Certified Coordinated Bride Sashonna

Journal Entry #4

When Plans Come Together

Today, May 31, 2018, I am only 8 days away from my wedding and I am full of excitement and nervousness. I look back from the beginning of my planning process and am in shock of how much time I thought I had until our big day. Time really flies by when planning a wedding. My mind is far from my daily responsibilities. My brain has checked out and is anxious to start my honeymoon with my soon to be husband. I envision us laying on a beach in complete serene tranquility with our only real decision of the day being our meal selection. This has been quite a busy, challenging, exciting 17 months of planning,  full of learning experience and personal growth.

One night as I was catching up with my two favorite aunts. My Aunt Peaches gave me some great advice about planning, she told me to give myself a deadline for all my planning task so that I wouldn’t be overwhelmed with last minute “To Do’s.” So sometime in early March I decided, that  April 30thas my cut off date. My aunt ran down the list of general to do tasks asking me if I had them on my list or already completed them. After our talk I wrote down my “To do” list that had been floating around in my head space since the very beginning. My fiancé Derrick, who has been super supportive and involved in the whole process, and I sat down one night and made one giant list of tasks left to complete before the big day. The list comprised from last minute accents to the day of like guestbook, runner, cake toppers, favors, seating charts, programs and menus to personal items like buying contacts, face mask, and selecting final perfume. We reviewed each item on the master list and assigned either of us to take on the task. We would update the list as each of us completed a task.

Without giving to much away of our day of surprises and unique styling selections, we scoured the internet and local retail for best prices and deals for the final purchases for our wedding. Fast forward to the weekend of May 5ththe only tasks left on our list was to print the programs, determine and print the seating chart, and favors. Ok I didn’t quite make it to my goal cutoff date of April 30th, but majority of our final task were completed. Our programs and menus I had a certain look in mind and believed it was achievable for us to either find on Vistaprint, Minted, and or Shutterfly, but to my dismay I didn’t find what I was looking for. These sites I found favored double sided heavy cardstock. For our type of ceremony, I knew there wasn’t enough real estate for us to include all our ceremony needs, especially our surprise insert. Pre-designed programs on these sites didn’t capture the simple elegance we were looking for. So  we designed our own programs selecting font, verbiage, color scheme, and card stock. After a series drafts pre-proofed by our pastors, DJ, and day of coordinator, we were finally free to print and assemble. Our menus were designed and printed on the same day utilizing coupons.

For all of our RSVPs we utilized the Knot and snail mail RSVPs from our invitations, which were beautifully designed by Vanessa Ajavon @Vanessaaddrienne.  Once the mailed RSVPs were received we logged them into the knot, which made it easy for us to export our wedding guest list with meal selections into an excel sheet. A quick copy and paste into our venue’s seating chart worksheet and we were 80% complete. Derrick and I reviewed our guest list and placed everyone at tables. I would love to say that there was only one round of this, but due to minor details of table counts, we had about 2-3 revisions before finally confirming the seating chart. Once the chart was confirmed by our venue’s event manager and florist we were free to create our alphabetized seating chart, which just needs to be printed. Lastly the favors, Derrick and I both agreed on our favor, but how it would be executed was determined by weighing the pros/cons and production cost. We chose the more inexpensive production cost of the two. We designed our own label utilizing elements from our invitation and my must have- foil printing. We found a cost-effective printer online and had labels within weeks. The initial vessel selected for the favor had a different shape than the final selected vessel so the label would not sit 100% flush on the vessel, but and with a few minor wrinkles but I think our favors look great. The home production of the favors had us working an assembly line with myself, Derrick, his stepbrother, and at the end of the night his mother. The favor was a 10 step process that took up to 12 hours for full production and clean up. By the 4thhour we were frustrated with each other and the process, but in the end,  we believe they came out amazing. Now ask would we do it again….. probably not. The process was quite the experience.

My overall thoughts about wedding planning is it takes a certain a type of bride to plan their own wedding without retaining the services of a planner, because at the end of the day you are making all the decisions. I will say a day of coordinator is a must! My day of coordinator came on the last 75 days before the wedding, wrapping up all the final coordination between vendors, day of timeline, and will be the contact for any and all day of questions, concerns, and unknown events. The overall process went by fast. I didn’t utilize the to do list that the Knot creates for you, but rather went about it my own way, breaking everything into a quarterly “to do list.” I started really planning January of 2017 the date is the first order of business. The venue is the most important part of the wedding aside from your date. Based on your date determine if you want an indoor or outdoor wedding. Selecting a weekday will help you keep cost down, most venues discount weekdays significantly so be mindful of that. All your guest may not attend, but you will be on budget. Do a quick list with your fiancé for guest count and both of should do your very best to stick to that number.

The venue is very important, try to get the most out of your venue. What extras can your venue offer you, without an extra cost? Ask all the important questions about the venue like, how will you be billed, payment schedule, taxes for final payment. Question what if scenarios based on legal binding consequences listed in your contract, capacity within rooms and tables. You do not want any surprise cost, but rather everything up front to stay within your established wedding budget. Know what you can and can’t bring into the venue and what the venue will provide for day of all the way down to the smallest detail, i.e. a display easels. If you are in search of finding a venue that has an onsite caterer or uses a specific caterer be careful. Ask to sample food prior to signing the contract it will be worth it in the end. In my opinion, when multiple services are being contracted from the same company, I believe there are hidden cost and markups. It’s the wedding industry after all and it is inflated to the max for cost. Just be smart about signing a contract and knowing all the details. So if you run into this,  challenge your sales person to provide you an itemized breakdown of all cost for any services being provided. The same goes for all your vendors. This helps you know exactly how you are spending your money and allows you to make the decision of how to cut your cost without sacrificing quality. Remember its your money and do not let vendors pressure you into making fast decisions without all the facts, read the fine print, and question every cost.

My personal goal was to have all my vendors locked down with contracts by the end of the summer. Following up with vendors is a fulltime job, making sure all details are in order. I was not a bride that had a vision of what I wanted my special day to look like, I did a lot of Pinterest, google searches, and exploring IG hashtags to achieve my aesthetic. My advice to brides is to do your best to map out your vision from each vendor’s perspective to get exactly what you want. I created mood boards with décor aesthetic, picture collages of bridal party attire, and sketches of day of tables. Make a list of all the vendors you will need to execute your vision. Next to each vendor list out your expectations and contributions you want from each vendor. Once that clear vision is created you will know up front what your expectations are.  Yes you will have many last-minute brainstorms and changes in each meeting along the way of how to improve or enhance your vision, but from there you can tweak your initial plan.

Next step selecting vendors, before I get into vendors, I know I reference my career a lot, but I find similarities in what I do professionally and event planning. As a professional retail buyer, my role requires me to be extremely organized, detailed, have financial planning abilities, and vendor communication for negotiations daily. Planning your own wedding is not for the unorganized, helpless, and/or lazy. If you do not have a planner, your venue will provide you will a “preferred vendors list.” These are top vendors that the venue has built a great rapport with and trust. Most of these vendors will provide discounts if you ask and reference the venue. Lesson#1 in life and not just planning, EVERYTHING IS NEGOTIATBLE! The worst answer you can get is no. If its not what you want, move on to the next person who is willing to give you what you want.

As a buyer the power of “No” helps you to either know that you’ve reached a supplier’s bottom cost, or they want to close the deal bad enough that they will compromise and accept your cost. Negotiations are a compromise, not a one-sided win, both parties must feel that they have won something.  If you do not decide to go with the vendor preferred vendor list, there are  sites like the Knot and Wedding wire, who have regionally have recognized local businesses within your area that providing exceptional service. Check their ratings not only on these sites listed, but also check google and yelp reviews and make your final decision on their quality of work and professionalism. Set up meetings with your vendors get a better understanding of what their capabilities are and how they can help make your dream day a reality. Once your date, venue, and vendors are established think of what you have left to do. Are things you can take on yourself. Follow your quarterly timeline  and give yourself a cut off date that is achievable for your workload. And remember a day of coordinator is a must have, to ensure that you enjoy your day that you’ve spent so much time planning.

What I am most looking forward to on my wedding day is to just enjoy the moment. Everyone tells me that the day goes by so fast. You blink and it’s over. I really want to just enjoy the special moments on my day with my husband to be. I want us as a couple to mentally block out everything else because this day is special for our relationship as a couple. This day is a celebration of our union and lifelong commitment to one another’s mind, soul, and body! The flowers, the décor, the participants that bear witnesses, food, lights, and pictures don’t matter. What matters is that Derrick and I have found love for one another and have decided to share eternity protecting, growing, and re-energizing our love. I look forward to my husband and I celebrating our most memorable day taking a vow in front of God to remain faithful, patient, loving, understanding, and kind for many blessed years to come. I thank God for blessing me with such a amazing partner that compliments me as I do him. I cannot wait to start our new chapter as soulmates.  In the words of Beyoncé:

“ I don’t have a reason to cry, but I have every reason to smile and I don’t have a reason to lie, when you’re already reading my mind and I don’t have a reason to be, if I can’t be with you. And I don’t need air in my lungs, if I can’t sing your song; No I don’t need hands, if I don’t get to keep you warm; And I don’t really need myself, If I don’t need you; ‘Cause darling I wake up just to sleep with you, I open my eyes so I can see with you and I live so I can Die with you.”