Planning Your Own Wedding: When Your Heart Is Too In It

Planning your own wedding IS possible.

I know, it is wild for me to say that as I run a planning business, but here’s the thing: I did it. I planned my own wedding, before I ventured into my event schooling, when I was as inexperienced as most people who try to plan their own event (not that that is the case for everyone planning their wedding).

So, I get it! You want your day to reflect your wishes and you are confident that you can make that happen yourself. Logistically, maybe you can (See: Should you hire a planner?). So, we’ve talked about the logistics before, but there is a whole other side to think about before you decide to plan your own wedding: Your emotions.

Even if you have the skillset to plan your own wedding, sometimes you need someone who is unbiased to help you focus and hone in on the practical, less-dreamy side of things.

In simpler terms:

You may not be the best person to plan your best day.

In my own experience, there are mistakes I made for my wedding that were not huge errors in planning, but rather errors in my own judgement because I was clouded by my vision for my “perfect day”.

I bought two wedding dresses- not because I wanted to do a dress switch, but because I didn’t think through my venue, my personality, and my comfort level before I purchased the first one.

Our wedding was freezing, and yet I went ahead with my fully outdoor ceremony with no heaters because I visually liked it better than my backup plan. I wanted to keep my reception outside, too, and we had to do a last minute switch indoors that was only made possible by SO many friends and family members that helped us literally move things around.

Those are the biggest ones, but there were mistakes here and there that also could have been avoided by having an impartial sounding board for my big decisions.

Now, I also realize that admitting these things probably doesn’t make me sound like the most competent planner. But again, we had backup plans and things set up to run perfectly in the first place, I just didn’t want to admit that my day couldn’t go how I had envisioned it and give the go ahead for the switched to be made, because my heart was too involved in the planning process to give up my vision.

At the end of the day, your wedding will be perfect for you. Mistakes and all, it will be a day that you remember going exactly how it was meant to go. My hope for you is that you will know that it is not a process meant to be done alone, whether that means you enlist someone for partial planning or full service planning.

You can see my services here, and I am always open to chatting through your plans to see if we are a good fit for each other. Your wedding should reflect YOU, my job is to make sure it does that without sacrificing any of the more practical details.

How to: Pick Your Event Vendors

Picking your vendors is definitively one of the more challenging parts of planning your event. Some vendors may be more obvious to you- like picking that barn venue you have had your eye on for years- but others can be a little more complex when it seems they are all offering the same thing, or when you just aren’t quite sure what you want yet.

I will be the first to admit that this isn’t a comprehensive list of all the things you should do before you hire your vendors-there are about a million questions you should be asking each and every one of them before you sign any papers (blog post to come 😉). However, if you are looking for a starting point of how to narrow down the sea of vendors available to you, this list should help.

Budget

This is probably obvious, but find out pricing of vendors before falling in love with their work when you can. If you love the vendor and they are on or below budget, continue on with the rest of these considerations, but also keep in mind that your budget allocations should be somewhat flexible. This doesn’t mean your overall budget needs to go up, but if you have your heart set on a venue that is more than you allocated to that expense, as long as you are okay with cutting back in another area, you don’t have to completely rule the dream venue out.

Location

The ease of which you can hire vendors near your event location depends a lot on where you decide to host the event. Just keep in mind that if a vendor does not typically service events in your area, there may be costs associated with them travelling to the event location. This is not always the case, but when possible it is usually best to hire vendors within the area. This will also help things run more smoothly on the day of, as they will likely be familiar with the venue or the area you are hosting the event in.

Personality

This is a pretty important one. You may not be overly concerned with the personality of your vendors, but when you are trying to enjoy a special day, there is nothing you want less than nitpicky vendors, or people that just don’t jive with your vision or personality. Make sure that you meet with your vendors in person (or at the very least over the phone) before you hire them so you can be sure they are someone you know you will communicate and get along well with.

Style

Most vendors have a specific style of the services that they offer. For example, venues can vary in style from a rustic barn venue to a sleek modern hotel venue and pretty much anywhere in between. This is the same for every type of vendor- photographers can have edgy or airy styles, caterers may serve formal plated dinners or barbeque style truck food, and so on. Hiring vendors that specialize in the style you want captured on your event date is key to ensuring your day looks the way you envisioned. Though it is sometimes possible to transform an event space or ask a vendor to do something in a specific style, it tends to be best to choose vendors that are experts in the style you are looking for, so that you know they get your vision and are able to capture it.

Reviews/References

Reviews and references can be super helpful for ease of mind, and to get to know a bit of behind the scenes of how a vendor works and communicates throughout the planning process. If you can get a phone number of a previous client from a vendor, that is perfect so you can ask them any questions you have about their side of working with the vendor. Another good reference is to look at the vendor’s social media profiles to see if they fit your vision (tagged photos are great to see the unstaged photos of real events). Sometimes vendors are just starting out and don’t have much experience to share with you. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, you will just want to be sure that you align with the vendor’s personality and the services they are offering you.

Please, Get Contracts

Get everything in writing, read the fine print, and make sure that you ask questions if you aren’t sure about something. You will be paying these vendors for their services and you want to make sure that you are getting all the services you need, and that you know what it will be costing you.

It can be overwhelming seeing how many vendors are available to you. This list should help you narrow your choices down so that you can meet with vendors and begin putting together your dream day.

The Average Wedding Day Timeline

Every wedding is unique in its priorities and therefore its overall timeline. Some couples choose to focus heavily on traditions during the ceremony making it longer, while other couples choose to keep it simple and short. Both options can be captivating and memorable, but the differences definitely impact the overall timeline of your wedding day. This same idea can be translated into getting ready, photo sessions, and your reception- everything in your timeline is dependent on how you personalize your day. Because of this, finding a timeline template for your day that fits with your exact vision can be difficult. If you hire a planner, they will most likely create your timeline for you in a way that is tailored to your day and ensures you have the best amount of time set out for each portion of your event. On the other hand, if a planner simply isn’t in your budget or your planner doesn’t offer this service, you may be looking for a place to start getting an idea of what your timeline could look like (congrats, you found it!).

Rather than creating an hour by hour timeline that can’t be translated to every couple’s wedding, I have created a basic list with each wedding day segment and how long it takes on average. This way, you can take these basic guidelines and apply them to your wedding by cutting out or adding in any segment, no matter what you want your day to look like.

Getting Ready/ Pre- Ceremony (5-7 hrs):

Bridal Hair and Makeup: Hair should take between 45m-1.5hrs (your hairdresser will be able to give you a better estimate once they know what style you are looking for), and makeup takes about 30m-1hr.

Bridesmaids Hair and Makeup: About 30m-1hr per bridesmaid should be enough, but this depends on how many bridesmaids to artists as well as the complexity of each look.

Getting dressed: 15-20m depending on photos.

Groom & Groomsmen: The men need only about 30m-1hr depending on what they need to do the morning of (usually it is just getting dressed, a few photos, and maybe shaving, so this is plenty of time).

Photos: 30m-1hr before the ceremony should be allotted for any bridal portraits as well as photos of the bride with her maids and the groom with his men

First look: If you are doing a first look you want to allot 1-1.5 hrs, depending again on how much time you need for photos (your photographer will be able to tell you how much time they need for your shots)

Ready to go: Though it seems like a silly thing, you want to give yourself 30m on the timeline before the ceremony begins to just be ready. This will give you extra time in case anything takes a little longer than expected so that your ceremony can still start on time. If you would like, this time can also be used to snap a few photos since everyone will be ready to go.

Ceremony (20m-1hr):

This depends pretty heavily on what traditions you want to include, and since they are so vast, having a chat with your officiant or planner will give you a good idea of how long each piece that you want to include will take. As a general rule, a simple ceremony with just a processional, welcome, vows, ring exchange, kiss, and then recessional will take 20-30m, and each tradition or ceremony you add after that usually takes about 5-10m.

Family and Bridal Party Photos (45m-1hr):

You want this step to go as fast as possible, as these are more formal photos that don’t tend to get looked at quite as often as the more creative portraits. Giving yourself 20-30m for family photos, and then another 20-30m for bridal party photos will be plenty of time as long as everyone knows they need to stick around for the photos.

Cocktail Hour (1-1.5hrs):

Some people choose to skip this step all together, especially if you have already done your portraits during a first look, but to allow more time for photos, having a cocktail hour where your guests can mingle is a good idea. Just make sure you don’t go over the 1.5hr mark, or your guests will start to get a little antsy,

Reception (4-6hrs):

Grand entrance: This step only takes about 5m, which gives you and your party time to enter and seat yourselves.

Meal: You want about 20-30m per course, this will give your guests enough time to chat and still enjoy each course.

Speeches/Toasts: Give each person making a toast a 5 minute limit (or better, give them a 3 or 4 minute limit, but allot 5m each expecting them to go over). You should have no more than 8 speeches (40m), but if you have this many, try to space them out if you can.

First dances: You want to allot 5m each for m/s, f/d, and first dance, which brings you to 15m.

Cake cutting: This only takes about 5m, and that gives you enough time to snap a few photos while doing so.

Bouquet/Garter toss: Give yourselves 5m each if you are including this step.

Dancing: You want to have at least 1.5hrs for dancing if you are having it, but this step can really go on as long as you like.

Grand exit: Depending on what you are doing for your exit, this step takes between 5-15m to get everyone ready and have you on your way.

There you have it! These are all the steps that you will have to include in your timeline, however, it is important to note that there are a lot of other steps going on within the set up (and tear down) of your event. This should be something your vendors will be able to coordinate, but if you want to have the vendor steps on your timeline as well, you can always chat with them to see how long they need for each portion of their tasks. Hopefully this was helpful to your planning, but if the task seems a little overwhelming once you see it on paper, feel free to use my Contact page to shoot me an email, as I offer timeline creation as a separate service if you are needing a little help!

Unique Shower Ideas

There are a lot of traditions surrounding showers, but for some people, these traditions just don’t fit with their personality or event vision. Most commonly, showers are held to celebrate upcoming weddings or new children. While some people choose not to host showers at all (which is also a totally viable option!), they can be a great way to socialize and catch up with people before your big life event. A traditional shower isn’t for everyone though, so I have compiled a list of ideas to help you through creating something a little more unique for your event.

1. Make it a couple’s shower!

Showers traditionally only involve female guests. If you host a couples shower there will be more people to enjoy the party, and guests who don’t know anyone else will have someone to tag along with.

2. Host it outside the home.

Often times, showers are hosted from the guest of honor or one of their family or friend’s homes. This is a great option to save costs and make the shower feel cozy and personal, but if you want a more unique option, try hosting it somewhere a little different. The world is your oyster when it comes to choosing a space, but some to think about include arcades, bowling alleys, or the beach.

3. Base the shower around an activity.

This can somewhat involve the previous point, as some activities flow naturally with where the event is held. But even if you don’t want to bring the event outside the home, you can still incorporate different activities than those at a typical shower. Hosting a pool party or craft day or bringing in entertainment like someone to host a cooking class, wine tasting, paint party are all great ideas.

4. If you want shower games, find DIFFERENT options.

If you want to spice it up a bit, try to find games that aren’t your typical toilet paper wedding dress or forbidden words clothespins (if you know, you know). There are endless shower games that you can find online, or better yet, you could make one up yourself.

5. Focus on charity if you have everything you need.

This option is becoming a tad more popular, especially for larger main events like weddings, but it can be a great option for your smaller events as well. Some people already have the things they need to feel ready for their next endeavor, and if so, asking for donations to charity can be a great alternative to gifts. Just be aware that some people will likely still want to give you a traditional gift and that is okay too!

6. Focus your registry on experiences.

There are a lot of ways to add experience gifts to your registry online, or to let guests know that you would prefer experience gifts rather than physical gifts. Guests can then choose the things off your registry or choose other things they think you would enjoy. Some options you might want to consider adding to your registry are spa vouchers, restaurant gift cards, or cleaning services.

7. Request gifts by theme.

Experience gifts are one example of this, but there are tons of different options to choose from when it comes to asking for gifts by theme. This option can also be helpful if you don’t need much, because you can ask for gifts that are focused on exactly the areas you need. For example, you can ask for travel themed gifts, gifts focused on the new mama instead of the babe, books instead of cards, etc.

Hopefully this list gave you a few ideas on how to diversify your shower experience. Remember to make it your own and have fun with it!

How To: Incorporate Your Event Theme

If you’ve seen my last post (Your Event Theme: Where to Begin), you know a bit already about developing and creating a cohesive theme that reflects your vision for your event. After developing an idea for your theme, the next step is to think of how you can tie it in to various areas of your event. You may have already come up with some ideas of how to do this while deciding on your theme- think of any inspiration photos that helped you decide on your theme, there could be aspects of your event right there!

It is important to find ways that you can involve your theme in most or all parts of your event to create a cohesive experience for you and your guests. Here are some areas you might want to consider, with some examples to help you along:

Venue: Certain venues can play a large role in dictating theme, while others offer more of a blank slate to build your theme upon. You will want to choose a venue while keeping your theme in mind, or the opposite if you come across your venue before deciding on a theme.

An example: An old castle can go a long way when trying to portray a fairy tale theme.

Stationery: One of the easiest ways to incorporate theme is through your stationery, whether that involves invitations, escort cards, menus, etc. Stationery can be widely customized with different textures, fonts, images, wording, and so much more.

An example: You are hosting a garden party themed shower, so you print the invitations on biodegradable seed paper.

Florals: While many types and colours of floral arrangements are not exclusive to certain themes, there are certainly ways to have your florals point to your theme specifically. It also helps to think of the vessels that will be holding any florals being used as décor, as these containers come in varying types that can be applied to your theme.

An example: Wildflowers are a great addition to a laid back, rustic theme.

Attire: Your attire as well as guest attire can contribute to the theme and formality of your event, especially in the case of parties that call for costume wear.

An example: If you are hosting a formal masquerade party, what guests wear to your event will have a big impact on how the theme comes across.

Food: Food is often left not reflecting the theme, but it doesn’t have to be that way. By incorporating foods that relate to your theme, guests will feel truly involved in the theme of your event. Your cake is a great way to incorporate your theme as well.

An example: Having a picnic family reunion where each household brings a favourite dish (and the story behind it!) is a great way to get conversation going and remind guests the reason behind the event.

Music: Music, similarly to floral elements, is not something that is exclusive to one theme. Most events with dancing will play some current hits to get people on the dance floor, though these songs may not relate directly to the event theme. That being said, having music that reflects your theme is definitely possible, and can add to the overall flow of your event.

An example: A 70s themed anniversary party may play some music from the decade, while playing other current songs that reflect the sounds and style of that decades music.

Entertainment: Your theme can easily be translated into the types of entertainment you may have at your event. Whether your entertainment involves party games, live performances, or anything else you can imagine, it will likely naturally reflect the theme of your event. It is also good to keep in mind that entertainment does not always have to be costly, as there are many simple ways to entertain guests that don’t involve spending a big portion of your budget.

An example: A weekend camping themed retreat may involve outdoor games such as cornhole and ultimate frisbee.

Lighting: Lighting can be one of the easiest ways to make or break an event. It is important to consider the atmosphere you want to create for your event when choosing the lighting style that will best go along with your theme.

An example: If you are hosting a romantic, industrial themed wedding, hanging Edison bulbs or other warm, visible lighting will help communicate your theme.

Linens: Linens can be great for introducing colours and textures that go along with your theme.

An example: If you are hosting a mermaid themed birthday party, having cream sequined tablecloths with purple and teal napkins and other accents will go a long way.

Decorative Objects: Décor that will be placed around your event can make a great addition to the overall theme and feeling that is in your event space. These kinds of decorative objects can be great on a guest book table, cake table, or anywhere else that needs a little something to look perfect for your event.

An example: Having a stack of old books with a vintage trinket on top on a guest book table is a great addition at a vintage themed wedding.

Creating an event theme can be a difficult process, so once you have developed a theme that you love, you want to be sure that it is well translated throughout your event. There are so many areas and ways to incorporate your theme, and I hope this post got you thinking of a few areas you may not have previously thought of doing so!

Your Event Theme: Where to Begin

As an event designer and planner, I have the privilege of creating and seeing so many types of beautiful events. Bringing out people’s personalities within their event is something that I strive for in many creative ways to create the unique effect the client wants for theirevent.

Choosing an event theme comes naturally for some events. Think of hosting a backyard barbeque, for example. Though there are many ways to create a unique theme for this, a pretty common theme would involve red and white checkered linens, picnic tables, lawn games, etc. With certain events, like weddings and birthday parties, themes can be a bit more difficult to decide on. There are key elements that can contribute to the theme of these events, however they can typically be personalized to any theme that you decide on. This makes deciding on a theme for these events a tad more difficult, as there is such a wide variety of options that include anything you could dream of.

These days, there is a vast array of resources available to browse event trends and ideas, and these can give you ideas for what you want your event to look and feel like. Sometimes having these platforms available to you can be a great help in identifying your likes and dislikes when it comes to event themes, décor, colours, attire, etc. On the other hand, it can sometimes be confusing and overwhelming to have so many ideas available to you.

A planner can help develop your interests and ideas into a cohesive theme. Often times, these themes will fall into a few categories, such as rustic, modern, bohemian, and so on, but these themes can also overlap and this is what creates a unique event personalized to you.

There are a few main things to think about when pondering ideas for your theme:

Colour Palette- What colours would you love to incorporate into your event? What colours do you absolutely not want to incorporate?

Venue- Is there a specific style of venue you want? Maybe a barn, rooftop, café?

Season- What season do you want to hold your event in? Is there a season or date that holds meaning to you and your event?

Age group: Who is your event for? Is it adults only or family oriented?

Event purpose: What are you hosting the event for? Is it a wedding, birthday party, family reunion?

Having a few images or ideas ironed out when you first meet with your event planner is key to helping us be able to iron out what you want the style and theme of your event to be. Even if you have no idea when you first meet your planner, we are trained to be able to pull from your personality, likes and dislikes, and any images you show us to create a theme tailored to your event.

Should you hire a planner?

There are many ways that event planners can assist you in creating your dream event. However, if you aren’t confident that you want to hire a planner, here are some key things to think about to help you decide.

Budget: Often times, hiring a planner can actually save you money because of the connections they have with vendors. However, if your budget is tight, you may just not reasonably be able to hire a planner and still have room in your budget for the other things you want at your event.

Organization: Maybe you love organization and planning, and the idea of planning a large event excites you! In this case, you can probably manage a simple wedding or event with the help of friends and family. If your event has a lot of vendors and a lot of details to pay attention to, you might want a planner to ensure you don’t miss out on anything you know you want for your event. If you aren’t the most efficient when it comes to being organized and keeping a schedule, or if you want an extra pair of eyes to make sure you haven’t missed a step, a planner is going to save you a lot of time and effort.

Clerical Work: Planning a wedding involves a lot of communication with a lot of people. If you like clerical work, you might not find it daunting to communicate with many vendors at the same time. On the other hand, if you don’t enjoy checking emails, reading contracts, and keeping up with other forms of communication, it might be nice to have a planner who can take care of the majority of these tasks for you.

Vision: If you don’t have a clear vision of what you want your event to look like, having a planner especially in the beginning stages of planning can be key. Planners are trained to know how to creatively involve your interests and create a unique event that reflects your personality. You may already have a Pinterest board full of ideas, and in that case, you might be okay tackling those DIYs yourself to create your vision.

Other Responsibilities: Life gets busy, and if you have full time work or anything else that takes up the majority of your time, it might just not be practical to set aside a few hours a day to plan your event. Hiring a planner who has the time and knows how to work efficiently will be key to hosting the event you have been dreaming of.

Day-Of: As a general rule, it is always a good idea to have someone other than yourself that vendors or guests can come to with any questions on the day of the event. Maybe you have someone responsible close to you that could handle this task, but if you can’t think of anyone, or if you want your close friends and family to be able to relax and enjoy your event, it would be a good idea to hire a planner or coordinator, at least for the day of the event.

Hiring a planner is never a bad idea, as there are always ways that a planner can assist you and things that a planner may know that you might not think of. Hopefully, if you have been unsure of whether or not to hire a planner, this list gave you a little bit of clarity and you are closer to making your decision!

Budget’s tight? Here are the first things to cut from your event.

1. Your Guest List- If you want to save money on your event, consider cutting that guest list down. We all know events are expensive, and usually a higher guest list means a higher cost.

2. Stationery- For the most part, your guests won’t be keeping your stationery after the event. You can always cut down on stationery costs by reducing the amount of stationery you will have at your event, or by choosing simpler designs for the pieces you need. Evites are also becoming a more popular option, so if you are open to going this route you can save hundreds on postage and stationery fees.

3. Cake- You can have your elaborate dream cake displayed, but if you want to cut costs, consider having a few fake tiers- professional bakers will be familiar with arranging these to look seamless- and then serving slab cakes from the kitchen.

4. Florals- Don’t worry, I am not telling you that you can’t have any flowers at your wedding! However, there are many flower options for more affordable arrangements, and very often there are non-floral centerpiece and décor options that will suit your theme.

5. Alcohol- This is a huge budget-eater, and there are a few options for how you can lower the cost, such as having a toonie bar instead of an open bar, or serving just wine and signature drinks with dinner.

Ultimately, your priorities for your event will be unique to your vision for the day, but there are always options to lower costs while still hosting a beautiful event!

A Little Bit About Me

Planning special events can be incredibly personal, and if you are anything like me, it helps to get to know someone’s personality before you decide whether you want to work with them! The purpose of this post is to tell you a bit about myself, both the personal and business sides, so you can get a feel for who you will be sharing these special parts of your life with.

I grew up in a big family in the suburbs with my parents and 4 siblings. This made me quite the people person, and helped me to relate to people of varying ages and beliefs. Even though I love spending time around people, I am an introvert at heart and I love to recharge by watching tv or reading a good book with a nice cup of tea. I am obsessed with watermelon, my cat, Pickles, and I will never not want a good fruit pie. I think my jokes are hilarious, and my husband laughs to make me feel better about them. I love love, and I think everyone deserves to be loved and accepted for what makes them who they are.

A little over a year ago, I married my amazing husband Jake. We planned a fully outdoor wedding at the end of April and it ended up being one of the coldest days that month (hello snow). We ended up having to move our reception indoors last minute, and with the help of our amazing family and friends, everything turned out even better than we could have hoped. Our wedding taught me that no matter how worried you are of the things that can go wrong, your day will turn out exactly how it should, even if it doesn’t go exactly as planned.

As a planner, it is my job-among a million other things- to make sure there are backup plans in place, and to deal with any changes that need to happen so you can sit back and enjoy your day. Of course, if it is something as big as a venue change on the day of like mine was, you will be part of that decision, but for the most part, my job is to make sure that you aren’t aware of any problems until they are resolved. My goal in planning your event is to give you the day YOU are dreaming of. There may be suggestions I can give and advice I can offer when asked, but my dream as a planner is to ensure that we are executing your dream day and not anyone else’s. My hope for my business is that I can help those planning to host events to be able to be present on the day of their event, so they can have memories of the feelings that were there, the people that they talked to, and so much more. Planning an event yourself is definitely possible- though it is a lot of work- but when you plan your own event you too often end up missing out on experiencing it because you are busy managing things as the day unfolds. I want to help you by achieving your vision through the planning process, and then letting you step back on the day of to enjoy all that we have planned.

I hope that reading this has helped you to get to know me a bit better, and to help you understand my dream for planning your event with you!

Thanks for reading,

Jenna ❤