I am so excited to welcome Jenn from Harper Hadley Events to the blog today! I have loved working with and getting to know her over the past few years and, if there’s one thing you should know, she is kind through and through. That real kind. She’s genuine and sincere and organized nearly to a fault. Which is what makes her an amazing wedding planner/coordinator!
For this wedding tips Wednesday, I’ve asked her to talk about wedding planning, specifically day-of details that need to be done to make sure everything flows smoothly. (A wedding day is like one of those old water wheels…one stopped-up piece could potentially set off a chain reaction to many other pieces.) All of the stuff she lists below are things that your wedding planner will (or should) take care of on your wedding day. As you read over it, you’ll understand why a planner is well worth the investment. But that being said, we all know sometimes it’s not in the wedding budget, in which case, Jenn lays out what you should do to ensure a smooth, stress-free wedding day even if you don’t have a wedding planner!
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There are so many moving parts that make up a wedding day. It is a wonderful and joyous occasion that should be spent celebrating with your loved ones. However, not everyone allows themselves that luxury (though I think you should!). If you are a bride without a wedding planner or day of coordinator, here are a few things to consider and tips to help make your day run more smoothly.
If you and your family are doing things, here are some things to plan for ahead of time and tasks that you’ll need to have covered. Whether it is your mom or another family member, whomever is your main go-to person will typically manage the following:
Set up & styling: unloading all of your décor, ironing linens, setting up your layout, filling candy dishes and snack table dishes, setting the tables, getting your champagne flutes at the head table, making sure all of the vendors have what they need, laying out all of the details and anticipating the flow of the night to have everything where it needs to be ahead of time. The styling aspect means getting things laid out exactly like you want in the way that you will have the best impact and what you envisioned.
They are often the point of contact for any vendors, family members, and your bridal party. You don’t want your phone ringing all day. You want to relax and enjoy. Often, moms get that task. It can be overwhelming or stressful for them, so be sure to set clear expectations and guidelines for what to answer, who is allowed to call, etc. Of course, you have to be flexible, but guidelines are always good.
Checking in with all vendors and making sure everything is ready on time, plus they have to get themselves dressed and to the ceremony on time. This does not take into account anything you have done beforehand. On that day, someone needs to ensure that everyone arrives and things are running smoothly.
Helping run the timeline for the day: If you don’t have a coordinator, someone has to help keep things on track. Moms and host/hostesses often assist with that. Once your photographer and DJ arrive, they help with a lot of that as well.
Making sure everything is exactly how you envision it. Your mom and family want your day to be just as amazing as you do and, from my experience, that can stress them out. They feel pressure to make you over the moon in love with the day and what they’ve done for you. Coordinators and planners do too, but we have the experience and expertise to focus on that while your family (and mama) is with you, enjoying the entire day.
Clean up/end of night tasks: making sure everything gets back to whom it belongs, packing up décor, getting leftover food and drink packed, busing tables, getting flowers to guests you gift them to or into the car safely, loading gifts into the car, sweeping the venue to be sure nothing is left behind, giving tips to applicable vendors.
While I truly believe that every bride deserves a wedding planner, I realize that not everyone is able to hire one. In that case, there are some things that you can do ahead of time to help your crew on the big day. These are tasks that I always facilitate with my brides, so that my team and I can focus on the tasks that must be done that day. Regardless of who is doing the work, these always help things run more smoothly.
Be explicitly clear what your expectations are. Draw out diagrams and even set up your tables. Take a photo so who ever is setting up knows what you expect and how you’d like it to look.
Be organized. Box everything by centerpiece and use, with very clear labels so there is no question about what it is for if you are not around.
Confirm vendors and timeline. Be sure that you have confirmed all delivery times with your vendors one to two weeks prior and advise your helpers and venue. Also be sure to create and share day of timelines and responsibility cards to anyone helping you and your vendors. This ensures that everyone is on the same page and that the day will logistically flow well. Creating a timeline is paramount. Your photographer and DJ will often help with this, but knowing all of the moving parts is very helpful for all involved.
Have an exit plan! This is one of the things that people often forget. They get so wrapped up in the preparation that they often forget that you have to clean everything up. Know who will take what home. Here are the areas I always review with my couples. Be sure that you have at least two people assigned to each.
- Food/beverage, left over cake, candy and snacks if you have a food table
- Décor that you brought in and any rentals that you are responsible for returning
- Flowers – they often get delivered, but you keep them after the fact. Are you going to have someone take them to your home or gift them? If you are gifting them, know who you want to give them to ahead of time and assign someone to ensure they receive the arrangements.
- Any personal items that need to get to your hotel/into your transportation for the night.
As a planner, we wear many hats leading up to and on you wedding day. While many weddings are successful and wonderful without a planner, here are a few things that often go unnoticed or sneak up on people in the course of a wedding day.
- Ceremony clean up
- Picking up stray programs
- Bussing tables at the reception
- Helping make sure that food is cleared before toast pictures
- Cleaning up as I can throughout the night so at the end, we just box and load what is left
- Keeping candy/snack tables filled
- Straightening things up to keep them looking nice
- Helping the photographer style paper items and details if we are short on time – having it all ready and laid out when they arrive (Emily: from a photographer’s perspective, this is very, very helpful!)
- Loading and unloading coolers and personal items on your transportation
- Making sure the bridal party eats lunch and stays hydrated (I’ve been known to make sandwiches and pack them to go in the limo)
- Washing and removing price stickers from dishes for candy/snack table displays
- Ironing/steaming linens
- Anticipating what you will need where and ensuring that is laid out and ready. (i.e. cake knife and server, forks, napkins and plate for your cake cutting, change of shoes under the bride’s seat for the dance portion of the night, getting drinks for the head table while they get their food – waitress style, etc.)
At Harper Hadley Events, my relationship with my couples and their relationships are my focus. That is my heart behind the business. Regardless of the services HHE couples choose, I put a lot of time into getting to know them, so that we are comfortable with each other on the day and because I sincerely care about each one of them. Many of my couples also become my friends and that is my favorite!
I always do a consultation to get to know my couples before booking. For month-of brides and grooms, we have 2 in-person meetings before the wedding, but I’m always available via email or phone. Some brides don’t want more than that. However, I am all about the relationships and I adore all of my couples. If they want to grab coffee and get to know each other better, I will always say yes!
A month out, we have a check in meeting for me to find out more about their wedding and then a hand off meeting in the two weeks before the big day. In that month, I am creating their timeline, checking in with all vendors, gathering their décor and details, as well as helping in any way I can to make the last few weeks run as smoothly as possible.
By the week of the wedding, I should know as much, if not more than, the bride about how the day will go, what details will be needed and the logistics. I want my couples to feel complete security in the fact that I am helping run their day, which means that I know the ins and outs like the back of my hand. In turn, that translates to them feeling pampered and free to fully enjoy their wedding day with their loved ones.
Regardless of your wedding day crew, there are the three tips I want you to keep in mind. If you do, your day will be absolute perfection.
- Work ahead. Don’t procrastinate.
- Keep it simple.
- Focus on what matters.