Help is on the Way
Rely on a wedding consultant to take the guesswork (and stress!) out of wedding planning.
Few days are as special as your wedding day, but as any married person can tell you, after months upon months of preparation, the big day itself can rush by in the blink of the eye. That’s especially true for those who take the DIY route for their nuptials. While it might seem handy—and cost-effective—to enlist family members or friends in the planning and execution of your wedding often proves distracting for guests (not to mention you, the bride) to have to worry about all the details and logistics of a ceremony and reception.
Fortunately, there are professionals who can lend a hand, using their experience and expertise to anticipate your needs and help you connect with the right vendor, address any problems and ensure that your wedding day goes off without a hitch, while allowing your nearest and dearest to sit back, relax and enjoy the day. (And that money you thought you saved by going the do-it-yourself route? In addition to preserving your sanity on the big day, a good wedding consultant can save you as much as the cost of her fee and then some.)
Wedding planners are not the reserve of big-budget blowouts, and you need not have a grand plan, contracted timetable or bevy of out-of-town guests to benefit from a professional. In fact, says Tarah Bender, owner of the Bendora Wedding Gallery, often it is those with the tightest budgets who see the greatest benefit from hiring a planner. “To be honest, brides that are on a budget really need a planner more than ones with an unlimited budget, because every dollar counts,” she says.
A planner’s longstanding vendor relationships can help cut you a price break on the big day, and her experience can help you decide which items are worth the splurge. For instance, instead of breaking the bank on lovely but expensive linens in the wedding color, a planner might suggest a plain white tablecloth be paired with colored napkins, providing a similar visual impact at a fraction of the price. “It’s just like any other job, really, once you’ve done something over and over again, you learn tricks … You learn where you can save, where you can splurge and where you can get the biggest bang for the buck,” Bender says.
Planners can also help brides save something even more precious than money: their time. Because they know the industry in and out, wedding planners develop relationships with trustworthy vendors, saving the bride and the groom from hours of work trying to hunt down vendors on their own. Brides—especially those who are juggling full-time work with the planning process—can also benefit from a consultant taking on administrative tasks such as coordinating schedules and booking meetings with vendors. It takes about 400 hours to plan the average wedding, says Bender. “I think brides underestimate that.”
As a middle-school art teacher, Tina Cegala, who wed Rob Sloan on June 2, 2012, couldn’t take vendor phone calls during the day. So Bendora answered those calls and scheduled appointments for her, servicing as a personal assistant of sorts. Otherwise, “it would have taken weeks of playing phone tag,” Cegala says. The service also proved key in helping Cegala whittle down the list of venues and hotels for her guests. In comparison, those who rely on the Internet as their only planning resource “could literally waste hours contacting people who are unavailable, whose price isn’t in your range,” Bender says.
Reliable vendors are a key component of a problem-free wedding day, and again, this is an arena in which a planner’s ongoing relationships with vendors can be crucial. For this reason, a consultant can give the bride extra peace of mind, too. After all, it’s easier to relax when you have a professional’s assurance that your wedding photographer is the Annie Leibovitz of the bridal set and that the band you selected will not play the “Chicken Dance,” no matter how loudly or often Uncle Lewis begs. For most people, weddings are “the biggest, most expensive party you’ll ever throw,” Bender says. Just as you would hire a real estate agent or a lawyer to help you through the process of buying a home, so should you hire a planner and professional vendor to help you through the process of planning your nuptials. “There are no do-overs in a wedding. It’s one day, one shot and if someone doesn’t really know what they’re doing, it’s going to show,” she says.
That message resonated with Cegala. Initially, “I didn’t think I needed a wedding planner, because in college, I was in a sorority, and was social chair and was in charge of planning several large-scale events,” she says. But an internal voice kept telling her that she needed someone to bounce ideas off of, and when she talked to Bender at a bridal show, “I thought, I can go through planning, I know what I want, but I needed that experience. I needed someone who could read a contract and tell me if it was legitimate or not.” Her Bendora consultant, Sarah VanSickle, proved a wise investment several times over. For instance, Cegala almost signed a contract for a makeup artist who said she would make the “best effort” to provide makeup if not available herself to perform the work. “Sarah said, ‘No, that’s not acceptable.’ … I was going to sign and pay for someone who didn’t have to show up the day of my wedding.” And when the owner of a bridal shop where Cegala purchased her dress went bankrupt the month before her wedding, VanSickle tracked down his lawyer to make sure that the dress got into Cegala’s hands. Bendora also helped Cegala save on a photographer. She liked the “artsy” work of one photog, but he charged $3,000, more than her budget would allow. “They knew of a photographer who had the same type of look for $1,500. With just that alone, I got my money back, which paid for their services.”
While Cegala simply needed someone to steer her in the right direction with her decision-making, other
couples may need more assistance. Consultants are eager to be of use to different types of people, personalities and budgets, says Candice Cracraft, owner of Cloud 9 Weddings & Events. For instance, a disorganized couple may be served by a consultant who guides them and keeps them on track through the planning process, “while an organized couple may utilize more of the creative ideas an experienced consultant can give,” she says.
The details inherent in planning a wedding can swamp couples attempting to go it alone, says Lauren Surwill, Social Confetti Events’ owner and lead designer. Determining seating arrangements, figuring out whether a vendor’s price point is reasonable, making sure that the photographer is snapping the right pictures and that the officiant pronounces the couple’s names correctly are just some of the elements a planner can oversee on the day of the event. “It’s all those little details that can be overwhelming—we get the job done,” she says.
In addition to making sure the essential underpinnings of a wedding are secure, a consultant can make a wedding unique and unexpected. Sure, Pinterest provides a wealth of inspiration, but few have seen more impressively executed events than someone who plans events for a living, and your wedding consultant can use those past experiences to inform future events—while still keeping your wedding a one-of-a-kind event. Cloud 9 “creates stylish, unique and personalized weddings and events,” says Cracraft. “I have a background in interior design, allowing me to create a style and design that reflects my bride and groom’s personality and makes their occasion memorable.” Social Confetti’s offerings include an in-house graphic designer for invitations, a photo booth, inspiration boards and more. “Creativity is at our core,” Surwill says. Bendora’s amenities include a wedding resale shop and space for couples to meet with their vendors, as well as a venue to hold a small ceremony on-site. Bendora also offers a free library of wedding magazines available to all, even those who are not working with the company.
Bender says movies such as “Bride Wars” and “The Wedding Planner” may have left a mistaken impression that planners take over wedding decision-making. In truth, she says, “all I’m trying to do is give you the best possible wedding for your budget.” Initially, couples—especially the groom, Bender notes—wonder, “Is this going to feel like our wedding?” she says. Her response: “You’re making every decision, so it is going to feel like your wedding.”
“A bride can be as much a part of the planning process as she wants to be,” says Cracraft. “A consultant works closely with her bride to create the vision and experience that her bride wants created. We work to create their dream day, so the bride and groom are always a large part of the planning process.”
Most bridal consultants offer several levels of service; in general, consultant fees in Columbus begin at $100 an hour and can run up to around $5,000 for complete event planning. Packages that include coordination of the wedding day or wedding weekend generally run about $2,000 and include timeline creation, vendor coordination and on-site assistance for the entire event.
Cegala says having help the day of her wedding was never a question—at her cousin’s wedding a few years earlier, a friend of the family transporting flowers accidentally damaged them on the ride over, and forgot the cake topper. They were understandable mistakes, especially given how nervous and emotional everyone can be on the big day, but major hiccups nonetheless. By contrast, she says, the Bendora consultants “were like my personal helpers. They were there to calm me down, to orchestrate all the behind-the-scenes work … and that took off the pressure from me and my family, so all we had to do was show up and enjoy the day.”
When looking to engage a consultant’s services, don’t be afraid to shop around. “When choosing the right consultant, a couple should search for one with past projects and experience, reputable credentials and with a similar style and personality” to them, says Cracraft. Surwill says reliability is huge when it comes to picking a planner. “A good sign of that is how soon they follow up with you after the initial phone call,” she says. Rapport is also key—after all, you are entrusting this person to make this day one of the best of your life. “You want to form a relationship where you can talk to them like you can talk to a friend,” Surwill says. A bride is planning her wedding 24-7, and a consultant should be flexible when it comes to a willingness to answer texts, phone calls and emails day and night, she says. “You put your heart and soul into it, because it is their big day,” Surwill says. Cracraft agrees: “A bride and groom are putting their trust into their consultant to create the day they have only yet dreamed about. It is our job as a consultant to provide them that dream.”