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Wedding Planning 

Don't Forget the Checklist

Hudson Valley Ceremonies’ Jeanne Stark’s idea for a seating chart, drawn up by a bridesmaid.

Hillary Harvey

Hudson Valley Ceremonies’ Jeanne Stark’s idea for a seating chart, drawn up by a bridesmaid.

When planning a wedding or commitment ceremony, working with a planner or scrupulously plotting out the details of the event are a key to success.

You're Engaged. Now What?

After that engagement high wears off, after you've officially updated your Facebook status and can now say the word fiancé without breaking into a full-on sweat, it's time to start thinking about actually planning the wedding.

For some couples this can be fun (bands, menus tastings, and honeymoon searches!) and for others it's worse than the headache after the bachelor party (just wait).

Unless you plan on a quickie at the local courthouse, an organized and detailed checklist is essential for planning any event. Think of a wedding or commitment ceremony as the biggest party you've planned and multiply that by a thousand. Needless to say, organization is key.

There comes a time to decide exactly who will be planning your wedding. You'll need help and it wouldn't be fair to make your wedding party take on the brunt of the work. And surely you don't want your mother-in-law breathing down your neck about those centerpieces, right? When it comes down to brass tacks, realistic options include a wedding planner, day-of coordinator, and going the DIY route (this means you and your new better half). Whatever option you choose, organization and careful planning are sure to make your wedding a huge success.

Leaving it to the Pros

Depending on your personality, timeline, and budget, hiring a wedding planner is often the best option for many couples. This quells the nerves, puts planning into the expert's hands, and often can save the couple money. Wedding planners almost always have connections to vendors with whom they work with at weddings, put their trust in, and offer their services at a discount. What this means for the couple is that they will get a group of vendors that work well together like a well-oiled machine all at benefit of a discount and a professional to guide you along the way to boot.

Mary Beth Halpin, owner of Events by MB, says, "The benefit of having a planner is that they do this consonantly and consistently." Halpin, who offers both full-service planning and day-of coordination, says that, "For most couples, this is not only their first wedding, but the first event that they've planned. They don't have to give up control or vision, but get to enjoy their engagement and not stress."

You Can Do It (with a Bottle of Wine or Two)

Going the DIY route is the choice of many couples. Jeanne Stark, owner of Hudson Valley Ceremonies, a planner who's been in business for over 20 years, says, "Not everyone needs a wedding planner. They can definitely save you money by steering you to vendors who work with your style and budget." Stark's advice for those couples who don't need or use a planner is "to set a realistic budget and then to start plugging in the professionals that will work with that along the way." Another must for DIYers: Get a good binder and utilize an online checklist. You can find one on most wedding websites (such as TheKnot.com) that will send an almost heart attack–inducing, but ever-so-necessary weekly reminders of exactly what to do and when. Follow this as it pertains to your event and you'll stay on track and save yourself more than one planning headache. If you didn't know that booking your venue about a year in advance was the norm, then a checklist (or losing your dream reception hall) is the easiest way to learn that. Your binder or hands-on planner will serve to keep you organized and can easily be toted around when you want to share your vision and ideas with vendors. These can be found in any bookstore. It wouldn't hurt to check out a variety of planning books at your local library, as antiquated as it may sound. For a daily dose of inspiration, you can find countless online blogs that will undoubtedly cut down on work productivity.

First Things First

You may have dreamed about this moment your entire life and have a vision of exactly what you imagine when making this commitment—or you may have never given a thought as to what type of ceremony you'd like to have. Whether you're working with a planner or doing it yourself, the first thing to check off your list is to envision an overall style for your event. Do you want a formal affair in a ballroom with a lavish cocktail hour and a live band? A simple backyard gathering with locally sourced food? Perhaps it's a vintage-inspired event with big-band music, a vintage dress and old-fashioned cocktails. Whatever your vision may be, it's important to set the tone for your event so that you can easily move forward with any other decisions.

click to enlarge Jill McDermid and Erik Hokanson’s Labor Day weekend wedding in Marbletown. Photography by Hillary Harvey; wedding planning by Jeanne Stark of Hudson Valley Ceremonies; flowers by Floral Fantasies by Sara; catering by Bridge Creek Caterers; music by The Saints of Swing. - HILLARY HARVEY
  • Hillary Harvey
  • Jill McDermid and Erik Hokanson’s Labor Day weekend wedding in Marbletown. Photography by Hillary Harvey; wedding planning by Jeanne Stark of Hudson Valley Ceremonies; flowers by Floral Fantasies by Sara; catering by Bridge Creek Caterers; music by The Saints of Swing.

It's All About the Benjamins

After you've established your overall style or theme, you'll need to determine a budget. Setting a budget for your wedding will help to establish exactly what vendors that you're able to use and allow you to allot money to what's most important to you to determine your vision. Gone are the days of the groom's parents paying for only for the rehearsal dinner and bride's bouquet (though they're certainly welcome to do so), and it's not unheard of for a couple to pay for their own wedding entirely. If money is offered and you're willing to accept it graciously (along with the opinions and guest list that may accompany the gift), then it's time to get to work on allocating your budget. For example, if photography is of the upmost importance, then you might want to skip the elaborate ice sculpture during the cocktail hour if that could break the bank. And don't forget the pre- and postwedding events that have become almost requisite for most weddings: Rehearsal dinners, postwedding brunches and the honeymoon should be factored into budget planning early if they're part of your lineup. It's important to be a good host, but you should never start a marriage going into debt for your wedding. Remember that it's perfectly acceptable to have a rehearsal dinner over pizza and beers.

He's More Than a Wedding Singer

If you're working with a wedding planner they'll help you to secure all of your vendors within your budget. Stark says that her company, Hudson Valley Ceremonies, has a database of over 4,200 vendors, but says, "We have really, really great relationships with some of these professionals that we know will bend over backwards for couples. The same vendors get to know each other at weddings and we'll give each other hugs." If you're DIYing, then you'll need to do your research and book on your own. Online reviews and recommendations from recently married friends and family are a fantastic ways to find good vendors. Local bridal shows are also another option to find and meet a large amount of wedding professionals in one concentrated area. They often offer discounts during these events as well, but it's important not to book on price alone. Meshing with your vendors is more important than you might imagine. Think about this before booking; you want to have good rapport with your photographer and feel comfortable in their presence. It will make for a wedding day that's easygoing and will show in your photos. The same goes for your officiant (who can easily be an ordained friend or family member). This event should feel special and meaningful and your vendors should help to reflect that.

RESOURCES

Bridge Creek Catering www.bridgecreekcatering.com

Cinderella 4 a Day www.cinderella4aday.com

Events by MB www.meetingsbymb.com

Floral Fantasies by Sara www.floralfantasiesbysara.com

Hillary Harvey Photography www.hillaryharvey.com

Hudson Valley Ceremonies www.hudsonvalleyceremonies.com

Hudson Valley Weddings www.hudsonvalleyweddings.com

The Knot www.theknot.com

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