, like and trust them, but that they are the right fit to execute your vision and the overall design!
In addition, design is also one of my favorite parts of planning because this is where we get to visually tell your story as a couple by incorporating elements that are most important to you both.
Whether we find ways to involve your fur baby, a special keepsake from a family member, designing a space that reminds you of your favorite place- you name it, together we will tell your story in one of the most creative ways possible. Something that can truly only be achieved with the right process in mind!
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