#2 – The different types of planning help available
There are lots of places to find help with your wedding, and when it comes to wedding planners–like all things–they’re not all created equal. None of them are all bad, and none are all good, but they each offer their own pros and cons, and you should consider the pros and cons before deciding on the type of help that is best for you!
The Venue Coordinator
I often hear brides say that they â€œdonâ€™t need an outside plannerâ€ because their venue has an on-site coordinator, and unfortunately, some brides find out too late that this is just not the case. The on-site coordinator is there to manage the services being provided by the reception hall, and the services they will provide are very different from those that aÂ professional wedding plannerÂ will provide.
Pros:A good on-site coordinator will assist you with items like room layouts, place settings and linens and opening the building for vendor deliveries (depending on your venue). They’ll also be on hand during the earlier portion of your wedding day and reception in case of issues with venue services. If this is all you need help with, you’re probably not in the market for a professional wedding planner or coordinator.
Cons: Unlike an actual wedding planner orÂ day-of coordinator, your on-site venue coordinator will not call your vendors to verify anything the week before the wedding, find you vendors that meet your budget (though they may give you a pre-made list), call your bakery with your final numbers, or help you to trouble shoot difficult issues with vendors on your wedding day. Â Venue coordinators are usually not on-site through the duration of your wedding, and will likely be gone by early evening. Donâ€™t get me wrong, on-site coordinators are great, but itâ€™s important to understand what they will and wonâ€™t do for you, so you can be properly prepared for your big day!
The “In-House” Event Planner
This trend is becoming increasingly popular. Venues and vendors (florists, caterers, etc) are seeing the market for planning services, and offering an “in house” coordinator or planner. Services will vary but in many cases, they’ll offer a wide range of services from helping you at the reception hall with day-of items, to travelling off site to assist with your ceremony.
Pros:They’ll know the ins and outs of your venue and its policies, what works well and what doesn’t.
Cons: Your planner is first and foremost an employee of the venue, florist, caterer, or whoever is technically employing them full time. So you are not offered an un-biased 3rd party opinion, and an issue may arise where your best interests are not kept in mind. For example, if an issue arises with the venue itself or the services it provides, will your planner advocate for what’s best for you, or what’s best for the venue? Do they have experience specifically planning weddings, and relationships with all of the vendors needed, or is their experience solely in one area of weddings, such as venue management, floral, or catering?
The “Hobbyist” Wedding Planner
Just looking at websites, it is often hard to identify a “hobbyist” wedding planner as such. They often have a business set up, are marketed as a professional wedding planner, and offer the same services. However, a “hobbyist” wedding planner is someone who operates their planning business as a side-business to their full time job, or who has set up shop without the relevant experience needed.
Pros:The price will likely be low as this isn’t their full time job or source of income
Cons: They don’t have much to lose–if family issues come up, or they run into issues with their full time job, it’s likely that your wedding will be pushed to the side. Or worse yet, they’ll back out on you. Unlike a professional wedding planner, they’re not relying on your satisfaction, and continued business from other brides, to pay their bills and keep food on the table. You don’t want your wedding to be something that gets pushed to the side when they don’t have extra time. And similarly to the “in house” planner, they likely don’t have the extensive well-rounded knowledge and resources that a professional wedding planner has. Also, their business may not operate to the standards of a professional wedding planner—for example they may not carry the liability insurance and other protections that a full service planner will. Hobbyists, “in house” and on-site planners may also be lacking first hand knowledge of the local industry as a whole, and rely on information they gather online.
The Professional Wedding Planner
A professional wedding planner operates a wedding or event planning business as their main occupation, and has hands-on professional experience in event planning. A strong network of vendors & venues is also the mark of a professional wedding planner.
Pros: A professional wedding planner is extremely connected to the local wedding industry, as well as versed on resources available. How does this help you? A pro wedding planner can tell you which Â hotels work best for weddings on holiday weekends, which beaches are best for ceremonies, which vendors will work best if you need to function primarily through email. They’ll have personal relationships with vendors and venues, leading to a smoother planning process. They have first-hand knowledge of the local industry and can provide you with budgeting information that is locally-relevant and not based on costs nationally. A professional planner will provide stellar service, to ensure that you have a great experience, because they’re depending on referral business and good reviews to keep their business going. Professional planners have ample staff, often have additional planners or coordinators on staff and contingency plans in the case of a sick coordinator or staff member.
Cons:The price is likely to be the highest here.
So many choices! If you’re having a hard time deciding, I would suggest meeting with several different planners. Find out how much experience they have, how involved they’ve been in the full scope of a wedding, what they’d do in the case that they were ill on your wedding day or were somehow incapacitated. Will they stay throughout your wedding day? Ask for referrals for former brides that had the same services you’re interested in. If you’re interested in full service planning, be sure to ask to speak with a former bride who also received full service planning. Not every wedding planner is the perfect fit for every bride. You don’t have to be best friends with your planner, but you should feel comfortable with them, enjoy your planning time together, and above all, trust them fully! So meet with several, ask lots of questions, and make the choice that makes you feel most comfortable (and excited) about your wedding day!
In 2013, itâ€™s rare not to know someone who needs to or chooses to avoid foods with gluten or animal byproducts. When planning your dessert menu for your reception, however, accommodating the dietary needs of all your guests may feel a little overwhelming. If you are worried a traditional wedding cake just might not work for you there are alternatives out there; here are a few to consider.
Gluten Free or Vegan Wedding Cake: One alternative to a traditional cake is to find a Southwest Michigan bakery who can create a completely gluten free or vegan cake. A word of caution though, be sure to discuss your exact needs with the baker, especially if you choose a bakery that doesnâ€™t have a completely gluten free or vegan kitchen.
Cupcakes: Another alternative or supplement to a traditional wedding cake is to do a table of cupcakes for your reception. One nice thing about this option is it allows you to have both gluten free, vegan, and traditional options for your guests. The cupcakes can be arranged on different tiers or trays with labels that say which options are gluten-free, vegan, or that list the different ingredients. Labels are a good way to prevent confusion or possible cross-contamination for your guests. You may also want to label any flavors that contain nuts.
Dessert Bar: Another option to consider is a dessert bar with small, finger-food sized desserts. This not only gives you the option to have a variety of delicious treats for your guests, but also gives you the option to have certain desserts specially made and labeled for all the different possible needs and wants of your guests. Keep in mind that there are alternatives options to almost every traditional type of dessert now including favorites like cake pops, cheesecakes, and pies.
Fresh Fruit: Adding fresh fruit to your dessert menu can be another option–especially in the summer months. The natural sugars in most fruits are often a safe alternative for many people with gluten allergies or vegan lifestyles to the ingredients in other baked goods.
No matter what option you chose for your wedding always be sure to taste test the different desserts or get a referral from a wedding planner, before you purchase them from a baker or caterer. If youâ€™re in the St. Joseph area one local vendor to check out is Katâ€™s Hot Cakes in Bridgman, specializing in vegan baked goods.
I absolutely love this color palette! You can’t get much cheerier than a beautiful sunshine yellow, paired with a lush green. And my very favorite thing about this beautiful Blue Dress Barn wedding, is that in lieu of a bridal party, the bride & groom asked their guests to join them as their attendants, by wearing the wedding colors! So the entire wedding was filled with guests donning their shades of green and yellow. How cute!
The ceremony was held on the beach of Lake Michigan. Personally, I find it hard to beat the beautiful backdrop that a beach wedding provides…the sound of the waves, the blowing dune grass…it makes for a truly enchanting setting for a ceremony.
I absolutely love her cheery yellow bouquet, wrapped in burlap ribbon…the perfect rustic accent for a barn wedding! The beautiful florals were done by Crystal Springs, and I believe the rest of the photos by Jennifer Mayo Studios speak for themselves!
Jennifer + Brian, thank you for letting us be a part of your beautiful wedding here in Southwest Michigan…we wish you many, many more to come!
The first step to hiring a wedding planner or coordinator, is determining if you need one. As a professional wedding planner, of course I wish I could say that â€œif you are engaged, you absolutely, positively, MUST hire a wedding plannerâ€¦you’ll never survive without one!” BUT, it just wouldnâ€™t be true.Â I also wish I could say that the list below is the end-all be-all, definitive guide to determining if you need a wedding planner. But I canâ€™t. What I can do, is let you know that there are many reasons for hiring a wedding plannerâ€“itâ€™s a personal choice for each and every brideâ€”one that I believe in most cases helps brides and grooms to have a more enjoyable engagement, save time, reduce their stress, get exactly what they want (and sometimes much more) and can save them money!Â Here are just a few reasons why you may find yourself in need of a wedding planner for your Michigan wedding:
Stella Lead Planner Jessica Pennington, sending bridal party down the aisle at an outdoor ceremony
YOU MAY NEED A WEDDING PLANNER IFâ€¦
Youâ€™re planning your wedding from out of state or out of town, or you’re unfamiliar with the area where you’re getting married
You have a demanding job or hectic schedule
You canâ€™t find the perfect venue
You want to make the most of your budget
You are so stressed you cannot enjoy the process of planning your wedding
You donâ€™t know how to get started
Youâ€™re planning your wedding in a short time-frame
Youâ€™re struggling to define the look and feel of your wedding style
You need a â€œgo-toâ€ person for your wedding day
You are concerned that the planning process will cause family stressâ€¦or it already is…and you need a middle man
Your wedding is being held at a non-traditional venue, such as in a barn, outdoors, or on the beach
You want to make the most of your budget, big or small
You want to plan an incredible event while staying stress free and enjoying your engagement!
If you feel like you could use some help, you donâ€™t have time to plan the wedding youâ€™re dreaming of, or that the planning process is overwhelming you, set up a consultation with a professional wedding planner in your area, or the area where youâ€™re holding your wedding.Â A professional planner will be more than happy to talk through your issues and concerns to determine if planning is right for you, and what level of assistance would be the best fit to ensure your day is fabulous, and you remain a stress-free, beautiful bride on your wedding day! Or, in some cases, they may be able to direct you to resourced that can help you in lieu of a planner. Truth be told, I have a handful of brides each year that come in for an initial consultation, and leave with the realization that they don’t need a planner. A professional planner will be honest with you about the services you need, and if, based on all considerations—budget, time frame, schedule—you need to hire a planner.
So if you’ve determined you need a wedding planner, the question you’re probably asking yourself is “How much is it going to cost?” and “How Do I Pick one?”…this week on the blog stay tuned as we tell you where you can find a planner, the different typesÂ of planners & options available, how to pick the right one, why it costs so much (and what to be aware of if it’s cheap) and more!
One of the big trends of 2012 continuing through to 2013 is the backdrop. If you are considering incorporating a backdrop into your wedding design there a few things you may want to consider.
What kind of backdrop:
One of the first things to think about is the type of backdrop you want. Some of the popular styles include wooden doors, chalkboards, and a mixture of draped curtains, furniture, frames, and/or dishes. One of the nice things about backdrops are they are completely customizable to your style. Some couples are even using blank canvases or chalkboards for backdrops and letting their guests create art or write messages during the reception.
Where to put the backdrop:
Given their size, itâ€™s important to think about where you want to put your backdrop and how you want to use it in your wedding. You want to find a way to make it prominent while not allowing it to overwhelm the other details of your design. Here are few options to consider:
Photo booth: One great way to use a backdrop is as unique location for your photo booth. It can provide a fun, unique background for photos of you, your wedding party, and your guests.
Head table: If you are planning to use a head table for you and your wedding party another place to put your backdrop is behind your head table. It will pull your guests attention towards that space, and it can help make that reception space even more tailored toward your style.Dessert or Gift Table: Another option is to use a backdrop to set apart your gift or dessert table. A backdrop for one of these tables can give you nearly unlimited options when it comes to the design of your backdrop — above, we used the backdrop to hang descriptions of each cupcake flavor! A backdrop is also a great way to dress up a gift table, as they are often tucked into a corner!
Ceremony: If you are looking at backdrops consider using them in the ceremony space. They can make a beautiful frame for where your vows take place, especially in outdoor weddings!
Itâ€™s that time of year againâ€”wedding season is around the corner and Stella Event Design is accepting applications for interns (Event Assistants) to assist us during our 2013 wedding season.
Who Weâ€™re Looking For :: We are seeking junior & senior level students pursuing a degree in a related field (hospitality & tourism, public relations, communications, etc.), who are excited about learning the ins-and-outs of event planning. Weddings can be a stressful and emotionally charged time for a bride & groom and their familiesâ€”the ideal candidate is hard-working, friendly, calm under pressure, and a great communicator! Most of our events are located in the St. Joseph/Benton Harbor/Harbor Country area, which is approximately 45 minutes from Kalamazoo, 70 minutes from Grand Rapids, and 45 minutes from South Bend. You must be able to travel to Southwest Michigan for events on weekends.
What Youâ€™ll Do :: Event Assistants will assist with all day-of wedding tasks including: setting up decor at ceremony and reception sites, assisting vendors with deliveries (ie. cake, flowers, linens, rentals), assisting with ceremony management, assisting vendors as needed throughout the day, ensuring time lines are being followed, trouble shooting problems that arise, communicating with vendors & bridal parties, ensuring accuracy of layouts, and much more.Â Event Assistants are always working alongside an experienced Event Planner or Coordinator who is there to direct & teach you! Some assistants will also have the opportunity to work in our office on a weekly basis. You will have the opportunity to assist us with various projects including: assisting with the design and execution of photo shoots, collaborating on design projects, contacting vendors, sitting in on client meetings, learning to create timelines, room layouts and other logistical pieces, and a variety of other tasks that go into the planning of our events. We highly recommend office hours to those who are available, and desire a well-rounded learning experience!
What Youâ€™ll Get :: This is an unpaid internship and must apply towards college credit. You will walk away from this internship with hands-on experience in event planning & execution unlike anything you can learn in a classroom. This internship puts you in the action, working with real clients, professional vendors and beautiful locations throughout West Michigan.
When Youâ€™ll Work :: Weddings are scheduled primarily on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Interns will be scheduled to work for a 10-16 week period (approximately May 4-September 16 or August 1-October 31) and will be scheduled to assist with weddings most weekends.Â We know summers include family obligations and the occasional vacations, so we are happy to take schedules into consideration if given proper notice at start of season.
How to Apply :: If youâ€™re interested in joining the Stella Event Design Team for our 2013 season, please email your cover letter and resume (.pdf format, please) to email@example.com. We will be accepting applications through February 18 and will be conducting interviews in February and March! If you have additional questions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org (no phone calls, please).
It’s crazy to say it out loud, but 2012 marked the end of 5 years (I can hardly believe it!) for Stella Event Design, and it was definitely a year full of beautiful details, sweet brides & grooms, new additions, big changes and tons of fun! Every year I’m thrilled to look back at how Stella has grown and changed, the new faces that joined us, and the new and exciting opportunities that presented themselves. So here’s a (lengthy) little recap of 2012:
HELLOS & GOODBYES
In early 2012 we were thrilled to add Holden AleeÂ to Team Stella, as he came on board to work with us throughout the 2012 season, both with our weddings, as well as stepping up as the lead coordinator for the 2012 Lake Shore Wedding Walk. Area vendors & venues were quick to embrace Holden & his enthusiastic, fun-loving spirit, and we’re thrilled to have him as a permanent fixture — he’s a great fit with both our business and our brides!
2012 also marked the departure of long-time Stella Event Planner Brittany Johnson, who has been working with us remotely from Grand Rapids since wayyyy back in 2009! She started with us as an intern in 2009, and has been an Event Planner with Stella since 2010…she quickly became a much-loved fixture here in Southwest Michigan–her home away from home on many (many) weekends! But alas, we must say goodbye to our much-loved road warrior Brittany and wish her the best as she moves on to work at her alma mater in Grand Rapids. She’ll forever be an honorary member of Team Stella!
This summer & fall we had an amazing group of summer & fall interns, that sadly, I never got around to introducing here on the website (I’m horrible, I know!) but with such a busy wedding season we were all hard at work, and sadly, neglecting our blogging here just a bit! But, they all deserve a huge round of applause for helping us complete our most successful wedding season yet, as we planned, coordinated and designed over 30 weddings.
A huge THANK YOU to Rachel (from GVSU), Sarah (from GVSU) and Kristen (from Spring Arbor) for all you did, ladies! And speaking of interns, we are currently hiring for our 2013 wedding season, so if you’re a Junior or Senior in a related field, send your resume & cover letter to email@example.com! We’ll have a full post on that coming up soon!
Team Stella 2012 (L-R): Sarah, Holden, Jessica, Mary, Brittany, Kristen & Rachel. Photo by Jennifer Mayo Studios
WEDDINGS, WEDDINGS, WEDDING!
We coordinated SO many beautiful weddings this summer, we can’t begin to thank all of our wonderful brides & grooms for putting their trust in us, to help them on such an important day! We were lucky to work at some of our favorite venues over and over, including a TON of weddings at Millcreek Barns and Blue Dress Barn, two of our favorite rustic venues, along with more tented weddings than we’ve done in the past! 2012 marked our most design-work to date, and we’re excited year after year to come up with new, exciting ideas for our brides, and offer more and more options. In 2012 we started offering rentals of the many vintage, rustic and unique decor items we’ve collected over the years, along with a growing collection of specialty linens, and, new for 2013—specialty glass chargers. We loved seeing so many of our decor pieces shown off in our 2012 weddings—we love that brides don’t have to scour websites & thrift shops, and we can help offer unique choices. So here are just a few shots of beautiful 2012…keep an eye out for many, many more 2012 weddings to be featured on the blog in the coming weeks…photos are starting to pour in from photographers and we’re excited to share them!
2012 was an exciting year for us press-wise. Just last month, we were thrilled to find out that one of our 2011 weddings in Saugatuck was featured in The Knot Michigan, making it our first wedding to be featured in a statewide print magazine (and one of our favorite magazines, at that!). With pretty pictures from photography friend Ben Pancoast, it’s no surprise….we loved planning and designing this wedding, and also have to thank Modern Day Floral for delivering some stellar florals—as usual! We were also thrilled to be quoted in Michigan Meetings+Events magazine’s article about what meeting planners can learn from wedding planners. This Spring, we had a lovely orchard photo shoot with Bradley James Photography featured in WeddingDay Magazine, and this winter we had one of our 2012 weddings at Millcreek Barns featured on Style My Pretty’s LBB Blog.
3RD ANNUAL WEDDING WALK & BRIDAL BIDS AUCTION
We coordinated our 3rd Annual Lake Shore Wedding Walk, which took place in September and was, by far, the most beautiful weather we’ve had for a Wedding Walk. We love that this event is perfectly tailored to helping brides discover everything our beautiful local area has to offer—it’s intimate, unique, and full of only the area’s best vendors! We had an amazing group of vendors who participated, and to top it all off, we introduced the 1st “Bridal Bids Auction” which raised over $9000 for the Michigan Chapter of Wish Upon A Wedding. As wedding planners, we have been so incredibly blessed to do what we love, and to be involved in such an amazing and supportive community of wedding professionals. One of our goals for 2012 was to give back, and the Bridal Bids was a great step towards finding ways that we can all come together and give back. A HUGE thank you to everyone who helped put this together, especially the folks at The Veranda at the Whitcomb, and to all of the amazing local vendors who contributed their services & goods to be auctioned. Check out this video of the professional auctioneer (who volunteered) and did an AMAZING job with the live portion of the auction—please ignore my laughing and shaky hands—I was so excited! Below he’s auctioning off a Saturday at The Veranda at The Whitcomb, which netted over $3000 and went for OVER the face-value price, thanks to some very generous and enthusiastic bidders (AKA brides!)
STELLA MOVES TO THE BOX FACTORY!
And lastly, one of the very biggest changes for Stella Event Design (and the source of TONS of excitement), was moving into our new studio space in The Box Factory. For 2 LONG months we (sort of) patiently waited for construction to be completed. And by patiently, I mean we stalked the progress almost daily— to the construction teams dismay—taking photos, measurements, and visiting again and again, just to remember what it looked like! But come December 1st we had a new, bright and shiny space to meet in, that is a perfect fit for our growing team, and allows easier access for our brides and grooms. While we always loved our first space on State Street in downtown St. Joseph, parking in the summer was a struggle–especially for our staff trying to come in on a daily basis–and we had outgrown our work space, as it only accommodated one person being in the office full time.Â Our new space offers plenty of space for both myself and Holden to work in the office together with event assistants, which will allow us to work as a team more effectively. We also get the perk of having some pretty awesome 3rd floor neighbors, in the way of Jennifer Mayo Studios right next door, and Ben Pancoast Photography right down the hall. We’ll be hosting a joint open house in early February, so keep your eyes open for that post coming soon–everyone is invited! I have to say a HUGE thank you to our family & friends that pitched in with painting, and our 12 hour moving/assembly day…because we were determined to be completely moved into the space in ONE very long day. Thank you for putting up with our craziness! We’ll dedicate a whole post to this very soon, but here are a few before and afters of the new space…looking back, it was pretty incredible what they accomplished in 2 months, since we were 1 of about 15 new spaces completed:
If you made it to the end of this post, I applaud you! Leave a comment and we’ll choose one lucky person to receive a FREE gift card to MISSNOWMRS.com, to kick off 2013! They’ll help you navigate the murky waters of changing your name & personal info once you get married and change your name! We’ll choose the winner on January 11th by random drawing and email the winner!
Kristen is one of those people who just exudes happiness, and constantly has a giant smile on her face. I was lucky enough to spend an entire day with her early in our planning, driving all over the county, looking at beach properties, resorts and barns, to find the perfect location for her intimate wedding. She wanted the entire weekend to be relaxed, fun, and centered around spending as much time with their family and friends as possible. To achieve this, she couldn’t have chosen a better location—Kristen & Jason hosted their wedding at Sun ‘n Sand Resort in South Haven, which allowed every one of their guests to stay on site, and be a part of the entire weekends activities, from a welcome dinner & bonfire, to the day after brunch.
The ceremony took place on the grounds, with the aisle lined in vintage sap buckets filled with mounds of baby’s breath, and a canopy swagged in simple burlap. The kids were some of the cutest I’ve seen, with my very favorite being the “flag bearer” in his adorable seer sucker suit–helped here by one of the flower girls who took a liking to the flag over her flowers.
The reception was tented next to the properties pond, looking out over an expansive yard and fields. Each table was different, and I especially loved the runners on the tables, which were made from fabric collected by the bride–every one was different, and was perfectly paired with centerpieces that were composed of mixed milk glass vases & votives, vintage milk bottles (embossed with the grooms last name, Spriggs!) and an assortment of blue, white and yellow blooms. The table numbers were hand made by the bride! Guests were called to dinner by the sounds of a bagpiper, and during the reception guests enjoyed a traditional pig roast provided by CK Catering, a lemonade stand, and the eclectic sounds of The Michaels, a fun musical duo that played a little bit of everything! Kristen & Jason, thank you again for letting us be a part of your special day—we were so thrilled to be able to witness your beautiful wedding day, filled with love, family & fun!
Thanks to our friends at 430Studios for the lovely Photos!
Today we’re taking a little break from featuring a 2012 wedding here on our blog, and are sending you over to the Style Me Pretty Little Black Book Blog, to check out Emily+Aaron’s beautiful Millcreek Barns wedding, which is featured today! We helped to coordinate this lovely wedding, and also provided many of our vintage decor items, which we rent through our sister company Simply Stella Events—we have tons of unique items, from chalkboards to tea tins, crates, unique cake plates, vases & jars, milk glass vases, mercury glass, and more!
Leah+Dan’s August wedding at Millcreek Barns had all the ingredients for a delightfully adorable day. Lovely bridesmaids in mis-matched gowns? Check. Handcrafted DIY details? Check. A crafty, DIY bride? Check! When I first met Leah a few months before the wedding, she had already spent countless hours creating her perfect wedding day—from collecting a plethora of milk glass & vintage cake plates, to crafting a beautiful ceremony ribbon banner with her bridesmaids—she just needed us help her bring all those beautiful details to life, and keep her wedding day running smoothly, so she could be a blissful, stress-free bride.
I ADORED these bridesmaids dresses! I love that brides are giving their ‘maids a color palette and letting them choose the style and shade that fits them best. It’s a great way to not only ensure your bridal party looks stunning, but it ensures everyone feels beautiful and confident int heir wedding day garb. Love it.
I can’t say enough good things about Millcreek—no matter how many weddings we do there (and in 2012 it was a lot!) I never get tired of it. So natural & beautiful! We dressed the guest tables with burlap overlays, and embroidered doilies she collected. The florals were showcased in a mixture of vintage milk glass, filled with soft, romantic blooms in pale pinks, greens and white.
Leah+Dan, thank you again for letting us be a part of your wedding day—we’re thrilled to have been able to help bring all of your beautiful planning together! Lovely photos by Allie Siarto Photography