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Wedding Planning 101

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The oh-so romantic proposal, the sparkly diamond, the initial giddiness, and then reality sets in. There is a wedding to plan, requiring countless decisions, finding and hiring the right vendors, and, most of all, trying to figure out how to pay for it. This is when a wedding planner rides in on their white horse prepared to save your sanity and wallet. While some may consider this service a luxury, more couples are seeing these professionals as a necessity. According to a survey on TheKnot.com, Philadelphia made the top 10 list for priciest areas to get married, with the average cost of a wedding tallying $40,350 (a steal compared to the $86,916 couples spend in NYC). With those prices, it seems only right to want an expert in your corner, someone who will look out for your best interests. We asked three local wedding planners, who collectively have sent hundreds of brides down the aisle, to reflect on their experiences and share their wisdom. They had plenty to say. Here’s some of their invaluable advice—free of charge. 

Know your budget: Before any wedding-day-related decision is made, a couple should come up with a realistic budget. Erin Proud, owner of Proud to Plan in Delaware, has executed weddings with budgets ranging from $8,000 to exceeding $150,000 and says that every couple has one thing in common. “They all get sticker shock once they start hearing what things cost,” she says. It’s standard that about 50 percent of the wedding budget is allocated to the venue and catering. “A couple may fall in love with the Hotel du Pont, but then they don’t have money for any other vendors,” she says. “So it’s silly to have a Hotel du Pont wedding with a $500 DJ and a $1,000 photographer.” Proud advises her couples to stay within their price parameters. Lynda Barness, owner of I DO Wedding Consulting in Philadelphia, created her own detailed wedding budget worksheet for the bride and groom to be. Typically, couples focus on the obvious costs like venue, entertainment, flowers and photography, but they overlook the less obvious expenses. “Things like presents for your bridal party, tips for your vendors, even the items to put in the hotel bags for your guests,” says Barness. “That money has to be coming from somewhere.” 

Research your date: Although it may feel like the world is revolving around your wedding, there may be other events going on that same day that could have a major impact on your plans. Couples need to be aware that when their date coincides with a big event in the city, like the Philadelphia Marathon, they may have difficulty securing blocks of hotel rooms for their guests. The one date that is causing a lot of wedding drama this year is Saturday, Sept. 26, when Pope Francis is making a visit to Philadelphia. “I’ve had a few couples say they were considering the end of September to have their wedding, and I’ve said, ‘No, you’re not,’” says Susan Norcross, wedding director of Styled Bride in Philadelphia, with a laugh. “Pretty much everyone in the wedding industry is calling that Saturday a blackout date because there are no hotels left, and you can’t find transportation.”

Timing is everything: For every wedding Barness plans, she puts together a detailed timeline (usually about 10 pages long) of the wedding weekend for everyone involved in the festivities. One planning fact she knows to be true: Everything takes longer than you think it will. If it usually takes 10 minutes to get from the spot where you’re taking pictures prior to the ceremony to the venue, it may take additional time when you add in traffic on a Saturday afternoon. “You have to think of everything when it comes to the timing of a wedding, including the smallest details, like how long it takes the bridal party to get in and out of the limo or trolley,” she says. “It sounds silly, but it could be an extra five or 10 minutes that delays getting to the ceremony on time. I always pad my timeline so we have extra time, and everything stays on schedule.” 

Make it your day: Couples may feel pressure to do certain things because they think that’s what everyone does. Proud tells her couples they may regret that approach. “Don’t get caught up in the ‘I have to do this or that’ mindset,” she says. “You don’t have to do anything. It’s your day, and you can do things whatever way you want. Make the day a reflection of the two of you.” Personal touches are what guests will remember from your wedding. 

Go beyond the traditional: Yes, weddings usually are held on weekends, but there’s no rule that says they have to be. Last July, Proud planned a daytime wedding on a Thursday at Curtis Hall in Wyncote, Pa. “It was an art deco, ’20s themed wedding, and it was so cool,” says Proud. “Everyone dressed up.” The couple decided on a cocktail-style reception with hors d’oeuvres instead of a sit-down dinner. Having the wedding on an off day allowed the couple to get a discount from most of their vendors. “I feel like more than ever people are throwing caution to the wind and saying, ‘I don’t care. This is what we want to do,’” says Proud. “If family and friends really love you, they’ll make it work and show up. And they do.” 

For endless wedding inspiration attend the ultimate bridal showcase, Your Wedding Experience Presented by David Tutera, on Sept. 13 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia. Tutera is a celebrity wedding and party planner, bridal fashion designer, author, and has his own television show on WEtv, David Tutera’s CELEBrations. More than 100 wedding professionals, approved by Tutera, will be in attendance to help you plan the wedding of your dreams. A fashion show will feature stunning looks for everyone in the bridal party including bridesmaids, flower girls and the mothers of the bride and groom. Buddy Valastro “The Cake Boss” is set to award one bakery “Best of Show” at the Sweet Showcase, which will feature wedding cakes and desserts. For ticket information visit www.yourweddingexperience.com.

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