Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Planning It Out

As I mentioned last week, Red Letter Days planned my wedding, which took place in February. Since Independence Day occurred this week, and my husband is in the military, it seemed an appropriate time to share what the planning process was like.

We knew immediately that Red Letter Days would plan our wedding because we were such good friends with Bek and Mia. And just as expected, they started out by asking us the basic questions: When do you want to get married and what's your vision? After determining that they were available and checking with the priest at our church for his schedule, we started moving forward: location, priorities, size, formality level, feel, colors, flowers, and so on.

It was so helpful to have someone knowledgeable about vendors who could recommend appropriate services. I tend to get a little overwhelmed, so the thought of having to randomly start calling photographers and florists, hoping that I'd stumble across someone good who was the right fit in terms of personality and price range made me want to hide. Or elope. Fortunately, all I had to do was talk to Bek and Mia, show them some magazine pictures, and then show up at meetings that they scheduled to meet the fabulous folks who ended up working to make our wedding incredibly special.

Tip: Make sure to let your wedding coordinator know what's included in your budget and use their expertise to maximize all aspects of this special time. For example, we hosted our own rehearsal dinner, and that had to fall within our budget. This was a change since it's often hosted by the groom's parents. Similarly, if you plan pre- or post-ceremony events such as dinners and brunches, make sure to enlist your wedding coordinator's help with these events . . . and let them know if you're working with one big budget or several smaller ones.

Not having to track people down, make hundreds of phone calls, and generally do hours and hours of legwork left me free to enjoy the fun stuff! Picking out my dress, looking through magazines, tasting cake . . . and answering, "Well, no, not really!" every time someone said, "Oh, it's getting close! You must be freaking out!" Nope, thanks to my fabulous coordinators.

In an outstanding display of professionalism and personal care, Red Letter Days made sure that we had a wonderful photographer. They brought us together with an outstanding person who took our engagement photos and was scheduled to shoot our wedding. Then there was a death in her family, and although she was willing to still try to make it to our event, working around her emergency travel plans, we wanted her to be able to go where her heart was. I made the decision instantly that I'd rather have no professional photos at all than ask this dear person to put us ahead of her family.

But that wasn't necessary. Within 12 hours, Bek and Mia had another equally fantastic photographer lined up for us, while still communicating with and offering support to their bereaved colleage. With merely one additional hour-long meeting, everyone was able to move forward and be where they needed to be. I am so grateful that we were surrounded by professionals with such big hearts and giving spirits.

Their amazing industry knowledge (particularly with vendors) was one of the two areas that make me enthusiastically recommend Red Letter Days to everyone I meet. The second was the wonderful day-of services. Wow! It was amazing to just refer people to them all day long. What about this? What about that? Where's such-and-such? When are you going to do thus-and-so? Every single question got a variation on this answer: Ask Bek! Check with Mia! I'm not sure -- ask Bek or Mia.

It was heaven working with professionals, rather than depending on family and friends to carry out the same tasks, because wedding coordinators aren't as emotional at this time. Your mom, your aunt, your best friend -- all of these people are going to be so keyed up that it's difficult for them to handle things as smoothly as someone without that same connection. Don't get me wrong -- a good coordinator will definitely form a personal bond with you. But she will also be completely invested in things going the way you've discussed and is unlikely to be adversely affected by family politics or any other quirks.

And Red Letter Days handled everything beautifully! They arrived early, set everything up, coordinated the florist, bakers, catering staff, family, photographer, and church personnel. Everything went completely smoothly -- as far as I'm aware. And you know what? That's what matters. I was comfortable and happy the entire day, from arriving to get dressed through the amazing ceremony, lovely reception, and exciting walk out with my new husband. Bek and Mia coordinated everything flawlessly to the very end, even getting extra cake and champagne into our car so that we could enjoy it in the privacy of our hotel room that night . . . after a blissful, gorgeous, stress-free day.

Photographer: Cary Pennington
Rehearsal dinner: Parkhouse Eatery
Florist: Rituals by Olga Brouwer
Cake: CAKE
Catering: Epic Catering
Wedding site: All Saints' Episcopal Church