Jessica has been recognized as a preferred vendor to work with by her industry peers, earned TheKnot.com’s Best of Weddings award 9 times, and been inducted into TheKnot.com Hall of Fame. Jessica is a multi-award-winning photographer, a leader in her industry, and an educator to up-and-coming photographers through her Embark Retreat.
Dear 2017 brides –
Do you need help? Are you looking for a wedding expert to guide you, help you out and make sense of planning your wedding day?! Of course you are – it’s overwhelming, right? I’m so excited to have another Austin wedding vendor spotlight with Uptown Events & Travel owner, Jessica Upton! She mentioned to me that many brides (and MOB/grooms/etc) often are not sure what level of help they need when they start planning their perfect wedding day. So, without further ado, here’s some information and clarification from Jessica Upton on figuring out the level of help you need! Congratulations on planning your wedding and feel free to share this article with any friends you know in the same boat! – Jessica Frey
A few quick things about Jessica & Uptown Events & Travel:
As a wedding planner for over eight years and having worked with hundreds of couples, I can not count the number of times I’ve been asked- what exactly do you do? This is a completely understandable question, as most people I work with have never planned a wedding before and don’t know what is “normal” in the planning process. So I thought I’d take the time to explain the services typically offered by a planning company and the differences between a day-of or month-of coordinator, partial planning and full service planning.
You may have heard of a “day-of coordinator”. The idea of a “day-of coordinator” may lead you to assume you are hiring someone to show up on the day of your wedding and make sure everything you have planned over the past year is executed perfectly. This is practically impossible and if anyone tries to tell you otherwise, run in the other direction! They are most likely highly unexperienced and have know idea what it takes to make your special day run smoothly. A much more realistic term/phrase is a “month-of coordinator”.
Lets take a step back for a second…. Imagine hiring a lawyer to represent you in a trial and never meeting with them or having in-depth conversation. You just hire them to show up the day-of and expect them to win the trial for you with no prior knowledge of your specific situation. I guess to be totally fair, it isn’t completely impossible for the lawyer to win your trial, however it is highly unlikely s/he will be successful. To provide the best possible outcome, you expect the lawyer to meet with you to discuss your situation, reach out to any involved parties that may have helpful information that will aid in winning your case, and put together a game plan and strategy for representing you in trial.
The same goes for hiring a wedding coordinator! You need to have an detailed conversation with your coordinator (and possibly multiple conversations) to discuss all of your expectations. Your coordinator needs to communicate with the vendors you’ve hired to ensure a full understanding of what has been agreed upon. And your coordinator should put together a day-of timeline that includes all times specified in your vendor contracts and provide that timeline to your vendors so everyone is aware of the game plan for the day. These are all the basics of what a “month-of coordinator” should do for you.
At Uptown, we take it a few steps further. From the day you hire us, we set you up for success. Upon booking, we provide you with a checklist of important tasks to help keep you on track throughout the planning process, and if you still need help selecting vendors, we create a customized list of recommended vendors based upon your style and budget for you to contact. The key point being- custom! We don’t give you a generic list that gets handed out to everyone, no matter the style or budget. We want to ensure the vendors we recommend are a good fit for you.
These two lists will set up you for a smooth planning process from the start!
As you get to a month-out from your big day, we will want to attend a walk through at your venue to discuss the layout and rain plan. From this meeting we will create a floor plan diagram and a list of all the important items needed for your wedding- detailing who is providing, setting up, breaking down & taking the items at the end of the night. We attend your ceremony rehearsal the day-before and cue your bridal party and family to ensure everyone knows how the ceremony will flow. The day-of your wedding we include the following:
Distribute and pin bridal party and family flowers prior to the ceremony
Assist with reception site decorating
Set-up wedding programs and guest book in proper place
Layout place cards, table numbers, favors, menu cards, seating chart, champagne flutes and cake knife
Bustle wedding gown after the ceremony
Greet your guests at the reception and offer any necessary directions on finding their seats
Cue your grand entrance into the reception
Coordinate agenda of the evening (toasts, 1st dance, cake cutting, bouquet/garter toss)
Distribute “day of” payments or gratuities to vendors in labelled envelopes
Assist in lining up the wedding guests and distributing exit items
Confirm with Best Man and Maid of Honor on transporting Bride and Groom’s luggage/personal items
Prepare to-go box of reception meal and slice of wedding cake to take with you
Package the anniversary cake to be taken home
Load gifts and personal items (bouquet, cake topper, guest book) into the assigned family vehicle
Oversee vendor clean-up and load out
And we bring our wedding day emergency kit (super glue, bobby pins, etc.)
Month-of Coordination is the most cost effective way to have a professional to coordinate your wedding. I highly recommend this service for couples with budgets ranging from 20K-30K.
Partial Planning is the next step up and is perfect for you if you need help with more than just the month-of, but do want to be pretty hands on and involved in your own planning. This service typically will include more assistance in the beginning stages of planning. So if you’re newly engaged and highly overwhelmed, this may be the right service for you.
Please note that specific services included in Partial Planning can vary from company to company, so I definitely recommend getting a full description from each company you contact, so you can closely compare apples to apples. Generally everything that comes included in the month-of coordination service will also be included in Partial Planning.
At Uptown, upon booking our Partial Planning Service we work with you to create a pricing estimate based upon your personal budget. Once a budget spreadsheet has been created, we then begin conversations about what vendors we suggest for your style. We will propose 2-3 options per vendor category to help you narrow down your options. Once you’ve reviewed the options we’ve provided, we will aid you in the process of booking your key vendors. (Key vendors to include: floral, catering, photography, ceremony & reception music)
We will schedule initial vendor meetings for you to interview them and decide who you’d like to move forward with hiring. Next we will negotiate the contracts and secure the key vendors. Also included in this service are the following:
Arrange your hotel block at your host hotel
Arrange your transportation and manage the logistics
And what we find our brides most appreciate is– we provide you with email updates once a month on wedding tasks that need to be completed. So no need to worry that you’re falling behind on anything, as we will keep you on track! I recommend this service for couples with budgets ranging from 30K-40K.
Full Service Planning
Last but certainly not least, is Full Service Planning. Although this is the most expensive option, it is the option that will ensure you have the least amount of stress while planning the wedding of your dreams. Most couples with budgets above 40K tend to hire a Full Service Planner as this service provides you with a wedding planning professional from the day you get engaged, to the day you say “I Do!”. At Uptown, your Full Service Planner will provide all the services included in both month-of and partial planning + the following:
Schedule and attend venue site tours to aid in selection
Secure all vendors. Vendors to include: Ceremony & reception venue, floral, catering, photography, videography, ceremony & reception music, officiant, bakery, hair & makeup
Manage your budget spreadsheet with email updates
Attend planning meetings, vendor meetings, food tastings and assist with menu selection
This service is very involved in every aspect of planning and is perfect for the bride who is busy with other life commitments. Whether you’re an advanced professional in the midst of your career or a grad student dedicated to your studies, hiring a Full Service Planner is sure to save you hundreds of hours in research and planning over your engagement.
I hope that this breakdown has given you a better idea of what to expect when hiring a wedding planning professional. Keep in mind that every company differs a bit and handles their services a little differently. And most importantly, do your research and trust your instincts! My biggest suggestions are:
Check online for good reviews (10+ at absolute minimum)
Interview a handful of planners before making your decision (each planner has their own distinct personality; you want to make sure you mesh well)
Ask how long they’ve been in the wedding industry and how many weddings they’ve coordinated/planned
Once you hire a planner, take their recommendations! You hired them for their expertise, so trust that they have your best interest at heart and are truly passionate about making your overall wedding experience happy and enjoyable.
And of course, hire Uptown 😉 We are the Best of the Best! (link: http://uptowneventstravel.com/
(photos by Creatrix Photography)
Jessica Frey is an award-winning, Texas Hill Country-based international wedding photographer committed to delivering a high-quality experience complete with stunning and joyful images.