The Dos and Don'ts of Wedding Planning
Local pros give us the skinny on what to do—and what not to do—when it comes the party of your life.
The Event Planner | Jaime Lee Puskar
Jaime Lee Events
When to book: If a bride is going to use a wedding planner, this is the first vendor to book. The planner will assist the bride in booking all other vendors from that point on. Relying on their experience and expertise saves the bride time researching vendors and stress over negotiations. Planning a successful wedding is about leaving as little as possible to chance, and working with a professional is the best way to achieve this goal.
What to ask: When interviewing candidates, make sure to be very clear about your priorities and your expectations of them. I think a lot of times you’ll find that wedding planners ask most of the questions in order to establish these things. For instance, how many guests are you expecting? That will tell me how many people I’ll need to staff the event. Where is the location of the ceremony and the wedding? Is it a local or destination wedding? How many events will be managed? Wedding only?
Avoid these mistakes: In my experience, the biggest downfall for not having a wedding planner is spending outside of the budget. The first thing I do with clients is create an extremely detailed spending plan for the entire event, and we go from there.
Why Jaime: I’ve been a wedding planner since 2008. I was certified with the American Association of Certified Wedding Planners, a local association. My favorite part of my job is playing a part in what, for most people, will be one of the greatest days of their lives.
The Cowtown Venue | Julie Pearson
Wedding Planner at the Fort Worth Club
When to book: A year in advance is best to be able to book all your top-choice vendors, but we have many brides who book in six months or less. Many of our brides are also starting to book Friday evening and Sunday wedding receptions, which is a great option.
Good questions to ask: What is the expected per-person price that I will pay? How is this different than the minimum in the space? What does this price include? How many servers per guest does your venue recommend? How many bartenders per guest does your venue recommend? What types of rental items (tables/chairs/tabletop) are included, and what would need to be rented additionally? Are any specialty linens included? Can you give an estimate of the total fees? Is this accurate for the type of event that I have described, or will there be any additional hidden fees?Common mistakes: Don’t stress over the small things or expect perfection. A wedding is never perfect, but that’s what makes it special. If all else fails, remember what your wedding day is about: you are marrying the love of your life and looking forward to a life together. Try not to add too much to your plate. There are so many brides who are getting married while studying for exams, graduation, or moving into a new home or city during the planning of their wedding. Remember to enjoy planning.
Why the Fort Worth Club: For the bride who is price conscious, we offer a per-person package price that includes everything a bride could possibly want. It includes all the food (reception or plated) with tons of options, a four-hour hosted bar, specialty linens, tables, chairs, all tabletop (glassware, silver, china), personalized bride and groom wedding cakes, a dance floor, bridal captain attendant, bartenders, servers, staging for a band, votives, and a bridal portrait session location. For the bride who loves tradition and history, we are a 126-year-old historic site in downtown Fort Worth that has hosted some of the city’s most prestigious events. For the bride who is a foodie, we have a Gold-Medal-Winning Culinary Olympic Chef who creates fantastic food. For the bride who wants to be pampered, we have a cohesive team that brings exceptional and personal service to our gorgeous spaces. Always one step ahead, we make sure every detail of your day is treated with importance.
The Videographer | Jason Traub
When to book: We book weddings anywhere from three weeks to 18 months in advance, but I’d always suggest the sooner the better with regard to getting that date reserved.
Biggest mistakes brides make: A lot of brides do not really prioritize a good videographer, thinking still photos are a sufficient documentation of the day. Photos are indeed great, but 10 to 20 years from now, wouldn’t it be special to show your children the actual first dance, or hear your vows to one another? A great video is unbeatable in the way it allows the newlyweds to relive their wedding day. It’s unfortunate that there’s often a negative stereotype of the “bad wedding videographer.” There are lots of really talented people who can make your video something you truly love.
What you should ask: Ask potential videographers to see a sample (either on their website or at an in-person meeting), then what their typical approach is to their work on the wedding day. It’s nice to know what the turnaround time is on a finished product, how many cameras will be used to record the ceremony, how audio is captured, and what formats they provide (i.e.: DVD, Blu-ray, high-definition Quicktime, iPhone, etc). I really suggest asking for either a Blu-ray or HD Quicktime file as a way to future-proof your video and make sure you’re getting the highest quality possible.
What to look for: I know most brides really don’t want to be bothered with an extra person capturing images of them and possibly interfering in the flow of the day, so a good videographer is unobtrusive when necessary but also comfortable with the bride and groom, so the great moments are often captured unknowingly. We’ve heard numerous times from our clients how their video is one of their best investments of the wedding, and it’s also usually the number-one regret from brides who didn’t hire a videographer but wish they would have.
How the venue figures in: Lighting is extremely important with regard to videography (and photography). So if the ceremony is at night or inside a hotel ballroom, try to make sure the area where the bride and groom stand is well-lit. The same goes for a reception area. Some clients think darkness adds to the “mood,” but cool lighting really enhances the vibe of a party and makes the footage look better. If it’s outside, during the daylight, then you’re all set (as long as it’s not July or August—a bit too hot!). We love doing destination videos for clients and have shot weddings in Mexico, Cape Cod, Austin, South Carolina, Montana, and beyond. I think if you have a connection with a great videographer, it’s worthwhile to include them in your travel plans, despite the extra expense. The trust and bond you have formed really outweighs the savings over someone you don’t know in a distant city.
Why I love my job: I’m so fortunate to have the opportunity to be a part of so many families’ special days. Capturing these unbelievably happy times is so rewarding. We at Elixir truly care about our clients and thrive on the positive feedback we get from our entertaining wedding videos.
The Celebrity Planner | Todd Fiscus
When to book: It depends on the size of the event. For example, if you’re having 100 people, and it’s casual, you can do it in under six months. If you’re having 800 people with elaborate logistics, then you will need at least 10 to 15 months. It also depends on the bride’s comfort level. We can do an event in 90 days, and it’s amazing, but it can run over you a little. If you like to sit back and enjoy it, no problem! If you want to be involved in each and every step and decision, bad idea!
Don’t make this mistake: Some brides hire based on price, not ability. Anybody can hang a shingle out and be an event planner, but weddings are not only about a bride going down an aisle. They are about guest services, logistics, transportation, and vendor controls. Those of us who do large-scale eventing understand that level of communication and work quality. One average event for us might have 16 companies working to produce, and more than 100 employees working on it. We have to have control over a lot of moving parts.
Best part of my job: Seeing the happiest of brides. I love to work hard, and I love to see happy people.
The Outdoor Venue | Penny Story
Reflections on Spring Creek
When to book: Because we have extensive gardens, in addition to chapel and ballrooms, we suggest the bride book the site at least 12 months out. The number of gardens in Dallas/Fort Worth are very limited, and the quality varies.
What to ask: Brides should ask about costs and fees before signing contracts. Are there carving charges, parking charges, attendant’s fees, cake-cutting fees? How much are the gratuities?
Don’t make this mistake: A mistake often made by brides is not including the taxes and gratuities in her budget. These costs can be a depressing surprise when they are added to a final invoice.
Why Reflections on Spring Creek: It is absolutely unique. It was built to have the feel of an extravagant home with elegant furnishings and artwork. The ballrooms and chapel have floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the gardens. The gardens have an Italian stone gazebo, two large ponds, three waterfalls, and walking paths. And executive chef Jason Dehner and his staff serve gourmet cuisine on fine bone china and silver.
The Entertainment Guru | Luana Stoutmeyer
When to book: Since many entertainers are chosen because of their reputation, personality, and specialty, they should be contacted as soon as the venue is selected.
Set expectations: The bride needs to tell the entertainer exactly what her expectations are when it comes to entertainment. Do you want all swing? Do you want variety? Do you like high energy? The entertainer or agent should help you talk through the process.
Good questions to ask: After you’ve figured out what you want, then some good questions would be: What is the entertainer’s experience level? Who will be the emcee and how do you want the introductions and announcements handled? What kind of music will be played during the dinner set?
Don’t make these mistakes: A common mistake is hiring a band by the “number of players” because often the thinking is the bigger the band, the louder the sound. Because some bands have prerecorded tracks, a four-piece can sound like a 10-piece. Another concern is acoustics. After contracting the entertainment, the biggest mistake a bride can make is forgetting to pass on the entertainer requirements to the facility. Whether a band or a DJ, they need a specified area and specific power. Bands have equipment, and they need to be able to move and to entertain. Another mistake is not allowing enough of the budget for the entertainment. Remember after your guests have had dinner, been to the bar, seen the dress, and smelled the flowers, it’s party time.
The Party-Starter Band | Maegan Bardes
Inside Out Band and New Ground Band
When should you book? We used to tell brides to book a year in advance to make sure they got their favorite band or the best variety of options to choose from. Many of the most popular bands book quite a ways out. However, with the economy being under pressure, brides have been booking a lot more last minute—sometimes even three months out—and are able to find some great bands still on the market. I still suggest that as soon as the venue is determined the bride should begin the search and booking process for the band.
How should I go about finding a band for my wedding reception? There are three good ways you can go about finding and hiring a band. First, you can call one of the local or regional booking agencies and ask for bands that fit your specific criteria. An agency will contact the bands that fit your requirements and that are available on your date and put them on hold for you while you decide.
Alternately, if you are good at shopping around on your own, you can look up bands directly. Most of the best party bands have very extensive websites with videos, audio demos, pictures, and song lists, as well as professional contracting. You can look up their performance calendars and go see these bands on your own. The band typically will give you a hold on your date for a certain period of time so that you can go see them live. If you choose to retain their services, they will issue you a contract and require a retainer just like an agency would.
Another way to find great suggestions for bands is to ask your wedding planner or the catering manager handling your event. They typically have great insight on what bands are the best and which ones are not so great based on their experience. Some bands also have great working relationships with planners who refer them on a regular basis, and you might be able to get their vendor discount on the bands they have special relationships with. Some planners will also handle the contracting for you. Everyone is different, so the best thing to do is just ask. There are many very reputable bands, agencies, and planners listed in D Weddings, which is always a great place to start!
Should I contact the band directly after getting pricing from an agency? It is considered within the industry as unethical for a band to give discounted pricing to a client after an agency has already presented them. It is important to note that you do not necessarily save money by going direct with a band, though many people lead prospective clients to believe that. The best party bands will charge the same price as the agencies because they have established a market value for their product and will not want to endanger that standing. I suggest that if you have a certain band in mind that you contact them directly to begin with and not through an agency. If you have no idea what bands you are interested in, then the absolute best way to go is to call one agency and let them help you from start to finish.
Do I need to feed the band? It is good form to provide a vendor meal, as well as bottled water and sodas during performance hours and setup. Most of the band members are on location for many hours between setup and performance. Make sure you ask the band you are hiring for their performance rider as that will contain the band’s requirements for food and beverages.
Why Inside Out?Inside Out Band is a great choice for wedding receptions not only because of their popularity and variety of music styles they play but because of the elements of fun and energy they bring to the table during their performances. They engage and involve the crowd all night, and the vocalists and horn players spend a lot of their time out on the dance floor with the guests throughout the evening. They also pay particular attention to giving great customer service to their brides. Female-owned and -operated, they have a knack for really understanding their brides.
They really listen to what the bride and groom envision for their wedding, including customized song lists, learning the special dances, and also formulating and implementing the time line and flow of the evening if there isn’t a wedding planner on the event. Their clients never have to worry about what is happening next because the band will make the evening appear seamless.
The Enchanted Venue | Stephanie Selaiden
When to book: The average amount of time that brides will book their venue is anywhere from six months to a year out from their wedding date. This allows for ample time to order and alter your wedding dress, organize guest lists and invitations, and to make arrangements with your vendors. Popular wedding venues can book up more than a year in advance for their prime Saturday evening dates, so if you have a specific date in mind, we recommend booking your venue as soon as you possibly can to avoid losing a preferred date.
Good to ask: Always make sure the wedding venue you are looking at quotes you a grand total with no hidden fees. This will help you determine what the actual grand total will be for your wedding with all food, beverage, tax, gratuity, staffing, and all furnishings. Sometimes venues will quote just a food minimum, and then by the end, you are paying almost double for all of the “extras.” Make sure you get everything in writing with a list of all amenities so you are clear as to what is and what is not included. Also ask venues if they have certain times of year or specific time slots that are less expensive than their normally published price. You can save thousands by not having your wedding on a Saturday evening at some places if you are on a budget.
Don’t make these mistakes: We have seen several brides get caught up in minute-by-minute timelines, seating charts, tying little bows on hundreds of favors. These things are not important when you look at the big picture. Focus on the reason you are planning this wedding and what the final outcome will bring, and don’t get lost in the details.
Why Ashton Gardens: Our staff is tops in the industry in wedding coordinating, dining experience, and personalized services. Our certified wedding coordinators will plan every detail of the ceremony and reception from the moment you reserve your date until you make your exit. Ashton Gardens is also all-inclusive, so you only need to provide personal vendors for entertainment, photography, cake, and minister. That makes it extremely easy to plan a wedding here with us. Our facility is totally unique with its surrounding forest and floor-to-ceiling windows throughout the chapel and ballroom space, creating a memorable and beautiful environment for your wedding.