When we asked you, our readers, to tell us what your biggest wedding planning stress points were, we were overwhelmed with your replies! We know this mega life event can have you anxious at every turn (especially in the COVID-era). We created a top seven list of questions to answer that were the most popular, unique and pressing issues for your wedding planning and enlisted the help of two of Canada’s top wedding planners—Shealyn Angus, principal at Toronto’s Shealyn Angus Weddings & Events and Jessica Minnie, principal planner and creative director of Vancouver’s Petite Pearl Events—for their expertise to answer your queries. Read on for their expert incites which should calm any rough waters you may be encountering during your wedding planning.
1. What’s the best way to keep on top of your planning to do list and make sure I’m doing the right things at the right time? Also, how to manage day-of logistics and make sure everything gets done?
Shealyn Angus: “Besides hiring a wedding planner who can keep you on track with all your priorities and to do lists and (and current restrictions), the best way to stay on track is to book vendors in order of importance (and typically, expense). Start with venue, photographer and videographer, florist and so on down the line. If you have a vendor you MUST work with, move them to the top of the list to ensure you’re not going to be disappointed. Next in the process, if you don’t have a full service wedding planner, hiring a day-of-coordinator is really an essential in my opition! With how important and complicated the logistics of a wedding day is, I would never recommend being the go to person (and set up person, and tear down person) at your own wedding. Hiring a coordinator ensures all of your logistics and details go according to plan and any troubleshooting or issues are handled by someone else.”
2. How do I find a wedding venue? What are my first steps, I don’t know where to start!
Jessica Minnie: “Finding your wedding venue is certainly one of the most daunting tasks of wedding planning. A venue not only dictates your location, date and the setting, but the venue capacity, policies and rental window ultimately determine the number of guests you can invite, as well as the logistics and timing for your wedding day. Finding a venue is the first thing you have to do before you can commence any of the other planning. Once you start your search and start gathering information from venues, you will quickly realize that no venue ticks all the boxes. There are pros and cons to each, and the sooner you come to terms with the fact that you may not be ‘in love’ with everything about the venue, the easier your venue hunt is going to be. Sometimes a couple’s guest list depicts the size of venue we have to look for from the beginning; other times, couples are happy to develop their guest list to fit within the chosen venue’s capacity. In either case, we recommend creating a list of venue priorities. Every wedding scenario is different but some of the most important questions include:
• Is there a particular date or time of year?
• Do you want a venue where we can bring in a tent for the reception?
• Is having both ceremony + reception at the same location important to you? Is a feasible Plan B (rain plan) necessary to consider?
• Are you foodies and want to be able to really customize your menu?
• Do you want to be able to bring in your own alcohol or happy with in-house options?
• Do you want to have creative freedom with decor or flexibility with your floor plan?
• What style/level of service are you looking for? ie. Upscale vs. more laid back or all-inclusive vs. more room for flexibility?
• If majority of your guests are from out of town, is a venue or location with accommodations a must?
• Is a party into the late hours a must or will you be happy to end slightly earlier?
• Is parking or transportation a concern?
Too often I see couples coming to us after they have already locked themselves into a venue simply for its looks and location, only to soon find out that the in-house food and service is actually not what they wanted or the rental time period or policies limit creative ability or option to bring in outside rentals. Make a list of what is important to you and prioritize them. Pick the top three on that list and stick to finding a venue that meets those must-haves. A shortlist of venues will soon appear before your eyes.”
3. One word: budget! How do I keep it on track and in check?
Shealyn Angus: “Setting a budget upfront is an absolute must. Understand where your priorities lie and give them a bigger chunk of the budget to start. Typically, your venue, food and beverage expenses will take up at least 50% of your overall budget and should be the first thing you book. Be prepared for that! And if you set a budget for something, stick to it. No one else can be responsible for your own over-spending other than you.”
4. How do I avoid being taken advantage of by vendors?
Shealyn Angus: “You truly get what you pay for. A cash deal without a contract may sound like a steal, but you’ll be kicking yourself on your big day when they don’t show up and you have nothing to show for it. Do your research, hire professionals who have great reputations and experience, and don’t be afraid to ask your other vendors for referrals!”
5. Flowers are my biggest stress point: cost, style, everything! Any tips to help me navigate wedding florals?
Jessica Minnie: “From a floral planning and design perspective, we find there are two ways that florals can go. You have a budget and we are going to plan and design the florals to fit within that; or budget is a non-issue so the floral plan/design will determine your spend! The majority of couples fall into the first category and are restricted by budget. If you do not have an event designer, rely heavily on your chosen florist to guide you. Do not be afraid to tell a florist what your budget is so they can use their floral knowledge to present you with the best options. No matter what the budget is, florists want the end result to be a great representation of their work so they will be helpful in providing guidance on which floral varietals are available at the time of year you are getting married, which ones are less expensive and allow you to get more for your budget or which type of container or vessel will help create the style or size of arrangement you’re looking for. Flowers add up really quickly, so rather than trying to do all the things you want or envision, narrow it down to what area or areas are most important to you. Not spreading your floral budget thin will ensure the areas that are most important to you are the most impactful. Also, do not forget what time of year you are getting married—many couples are planning a summer wedding during the winter and are drawn to what’s currently in season (i.e. wintery greens and garlands). If you’re getting married in the spring, think colourful spring blooms! My last piece of advice is to try not to fall in love with a particular flower or specific colour. Florals are organic and managed by nature—we cannot always predict what exactly will be available (even flowers get delayed at the border!) or in season. The most beautiful floral arrangements are created when you give the florist creative freedom to use and source the best possible options they can find for your wedding date, budget and within a colour range.”
6. Wondering how to tackle our cultural differences with our wedding? Our parents have expectations!
Jessica Minnie: “We are huge advocates of fusion weddings. Not too much of one culture or the other, but a more modern, less traditional fusion of the two of them. With this concept, you can find creative ways to incorporate a piece of tradition that is exciting to you rather than something that feels like a cultural or traditional burden. This may be as simple as going bold and colourful with your florals, incorporating a reading or displaying a special heirloom decor piece. These things can be worked in, tastefully! It adds personality to your wedding day. The bonus is that moms and dads are usually really happy to know even a small piece of tradition is being considered in the wedding day.”
7. What if I run out of time to plan everything?
Jessica Minnie: “Well you simply can’t, so you won’t! That said, let this be the best piece of advice you will read with regards to successful wedding planning: it’s not even a plug for my profession as a wedding planner but coming from someone who has attended weddings as a guest, a bridesmaid, a MOH and as a bride myself—hire a professional planner! Whether that is a full wedding planner or at minimum, a day-of or month-of coordinator, they will provide you with invaluable advice and take over to ensure everything comes together properly and on time. Seriously, build this into your budget or you will not even get the opportunity to enjoy everything else you budget and plan for!! If you are taking on the planning yourself, do not leave things to the last minute. If timing permits, definitely try not to give yourself less than six months from the outset of planning. I personally don’t like to plan weddings more than 16 months out, and find my sweet spot starting right around a year out but whatever your timeline is, more time takes some of the pressure off. This allows the process to be more of an enjoyable experience and gives you a better chance at being choosy with your vendors as the likelihood they are already booked is slimmer. Hiring reputable vendors will also help take a huge amount of pressure off, streamline your planning experience and ensure you’re meeting planning deadlines. Experienced vendors are a wealth of knowledge and will guide you with worksheets, advice or deadlines for their respective role. This ensures they gather all of the necessary information they need by a certain date—you can sleep easy knowing you aren’t forgetting anything and the pros have everything they need to perform or provide their product or service successfully.”