Ask the Wedding Planner

Ask the Wedding Planner

By Jessica Solloway
From opulent floral arrangements dripping in crystals, to multi-million dollar waterfront estates, and extravagant $30,000 cakes, some couples spare no expense when it comes to creating their fantasy wedding. Now, the experts that plan them share tips on how to bring your fairy tale to life, on a realistic budget. Top wedding planners from WE tv’s Platinum Weddings and Rich Bride Poor Bride answer your questions!

Platinum Wedding Planner: Raquel Shutt, Wedding Savvy, Inc.

Q: What are some memorable, cost-effective ways to make a wedding personal?

A: The way to truly add personal touches to your event is to choose details with significance and then communicate the special meaning to guests. The guests will appreciate the thought and effort you put into creating a more meaningful experience for them. Different avenues of communication include the ceremony program, the back/bottom of a menu card, or framed stationary with a note explaining your touches. Guests would love to know that you chose peonies in your bouquet because that is what your mother carried. Or, what a fabulous note to include in the ceremony program: “The Bride and Groom wanted to let you know that the ceremony music was hand selected by Bethany. Bethany has studied piano for many years and has always dreamed about walking down the aisle to personal pieces. We hope you enjoy our selections!” Wedding Savvy will be working with a couple to do this for a May 2011 wedding. This wedding is actually really cool! The groom is Indian and the bride is American, so it’s a marriage of two cultures. They are hosting their reception on the stage of the Hippodrome Theatre in Baltimore.

Another bride I worked with descended from farmers who harvested wheat. The symbol of wheat has been carried on in her family as an emblem/proud reminder of their heritage. The bride chose to honor that heritage by making her centerpieces beautiful bundles of dried brown wheat. A note was placed on the reverse side of the menu card.

One client walked down the aisle to Trumpet Voluntary, the same song as her parents over 35 years ago. I love that a song that was fashionable 35 years ago is still timeless today. A note was placed in the ceremony program. Another bride’s father was a bee keeper, so individual bottles of honey were given as party favors. A framed note was placed on the favor table.

Clothing also has lots of significance. Numerous brides chose to wear their grandmother’s wrap on a cold wedding day. One bride accessorized her new wedding dress with a “slightly updated” bolero jacket her great grandmother wore on her wedding day.

For more tips from Raquel, check out her site!

Rich Bride Poor Bride Planner: Karina Lemke, Posies Flower Shop

Q: Can a destination wedding be more economical? What advice do you have for couples considering this type of event?

My destination wedding business has grown over 20% this year. I think, in these belt-tightening economic times, the reality of spending lots of money on a single day is really hitting people. You can have a very inexpensive destination wedding, at a wonderful location with the people that really matter to you … a trip of a lifetime at a fraction of the price of a traditional, local blow-out. A Caribbean beach is a natural choice, but a boutique hotel near a vineyard or a castle in Scotland can also be surprisingly low-cost and unique venues.

I do urge that brides and grooms considering a destination wedding hire a wedding planner to help fine tune their ideas and to coordinate the local details to ensure their trip is both a wedding and a vacation. No point in going to paradise and having to handle countless little details. Although many resorts offer the services of a “resort wedding planner,” it is important to remember that these people are really working for the resort, not the couple. It is important to have someone representing your interests and protecting them. I have seen too many hotels think it’s all right to substitute the brides chosen flowers, cake or even change locations at the last moment. If you have your own wedding planner on site, this will never happen and your dream wedding will be perfect.

A couple planning a beach wedding wants a beautiful day. However, it does rain, even in paradise and most resorts are surprisingly inflexible about moving the time or location of the ceremony if need be. With your own wedding planner, we can ensure that the ceremony can be bumped to another time or location. (This is never an option presented by the resort for which the back-up plan is typically a plastic flower covered arch in the lobby!)

And when it comes to décor, “island” style is often a lot different from that expected by my design savvy brides. I am also a floral designer (with my own TV show in Canada) and can often figure out how to create and enhance local decor to make it fresh, modern and tasteful. Most wedding planners can do this or advise on how to use local vendors to achieve a better look for DW couples.

For more on Karina, click over to her site!

Platinum Wedding Planner: Tobey Dodge, The Wedding Connection

Q: On Platinum Weddings, money is no object! But how do you help clients determine a realistic budget and their spending priorities?
A: Even though there are clients such as Natasha and Raffie who may not have a clear budget with line item amounts, they are similar to many of my high-end clients who determine what they want to spend by the level of priority they have set for individual services. What they deem important to them is where they want to put their resources. It’s been my experience that even the most extravagant wedding couples don’t want to waste money on items or services that are not a high priority for them. The bride and groom may not want to sit down and do a formal budget, but they do ask me to estimate individual services after we discuss their individual requests and determine their taste level for particular items, especially those items that create the atmosphere or decor for the wedding day.

Natasha and Raffie were very loving and appreciative clients to work with for several months ahead of their wedding. When I came onto the project, they had made many major decisions, but we did speak about their priorities and how and why they allocated their resources in the areas they chose.

It was clear from the start, that they had done their homework by investigating what it would cost to get the invitations created and produced ahead of making their decisions. They wanted magnificent invitations and had priced them out with several companies. Both Natasha and Raffie’s mother had a hand in the design and production of the invitations. They worked with a printer, but the family separately added elements and put the invitations together to avoid some of the labor charges.

Even though Natasha’s wedding gown was beautiful and expensive and definitely a big priority, extra embellishments were added on the back of the dress making it a one of a kind masterpiece. Another big priority was the visuals. Working with Ricardo at Luna Gardens, Natasha really wanted to take a cue from Donald Trump’s wedding. Both Natasha and Raffie wanted to focus on the flowers, trees, and all the accessories on the table top and have their guests be wowed when they entered the ballroom.

What impressed me the most about their priorities were when it came to their guests. They only chose the best quality they could find for their guests. The food and beverages was not only plentiful, but top shelf in every way. Natasha and Raffie were always aware of the value of all their decisions, always keeping an eye on the bottom line even if their bottom line was higher than most.

Get more tips from Tobey here!


Platinum Wedding Planner: Tiffany Nieves, Dream Design Weddings & Events
Q: If a bride wants to use bold, bright colors in her decor, what advice do you have for pulling that off the right way? For couples on a budget, are there more reasonable ways to make a splash with color, without spending a fortune on flowers?
Bold colors can be a bit tricky when it comes to wedding décor, but if done right can be spectacular. Try to focus on using two to three colors and use them in concentrated ways. For example, if using bright bold colors such as tangerine, lime and fuchsia, rather than choosing one as a backdrop color and mixing the other two through out; I would opt to mix and match all three. I would use tangerine and lime dupioni silk linens (the fabric used can make or break these colors for linens) with bold fuchsia centerpieces. Being careful to keep the tablescape cohesive, I would use square white charger plates with lime green napkins folds on the tangerine tables and tangerine napkin folds on the lime tables. Completing this look with custom created menus in white with a wide fuchsia ribbon, and custom table numbers layered in all three colors in a geometric type pattern. Using the colors in organized, well thought out ways will pull everything together without looking matchy-matchy. So dare to be bright and bold with your colors. Just remember to be consistent in your color usage, add a little imagination, and it will be spectacular!

Click over for more tips from Tiffany!


Jessica Solloway is a freelance writer and producer based in Washington, DC. From wedding planning to work, dating to dieting (and everything in between), she enjoys writing about lifestyle topics women want to know about. Jessica received her degree in Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.