With each wedding comes successes, but every once in a while, I take a step back and think to myself “wow, that probably could have gone a little better”. I’m usually the first to admit if I don’t think something is up to par, even when the couple and their guests are gushing about their perfect wedding day. Call it being a perfectionist, or just being my own worst critic, but these bits of insight continue to push me to step up my game and wrap up every wedding without a doubt in my mind that everything was flawless. I want every couple to feel that way, too, which is why as 2016 comes to a close, I’m sharing my top 10 pieces of advice; the things I've perfected after coordinating many weddings and the lessons I’ve learned in the process.
10. Keep an extra set of serving ware on hand
It doesn't need to be fancy, but as part of my arsenal of items that I carry on the day of the wedding, I keep an extra package of paper plates, cups, napkins and plastic silverware. Hopefully they aren’t needed, but just in case a few extra guests show up unannounced, more guests than expected want a clean plate for seconds, or there isn’t enough serving ware for all of the vendors, they are helpful to have as backup.
9. Club soda really does get out blood
This year I coordinated a wedding where the flower girl got a bloody nose during the reception, and ended up with blood all over the front of her dress. She was inconsolable, thinking she had just ruined the day (that poor girl!), but the bar had club soda and when we were finished, it looked brand new! I also have a Tide-To-Go stick and other stain removers in my day of emergency kit, but have seriously considered adding club soda now, just in case.
8. Give a simplified timeline to your family and wedding party
A simplified timeline for your family and wedding party is a great way to fill them in without overloading them with details. They won’t carry it around all day, but giving people a heads up on the overall plan is very helpful. Bonus points if you walk through it with them at the rehearsal. Sometimes you have family and friends that are totally fine just going with the flow, but for those that like a bit more structure, I can easily put together a simplified timeline with just the important pieces for them to have leading up to the wedding day.
7. Have an extra tabletop sign ready
You never know when something will need to get labeled, instructions given, or a last minute label change, which is why I always carry an extra small tabletop chalkboard easel. This year I had a wedding with mini lava cakes for dessert, which were on display at the reception, similar to how a cake is displayed. There were no passed hors d'oeuvres during cocktail hour, so people started eating the desserts thinking they were meant to be some kind of appetizer, and there would be a cake later. We quickly put up a sign that labeled them as dessert and the problem was instantly fixed. A little signage can go a long way!
6. 1 hour is rarely enough time to set up
It’s very common for many vendors, and mostly DJs, to have something in their contract guaranteeing they’ll be on site at least 1 hour prior to their start time, but if the venue is available for a longer set-up timeframe, make sure they know that and encourage them to arrive sooner. It’s very important that vendors know the load in situation so they can plan accordingly (stairs, elevators, long distances between the parking lot and the space, etc) especially when they have many pieces and heavy equipment. Remember, although the DJ and I have spoken about song selections and the timeline prior to your wedding, if they are set up early, it’s always great to run through things in person, and even practice a little bit, before guests arrive. The more set-up time, the better.
5. Always have a parking plan
During the visit to the venue with my clients a few months before their wedding, I’ll not only make sure I have the interior layout, but I always scout out the parking situation for the wedding party, guests, and vendors. It’s very important that you have all three covered! You and your wedding party will be on site all day, so parking may be different for you versus a guest that will only be there for a few hours. Is there a garage, parking lot, or street parking? Is it paid parking or free? This past year I coordinated a wedding during Seafair weekend (a large city wide festival) where the venue only had 1 small loading zone and first come, first serve street parking. We not only had to schedule times for each vendor to take turns in the loading zone, but it also helped to spread the word to guests early in the planning process encouraging them to Uber or Lyft to the venue.
4. Let your vendors eat first
We completely understand that you and your guests are the priority, but from a logistical standpoint, allowing your vendors to eat first makes a huge difference. After the last guest has gone through the line, there is typically only about 10-15 minutes before toasts begin, and while those last few guests can continue to eat at their table, your photographer, DJ, and coordinator need to be up and ready to go. And often, once the guests have gone through the buffet line and those big reception traditions are finished (the dances, cake cutting, tosses, etc), the food has been put away. This is advice that very few vendors will suggest, in fact, it may even take some encouraging because it’s still very much not the norm, but if they can eat at the same time as all of your guests, that means they are 100% focused and ready for what’s next, not trying to scoop a spoonful of mashed potatoes in their mouth between dances. Ok, I’ve never actually seen that happen, but you get the idea. Get your vendors fed early so they can focus on the important parts of your reception that happen after dinner.
3. And along those lines, make sure your vendors have a place to eat
Most prefer a separate room, or area out of sight and without guests, but if that’s not available, a place at a back guest table is fine. Don’t get offended if your vendors choose not to sit at a guest table, though. Although your wedding day is filled with your closest friends and family and you want everyone to feel a part of the party, your guests are strangers to us. Similar to how you wouldn’t take a break at work in front of customers or at your desk, we also would like to eat somewhere out of sight of our customers, aka you and your guests. It gives us a chance to decompress, relax a little, and then continue the rest of the evening with just as much energy as we brought earlier in the day.
2. Know your processional song
When I say you should know the processional song, I don’t mean in an “oh yeah, I’ve listened to it and like it” kind of way. I mean, know the song. Listen to it with your coordinator, pick out the times that you’d like people to walk down the aisle, and find musical or lyrical queues. Then, make sure you use the song at the rehearsal to practice, because practice really does make perfect. And don’t forget to loop in your coordinator and DJ! As a team, we’ll ensure your walk down the aisle is perfectly timed to the song of your choosing.
1. Close the doors to the ceremony & guard them
It’s inevitable that someone will be late, and as unfortunate as it is, they will try to “sneak in”. But there is nothing sneaky about walking down the aisle between bridesmaids. In my personal opinion, it’s such a selfish mistake on the guests part to think that their seeing the bride walk down the aisle is more important than the wedding itself. But alas, it happens. When I coordinate weddings, my partner Eli always knows that when we’re ready to get started, his place is at the entrance to ensure that late guests don’t come in during the processional. Once the bride is all the way down the aisle, then we’ll let guests quietly sneak in or stand in the back, but never a moment sooner.