My Favourite Wedding Planner
Rachel Cripps-Gervais from An English Rose is my favourite wedding planner in Montreal. She's warm and funny, and has done many celebrity weddings.
Here are Rachel's tips for working with a wedding planner.
Tip 1. Don’t Waste Money
Calculate how much money you have, how much you can save each month, and how much your parents might be giving you.
Think about what is important to you for your wedding. You may want to rent a wedding dress since you’ll only wear it for one day, but you also may feel this is the most important dress of your life and you might want to spend $5,000 or more. Therefore, reflecting on things like this in your budget is key.
Remember your budget is always changing: what you save in one area, you can add to another.
There is always going to be something more you can spend your money on, but don’t feel pressured to spend more than you want to, or need to. No matter what your budget is, have fun shopping around and getting value for your money!
Tip 2. Include Your Other Half
OK, so we know that most brides take on most of the planning, and most grooms are happy with that… but you need your other half’s input to make sure you both have a wedding day that you’re happy with.
Perhaps you want to write down all your ideas and thoughts regarding your wedding and ask your other half to do the same, and then see how closely matched you are, or if there is room for discussion.
Find out early on what your other half may be interested in organizing and let them do it – and trust them to do it! If they are artistic, they might like to create or design the wedding stationery or have input on the photography.
Maybe your other half is happy to let you take on all the planning, but keep them in the loop. Maybe suggest a glass of wine on Friday night and tell them what you’ve been doing all week.
Another great idea is to get your other half planning the rehearsal dinner or the honeymoon. It can even be a surprise!
Tip 3. Pick a Theme and Let Your Personalities Shine Through
To help you identify your theme for your wedding, start by cutting out pictures that you are drawn to when browsing through magazines. For my couples, I like to pull together inspiration boards with items we talked about, in the colors that they like. This way, they get a visual feel of what looks good together.
First, think about your colors. What color combinations do you love? Be bold, be creative and stick to what you love. You may already know your favorite colors, but you may want to mix ‘n match with a color wheel and see what you come up with.
For help with colors, check out next season’s fashion shows. You will normally see color trends in weddings coming up 6 after they have been on the catwalk!Also, Europe is always a season or two ahead of us in North America, so visit a European wedding website to see what they are doing. I am always checking back with the UK to see what is going on.
What traditions are important to you both? Are there family traditions that you’d like to continue? Religious traditions that must be kept? Or would you like to create your own traditions and see them followed through by your own children? This is such a fun time to talk to your family, reminisce and see what they did at their weddings.
Your personalities are the most important thing when looking to create a theme or making your wedding unique. I tell my couples all the time to make sure they bring a little piece of them to the wedding. This could be something quirky and fun or something that has strong meaning.
Being British and marrying my Canadian husband back in the UK, I wanted to do something fun and bring a piece of Canada to our wedding, so I had a ‘Mounty’ Groom and Bride decorate the top of the cake. It caught my guest’s attention and made my husband laugh (what is it about uniforms?!)
Remember Other Weddings You've Been To
Think back to other weddings you've been to. What do you remember most? Can you remember the design of the wedding cake or what favor you took home with you? Do you remember what you disliked or annoyed you? What will make your wedding stand out and be different?
When You Identify Your Theme, Stick to it!
When you identify your theme, stick to it! That way, your theme will run through all aspects of your wedding and that you won’t end up with a miss-match of nothing special.
Pay careful attention to your invitations as well. This is the first impression people will get of your wedding style. Will it be fun and casual? Chic and elegant? Or something completely different and uniquely you?
Tip 4. What Comes First: The Date or the Venue?
It’s a bit like the chicken & the egg scenario! Once you identify your style, this will where you will want for your ceremony and reception. It might a country garden wedding. A mountain or lakeside wedding. An upbeat downtown wedding, or a something in a historical building.
This might an easy decision because you want a certain date, or you have your heart set on a particular venue, but what if the date you’ve chosen isn’t available at your dream location? What if there is just ‘one’ and only one place in the world that you absolutely must get married, but it is already fully booked this year? (This happened to me!)
Here are a few suggestions to help you out:
Be Flexible on the Date
Being flexible on the date will give you more options to find the venue that suits your theme and personalities. Consider different days of the week to get married. Friday’s or Sunday’s are now quite popular. If you can book your wedding venue a year or more in advance– fantastic! Then you can relax knowing that your venue is secure!
If your dream venue is an absolute must and no-where else will do, then be prepared to wait for it and potentially delay your wedding a further 6 or 12 months.This is exactly what I had to do when booking my venue, but it did give us another 12 months to save!
Be patient when researching your wedding venue. It could take 2 or 3 months to find that ‘perfect’ place to marry the person you love, and remember this place will be etched on your memory and talked about for the rest of your lives.
Tip 5. Don’t Forget the Ceremony
Many couples book the ceremony venue and the officiant, and then pretty much let the rest of the details take care of themselves.
I hear over and over that couples want quick ceremonies. Maybe 15 minutes or so, and then onto the celebrating and the party. This is great, since you spend a lot of time and money at the reception -- but let’s take a step back and remember what you are really celebrating: the ceremony, the marriage and committing yourselves to each other for the rest of your lives!
This is the true event of the wedding day, and if the time and thought is given to it, it could be something very special and something your guests will remember and talk about.
Make it Special
This is the fairy-tale moment. Marrying the person who makes your life complete. So really think about that moment and what will make it special for the two of you. Will it be a religious ceremony? Or perhaps a ceremony officiated by a family member?
Personalized and heartfelt vows – what will you promise to each under? What kind of music reflects the ceremony you are having? Again, have fun with the music and pick songs that are special. Will someone sing? Where do you envisage the flowers to be? Will you have candles? What will decorate the aisle? The pews? What will you write in the wedding programs? Will it be a cute and funny quote or a special poem you’ve written just for this moment?
Maybe you want to have a candle ceremony or a sand ceremony, or maybe you want to take a minutes silence to remember those no longer with you.
One memorable moment we did at a wedding was, instead of the flower girls walking down the aisle and strewing petals, they each had a basket of roses and handed one rose to each lady who stood at the end of the pew. It was something thoughtful and unique, and just imagine how special those ladies felt!
Tip 6. Get to Know Your DJ / Band and the MC
Music is key to whether a party is successful or fails miserably. So, to make sure you have a fun party and the music reflects the two of you, get to know your DJ and band.
Meet with them a few times before the wedding so they get a feel for you and your music. Tell them the songs you want for the first dance, and the songs you want throughout the evening. Make sure they know the songs you definitely don’t want.
Your master of ceremonies (MC) is key to the flow of your reception. Sometimes this is a family member, but usually they're with the DJ or band. Make sure the MC knows your personalities so they can incorporate little stories or jokes about the two of you, and keep your guests engaged in the evening.
Your MC is also great for laying lay down the law on things that you don’t want to happen at the wedding, such as glasses clinking for kissing every few moments, or if cell phones are to be banished, etc. Use your MC to get these messages across.
Tip 7. Your Wedding Planner has a Backup Plan
Nothing is going to spoil your wedding day, right? It’s going to be beautiful day filled with sunshine, everything will be on time and nobody will spill anything on that gorgeous Vera Wang wedding dress.
Well, no. You need a backup plan. That’s where your wedding planner comes in. She has a backup plan, and she’ll be ready to implement it as soon as the need arises.
Things always wrong on wedding days. It’s inevitable. Weddings are hugely complicated events, involving dozens of suppliers, multiple location and hundreds of people. Your wedding planner, with her backup plan in hand, is at the heart of all this. She’s dealing with crisis, making decisions and taking charge, so that you can just sit back and enjoy your day.
Tip 8. Take Care of Your Guests
Even though this is your wedding day, remember that you (and your parents) are still the hosts.
Think about how to make sure your guests have the most enjoyable time at your wedding. If you’re having an outdoor wedding, maybe think about bottled water and fans on the ceremony chairs. Will there be plenty of shaded areas with chairs for your older guests to get out of the sun and take the weight of their feet? If you are having a fall wedding, would heaters and wraps be more appropriate?
Most venues always cater for vegetarian options, but what about the vegans, the glucose intolerant, the lactose intolerant, or even the guests with nut allergies?
Do the guests know where they’re going? Where to park? Where they can stay? Babysitting services? For services like this, wedding websites makes it easy for guests can plan and organize themselves before of the wedding.
What about those guests who have travelled from far away for your wedding? Wouldn’t it be great to organize a tour of the city for them? Or perhaps a small welcome basket in their hotel rooms and a brunch for them the next day.
Tip 9. Hire a Qualified Wedding Planner
With so many wonderful ideas and so many options for your wedding, it can all be a little overwhelming. Where do you start? Who do you trust? How do you know that the vendors will give you what they say they will? How do you know you are not being ripped off or overcharged?
And then there's the wedding day itself. Wedding planners do a lot of work behind the scenes on your wedding day, from being under tables, to up ladders to get that decoration in exactly the right place, to making the food service is on time and hot, and even checking the bathrooms throughout the evening to make sure they are clean and serviced!
Hiring a wedding planner will help you with every step of your wedding, right from the planning to the actual wedding day and beyond. You could do it all yourself, but why would you? We eliminate all the stress and let you enjoy this wonderful time in your life.
You may want to interview 2 or 3 wedding planners or you may click with the first planner you meet, but here are a few things you want to consider:
Is your wedding planner both qualified and certified by a reputable association, such as the Association of Bridal Consultants or the Wedding Planners Institute of Canada? Is this the Wedding Planners full-time job, or is it a hobby? Have you seen a variety of weddings that the planner has done, and are they aligned with what you envision for your day?
Do you click with the wedding planner? Are they excited about your vision of your day? Do they leave you with the feeling that a weight has been lifted from your shoulders and that you are going to have fun working together?
If you answered YES! to all these questions, congratulations! You have found the perfect wedding planner, and your wedding will be a huge success.
An English Rose