Wedding season is on the horizon, and if your big day is coming up in 2024 (or 2025!), it's never too soon to start thinking about it.
Weddings are like complex puzzles, and fitting each piece into place is not necessarily for amateurs. What are your need to knows? We talked with Jamie Carnes, wedding planner and co-owner of Special Occasions—a local business that provides linen, table, chair, and other related rentals.
Why do engaged couples need a wedding planner? What advice do you have for choosing one?
I am a firm believer in passing your wedding day off to a planner, at a minimum, for the weekend of the wedding. Even as a planner myself, I passed off my weekend to another planner! More than anything, as a couple, you should be able to enjoy your weekend and celebrate without concern for the event side of things. You cannot be having the time of your life if you're worried about the cake being delivered on time or if the caterer is following the timeline.
In addition, if you are a couple with a big vision for your wedding, it makes sense to bring in an expert! Experienced planners are able to guide on timing, event flow, design concepts—all of the aspects that elevate your event and the guest experience. When you think back about the good and the bad of events you have attended in the past, you often remember when you waited too long in a line for your drink, or you didn't know what you were supposed to do next as a guest. These are pieces that we, as planners, think through ahead of time and have a game plan for. Pay attention to details and your guests will walk away feeling welcomed and cared for. And, most importantly, remember what a great time they had!
In terms of advice, I would always tell clients, make sure you book someone you connect with on a personal level. You are going to spend intimate and possibly intense moments with this person. If you don't love them, it will add stress instead of helping relieve it!
What are the latest trends in weddings and why should they be or not be pursued?
One of the biggest trends lately has been letting your bridal party be more relaxed. Let them pick their own gowns and sit with their dates at dinner, for example. The only reason that we used to make sure everyone perfectly matched in the bridal party was for that "one" photo. And, let's be honest, couples rarely use that photo anyway! So, don't put too much emphasis on the bridal party fitting into a certain box. Let them enjoy the day, too!
In terms of being on trend, I would always recommend focusing on what feels like it represents you as a couple. Don't do something or not do something just because of the trends. If you love cake, by all means: Serve cake! If you aren't a cake person, don't feel stuck to it; switch to a dessert table instead.
What is the most exciting part of wedding planning? What is the most challenging?
No two days are ever the same! Part of our job is to determine how we can best serve a couple, and how to achieve that is always different. You never know what is going to happen in the world of events! You can't predict the "thing" that might happen as an obstacle to your day—and I enjoy being the problem solver.
The most challenging piece of the day can be timing that is out of your control. When you have a bridal party in a limo, and there ends up being a traffic delay, you have to start adjusting vendors, dinner times, music schedules, etc. If there is a lot of wind outside, and it takes the photographer longer to get great photos because dresses and veils aren't cooperating, you start to determine what other photos can be moved back to after dinner, or how you can have people on deck to make up time. Getting creative with the timing and making the right adjustments can definitely be challenging!
What is the biggest mistake you see couples making with their wedding plans?
Letting other people get in your head. Your wedding day should be about the two of you coming together, and how you and your people can best celebrate that. I encourage clients to listen and be open, but also remember that they do not need to accommodate everyone's ideas and suggestions.
What tips do you have for couples planning a wedding?
Spend time thinking about the wedding from your guests' perspectives. As much as they are there to celebrate you, think through their timing and experience. It is wonderful if you have a great time on your wedding day (and you should!), but if your guests feel forgotten about, or not cared for, the whole day hasn't truly come together. Think through how long guests are waiting during cocktail hour while you take photos, or how long speeches will go before guests are served food. All of these pieces make a difference in how a guest can celebrate along with you.
What else are you dying to tell me?
We are not JLo in "The Wedding Planner." Being a professional wedding planner means that we are usually pulling 12–16-hour days so we can be present for our clients. And, the job isn't always pretty! It also means we are going to do anything and everything that needs to happen. Sometimes, that is hauling around tables and chairs, cutting a wedding cake, or serving you a glass of champagne. We pick up all of the pieces, usually while wearing a cocktail dress and heels!
Head to Special Occasions to work with a pro planner.
Allison Kay Bannister has been a West Michigan resident since 1987 and a professional writer since 2002. A GVSU alumna, she launched her own freelance writing business in 2017. Allison is a cookie connoisseur, word nerd, aspiring gardener, and metastatic breast cancer thriver who loves traveling in Michigan and beyond, and enjoys art, world cuisine, wine, music, and making homemade preserves.
This article originally appeared at REVUE West Michigan, a Serendipity Publication.