So we made it to April. Yay, us. Between the vaccine boosting some consumer confidence and the some good old fashioned spring fever, people are beginning to venture out again.
SHEdesigns decided to open this little northwest Indiana store of ours last fall, due to some fairly “coincidental” happenings. Notice the quotation marks; I don’t really believe in coincedences. Let’s just say the member vendors at our little shop are some people that I met decades ago, for such a time as this. Some of the vendor members worked with me at the banquet hall I helped manage ten years ago. Some of the vendor members are new talent that I’ve had the pleasure of coming across just in the last six months. It’s all been very “orchestrated.”
My husband and I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions; instead we come up with a word that we declare and work around for the upcoming year. Our word for 2021 was “genesis”. And of course a new year always means new beginnings, but that can sound so cliche. “Genesis” is an idea that takes the notion of “new beginnings” and multiplies it times a million. It’s a distinct word that brings about visions of creation…creating…making things that were not made before.
And so we conclude the first third of 2021 in creation mode! I write, I think, I plan, I promote my brick and mortar but also the amazing vendor partners I have the pleasure of planning with. As I type, we are preparing for our Ribbon Cutting to be held on our front sidewalk this week. We are preparing for a local bridal fair that WE are planning with a local venue. Not believing in coincidences but instead realizing that all of it has been ordained, and we have had the privilege of being invited to participate in it all.
Our store/vendor collective is called Orchestrated Events.
“Happy New Year,” we say every three hundred sixty-five days. We mean it…but wow did we mean it at the end of 2020. Between wildfires and viruses, protests and murder-hornets, we were collectively ready for that three hundred sixty-five days to be done. Whew.
So here we are, eleven days into the next, and surprisingly enough there was not a magic switch that all of a sudden changed the world. Because whether we like it or not, that part is up to US. We are responsible for being the world-changers. And that’s pretty deep coming from just a little wedding coordinator from the Midwest, isn’t it?
What do I know? Well, I guess I know how to help people celebrate. I often know how to make people laugh. In 2020, I proved to myself that I know how to do that in writing, and so I gathered notes from the many weddings I’ve done and compiled a few of them into a book. Weddings and Things: Tales From a Midwest Wedding Planner is an easy read containing forty short stories from events I’ve done over the years, and I feel like it’s full of reminders on how to celebrate moments big and small.
The introduction, for example, paints a picture of the Barbie weddings I planned with my BFF when we were six; I am now forty-six, so it’s kind of always been something I’ve done in one way or another! And my hope is that reading these fun little stories will inspire others in 2021, to tell theirs.
“Happy New Year,” says this little Midwest bridal boutique owner. She means it.
As a wedding and party planner during The Great 2020, a person could end the year blogging about the cancellations and sicknesses. She could write about the counseling sessions held with crying brides who felt guilty but just wanted “to marry him. Is it ok that I just want to marry him? Is that irresponsible?”
That same wedding and party planner could, instead, write about the joys and creativity that was born out of this goofy year. Events were held like never before: virtually, via Zoom, with 50 wedding guests attending live and 153 attending online. Vendors joined together and began doing things together (I opened a store called Orchestrated Events: A Vendor Collective this year, BECAUSE of a virus).
In a year where we were told events were dangerous, we learned how to celebrate anyway. Life is to be celebrated anyway! It is possible to do so safely, and well; this is where the professionals come in.
I was asked to speak for an online group recently about our vendor collective, and at the conclusion one of the business owners in on the session called me “The Pandemic Party-planner.” And while I thought that this made it sound as though I’m a rulebreaker because we’re not supposed to have parties right now, I was encouraged to look at it this way instead: humans have a need to be social. But left to their own devices, they will be the rulebreakers! Instead, I can be the professional who works with the Health Department and with local officials, to make sure the people who want to gather do that safely AND CREATIVELY. (Think, open house style weddings with 25 guests at a time. Or think couples who get married through Virtual Reality at the Grand Canyon and rent headsets for their guests to join them…)
And so, here I am. Jenny with SHEdesigns, LLC went from having the job description of “Wedding Coordinator” to having the job description of “Person who joins party-hosts with party-goers safely and creatively during a global pandemic.” So yeah, that’s different! And I’m embracing it.
Happy Holidays, everyone. Let’s celebrate the closing of 2020, and the entrance of 2021. Time to be bold and creative! Let’s do this.
Anyone who has planned a wedding knows and understands, after the fact, just how many moving parts there are to conducting the day. “Execution” is very scary-sounding word that, in the event planning industry, simply means “to carry out the moment-by-moment occurrences the day-of.”
It takes an army to do this! Whether it’s Aunt Sally cutting the cake and Uncle Louie helping with ceremony chairs, or a complete team of professional vendors carrying out those details… THERE ARE A LOT. OF DETAILS.
A wedding coordinator will execute these details, and all the ones no one thinks of! I pin boutonnieres on the groomsmen, for example, which the photographer can perhaps do if there is no coordinator. I create a timeline for the reception, so the food is at the right temperature to make the caterer look good but there’s still time for photos in the perfect lighting to make the photographer look good. Yes the DJ may be able to create this kind of timeline.
But there are so many little details that a coordinator does, that you really do not want to put on your other vendors. For example, for one wedding this summer I ran during cocktail hour to McDonald’s to pick up happy meals for the kiddos’ dinner (you don’t have your DJ run to pick up kid meals during cocktail hour). I try to attend the rehearsal dinner the night before; not to weasel my way into free food, but to begin the process of building trust and rapport with the bridal party and family members PRIOR to becoming miss bossy pants the next day!
You do not want your photographer or DJ to try to fill these roles, no matter how professional or capable they may be! You want the photographer to take great photos and you want your DJ to keep your dance floor full. Trust me, you don’t want me trying to do their jobs! They’re great at it! You don’t want them doing mine, either.
The biggest advantage to having a wedding coordinator on the day of your event, is that you have ONE PERSON to handle all those little aforementioned details. Could 16 family members figure out a way to wrangle all the cats? Probably. But a lot of frustration and miscommunication can result! Let a professional, designated Wedding Coordinator be the person you turn to for your “execution.”
A lot of brides think they don’t need a wedding coordinator… can’t afford a wedding coordinator… their mom is their wedding coordinator. I end up booking a lot of weddings about three months before the big day; the sweet couple (and their mamas) get off to a great start by excitedly reading magazines, starting Pinterest boards, and scrolling through vendor Instagram photos. Some vendors are booked, the big stuff is done, and then there’s a lull.
This lull is supposed to happen. But it is during this time that the questions all start. The big stuff is done, the little stuff can’t get done yet, and the bride typically panics. “Did I miss something?” “Should I be doing something?” “I wonder if I need to hire a wedding coordinator after all?!” and that’s when I get the email.
The answer is usually no, you haven’t missed something. You’ve gotten off to a great start. But the answer is always yes, there’s so much to track and coordinate that you NEED a coordinator! There are so many factors that affect so many other factors on a wedding day. My vendor friends and I say often: Everything. Is. Connected.
Examples of things we know, that you won’t think about:
Choreographed dances make dinner cold. If you schedule a surprise choreographed dance, you need to let the kitchen know because it could affect the time food is served and therefore its temperature. In fact, surprises in general need to be on someone’s typed up itinerary somewhere so that there aren’t any unintended surprises along for the ride!
Short ceremonies make you run out of food faster. If your ceremony is short, your cocktail hour will probably be long. This means you must serve appetizers, or else your guests will drink more during cocktail hour and need to eat more for dinner. Especially if your dinner is buffet or family style, guests will eat larger quantities and you’re likely to run out before everyone is served. Tip: make your ceremony longer or serve lots of appetizers during cocktail hour.
Large dinner plates mean small dancefloors. If you have a charger plate to mark your place settings on your tables besides the dinner plate, you need extra room on the table per place setting. More room per person can mean fewer chairs per table, which means more tables for the room, which means less room to dance. Depending on your headcount and your floorspace, you may want to keep your place settings small so you can put more people at the tables thus cutting down your number of tables (and centerpiece cost)!
These are just some instances where an experienced wedding coordinator will be able to help you anticipate things at your event you may never think of on your own. And that’s ok! Hopefully your wedding planner has done this lots of times… and hopefully, you’ll only do it once.