Filtering by Tag: event planning

Plan with Me: How to Have a Successful Vendor Meeting

Randi Fracassi

Meeting your vendors can be stressful and overwhelming – generally, you don’t know what exactly to ask, contracts can be complicated, and pricing may not make any sense whatsoever. Creatives and wedding industry professionals who are used to the language and work flows of weddings and events can sometimes overwhelm potential brides and grooms, and sometimes you may have questions that arise throughout, but you don’t want to seem silly for asking (spoiler: never feel silly for asking a question regarding investments you’re making on your wedding day!).  So, while wedding and event planning season is kicking into full gear, I wanted to share some tips and tricks in order to have a successful vendor meeting.

First, before you even schedule with vendors, it’s best to know what kind of financial commitment you want to make for your wedding. Whether you decide that by looking at averages of wedding costs for your city or region, or by determining who is committing the funds to make your dream wedding come true, making a tentative budget or getting a ballpark amount for what you want to spend is key. Once you figure out your budget, start looking at the style you want to convey – light and air with lots of greenery, or something more formal with a sit down dinner at a hotel, will help guide you to vendors who have those kinds of experiences and tastes as well, ensuring that your wedding day is consistent in all things.  

So – you’ve found vendors that fit your style, but you’re noticing that there’s a push to meet with you first before disclosing pricing information. Which, as a vendor, I can totally agree with – you wouldn’t want to hand out pricing to everyone who came along, and be able to remain competitive. This also weeds out the serious inquiries versus the non; see if you can schedule a phone consult before you meet, or see if they can give you a ballpark amount. After all, you’re still wanting to remain in budget and keep a track on your expenses.

My biggest piece of advice however relating to pricing, even when you’re reeling from the sticker shock or pleasantly surprised with a vendor’s pricing: keep in mind you’re not just investing in a final product after a service, but you’re also investing in a client experience. I personally would rather spend more money on an excellent customer service experience and great time with a vendor and have fantastic product than a bland, impersonal relationship, and therefore have my final product be tainted by that client experience.

What about when you actually sit down with a vendor? Of course, ask about experience, style, what’s included as a service and what is the client experience with them. But, it is to my recommendation to always ask about whether or not a vendor has a full contract, and if they carry insurance. With more and more venues requiring insured vendors (particularly with caterers), it’s important that the contract protects everyone’s interest, and that should the worst happen, liabilities are able to be covered and taken care of.

When you get to the portion of the meeting regarding deposits and retainers, ask about the difference and what is refundable or nonrefundable, and if the difference can be spelled out within the contract if it’s not already. A deposit, more often than not, can legally be refunded if service is found unsatisfactory or the event is cancelled unless it is strictly outlined as nonrefundable. It is so important for you as a client to be knowledgeable going into a contractual agreement. Ask if you can have a copy reviewed, or if they contract has been reviewed before. As always, it’s better safe than sorry.

Besides looking at making sure that everyone’s interests are protected and ensuring everything is in budget, there are key questions you should ask during your meeting. When you’re spending money and investing in your wedding day, you want to make sure that the people you’re hiring work well together and with you. Ask if they’ve worked with your other hired vendors or at your venue(s), but also learn about them as a person and ask what got them into doing photography or baking or planning weddings, what they do when they’re not working, and their favorite spots around town. Getting to know your vendors as people will help you build a relationship with them, and you’ll find that you have a better experience working with them in the long run.

So, in summary: research and inquire about pricing and availability, even in ballpark amounts, always ask about reviewing a contract and insurance, and get to know your vendors beyond what they do for you. Doing this will lead to better working relationship and a more satisfactory experience on your wedding day.

Happy planning,

Randi

It's Not a Hustle

Randi Fracassi

Being a small business owner is not a hustle. It’s not a side gig, or extra money. It’s not just something to do for fun (though I do enjoy it immensely), or whenever I feel like it. It’s not a hobby or a fleeting interest or trend, and it’s something I don’t play around with whenever the urge strikes me.

What a lot of people see is strictly Day Of, or at meetings, where I’m calm, cool, and collected, a figure with an assistant in understated clothes maneuvering about, occasionally talking to the bride and groom, and oftentimes cutting a delicious cake. They don’t see the hours talking to the venue coordinator about the placement of said cake and staging tables (often taking measurements and playing around with graph paper when I get home to make sure everything is perfect), the emails and phone calls exchanged between the photographer, hair and make up stylist, and transportation company to make sure times are exact and on point, or the time it takes to listen to twenty covers of the same song to get the exact pace and style to walk down the aisle to.

Besides the actual planning part, which my logistics and detail oriented mind is obsessed with, comes the less fun (well, actually, it is pretty fun when you realize the impact it has to make more of those site and vendor visits happen), is the actual running of a business. There’s annual and quarterly reports due to the Federal and State governments, taxes and licensing, making sure your business insurance is up to date and covers you in the event of a guest assaults you (yep…it’s happened). It’s putting the most up-to-date marketing and media tactics in place to garner the attention of potential clients, and figuring out how to turn those potentials into actuals. Alongside all of this, is making sure payments are received, clients and vendors are met with, blogging is done, and life is lived…

I often state that planning an event starts at 38 hours of work. Eh, yeah, just under one average work week here in America. Mind you though, that’s one event. If we took one event, that 38 hours, and added it to the secretarial and assistant work, the marketing and public relationship departments, accounting and financial duties, we’re looking at nearly 160 hours (that one event included).

Now let’s add anywhere from 10-20 events a year.

6,810 hours a year. Minimum.

Just under 130 hours a week. Minimum.

No holiday breaks, no vacations, no quit everything and have a personal day. No personal leave.

Broken down to a daily basis, you’re looking at 5 hours each day left over to sleep, socialize with friends, and have family time.

This love for that moment when my bride and groom look at each other right after they got married, or the look on a child’s face when they see their party, or the way an elderly couple hold hands as they’re surrounded by friends and family, that’s what drives the love, the passion. The care for this business. The 130 hours a week talking to people, doing floor plans while listening to business podcasts, organizing an Instagram to be cohesive and appealing, working more so that you can go to a conference to learn how to work smarter, drives this planner. That love drives this business.

So no, wedding and event planning is not a side hustle, it’s not a gig. It’s not a hobby. It’s a passion and a true love, a career that my soul is married to for all time. My small business is an extension of myself in all of the best ways, combining everything good and bad, making me want to be better as a person and as a entrepreneur. It may fail, yes, there’s a chance, but with the drive and dedication to make sure that this part of me that I hold and love so dearly there is no way that failure can happen.

Happy planning,

Randi

Alternatives for Grand Exits

Randi Fracassi

“No. Sparklers aren’t allowed at our venue.”

You’re crushed – a heart set on those fantastic slow exposure shots, a dip and a kiss as you leave your reception, is now totally unattainable. You of course have the option of going with a different venue, but an easier alternative could be to not have sparklers. Or confetti. Or rice. The stipulations that venues put towards what can and can’t be used for grand exits aren’t about hindering you – more often than not, rules are set in place because someone had to ruin the fun for everyone else, and it created a liability for the venue.

grand exit alternative.png

So what do you do in place of what you wanted? What can capture really well on camera? Here’s some inspiration from some of my favorite shoots and weddings I’ve seen from fellow creatives.

Bubbles, image by Genovese Ashford

A classic alternative, bubbles have a lovely sheen and are easy to source.  You can personalize them with putting ribbon or custom stickers, and are appropriate for weddings all year around.

Ribbon and Bell Wands, Etsy

An easy DIY (and favor, depending on your theme) can be satin ribbons hot glued and tied to the end of 18” wooden dowls, and threaded with a bell. The shine of the satin will reflect beautifully with flash, and who doesn’t love the jingling of bells?

Glow Sticks, image via Wedbook

Fun, colorful, and a hit, glow sticks offer a lighted source for your images, and can follow the same slow-exposure policy that sparklers can. As this couple did, you can have sticks coordinate with your wedding colors, or use variety packs to havea rainbow of color!

Lavender, image by Martha Stewart Magazine

If a venue allows the use of real rose petals, check and ask about lavender or other small flower petals. Your florist should be able to source these without a problem, and when you have a specific color scheme in mind that other suggestions won’t just do, fresh petals are a great option.

I hope these ideas have inspired you to think outside the box! They are so easy to personalize and make a reflection of you and your (brand new!) spouse. As a reminder, always be sure to ask your venue what is and isn't allowed in respects to exits; it would be awful on your big day to find you you can't use what you had your heart set on!

Happy planning,

Randi 

"Is this a good deal?" and Other Questions Relating to the Value of Vendors

Randi Fracassi

The question “Is this a good deal?”, the statement “I’m paying X dollars for a photographer and second shooter for eight hours, 1000-1500 edited images, and engagements, is this fair?”, and “I’m suffering sticker shock – the venue I just looked at just cost X. And that’s not including the food minimum!”. Most of these statements are followed by the comment “Well, when you attach ‘wedding’ to anything, the cost goes up”.

When you’re looking at venues and photographers and caterers and invitations, and you’re reaching out and getting quotes and suddenly there’s a lot more money involved and it’s surprising you, here are few things to keep in mind.

There’s a lot more than just the wedding day as far as working for your vendors. Leading up to a wedding I am coordinating, I spend roughly 50-75 hours speaking with vendors, clients, and everyone involved in a wedding. Broken down to regular work days, that’s about 6 to 10 days spent on the phone, coordinating site visits and final walk-throughs, rehearsals, and the day itself (which for a 5:00 pm wedding, starts at about 9:00 am for my staff and I). For a photographer, not only are they making sure their equipment is ready, but purchasing additional cards, straps, repairs, talking with vendors, and after the day itself (if they’re starting as early as I am for a 5:00 pm wedding), editing and culling thousands of photos to present you with the very best. On average, most photographers in the Baton Rouge area spend 4-9 weeks editing photos and galleries, and more so if they’re assembling prints and albums. 

The vendors that you're getting quotes and proposals from are full of knowledge, but everyone's knowledge is different, and that's a part of the cost. A caterer fresh out of culinary school, or even if they’re based in their home without formal training, is going to provide a menu and offerings than a caterer who has been in the field for 15 years, has a diverse staff, and gives advice or includes floor plans and food displays. With photography, live music, calligraphy, and other fine arts that are services, generally the more you’re paying should be reflected in the quality, service, and presentation. You will be hard pressed to find next to free photographers that have experience in the wedding industry, provide fully edited images, process culling, and best and most importantly of all, ensure that every shot you want on your wedding day is taken.

Fun fact: you’re paying for the experience of working with these vendors. That’s right – the way that they treat you is something you’re paying for. You’re investing into your vendors, you’re giving them a substantial amount of money to work with them, and how fast they respond to emails and phone calls, send back and forth contracts and edits to floor plans, menus, and timelines, how little stress you feel while working with these amazing and awesome folks…that’s a big part of what your money is going towards. You’re paying to work well with a vendor, and if there are bumps in the road or in your relationship, then you are most certainly not getting your value in with them.

But wait, what about when someone is offering a deal or discount? What does that even mean? Well, it can mean a variety of things. It could be just a celebratory discount to appeal to clients who normally couldn’t afford their services, or maybe they just want more bookings. It varies, and you can’t put a lot of stock into why a discount or deal is being offered other than it is. However, when this deal or discount is repetitive is when you need to be cautious about the vendor, and take a hard look at their portfolio and what others are saying about them (especially other vendors).

At the heart of it though, what does it mean when you’re getting a deal or there’s a lot of value? Value and deals are subjective to who is looking at the overall cost; for instance, the services of Poppy Lane Events may seem like too good of a deal to some, but other potential clients may see them as a great value for the cost. Keep it all relative to what your budget is, what you’re looking for as an experience, and what is all included in the overall cost (asking for an itemized and detailed quote is a great idea). With that in mind, what’s a good value and deal will be easily answered, and you’ll be well on your way to having the wedding of your dreams.

Happy planning,

Randi

How to Create a Styled Wedding, No Matter the Budget

Randi Fracassi

You’re inundated on Pinterest, at bridal shows, and through Instagram of lush flowers and glittering tablecloths, or of visions containing farmhouse tables with string and candlelight. Some of these weddings are 100% real, while others are stylized to show how you can pull different design elements together to create a cohesive look. And while some of these ideas and inspiration can be out of budget (say, cascading peonies from candelabras in the fall, when they’re at their most expensive), you can without a doubt be just as skilled yourself in creating a cohesive and flawless design, and having your budgetary cake too.

1)      Start with your venue, and then the time of year. Your venue is going to act as the canvas for the rest of your wedding, and whether your using print outs of images and putting into a binder or using Pinterest, always start with a few images of your venue to start giving you a feel of what the setting of your wedding will be like. In Louisiana, the weather can play a huge factor into the formality and style of an event, so making sure you keep a track on what the averages for the time of year you’ll be married at (and if you can, the temperature for the time of day) will help in the long run. This will help with formality of guests and the bridal party’s attire too!

2)      If you can get a fabric swatch, get it! How a dress or linens look online can be completely different in person, especially if you’re looking to combine colors and tones. Obtaining swatches and samples of what you can potentially have is critical, and well worth the couple of  dollars to get in order to achieve the look you want (and it’s always great to have some on hand for vendor appointments).

3)      Make sure to look at vendors, and save samples of their work. Having a few samples of your vendor’s work is important, not only in having to assess who you would to have, but knowing that they have done the style you’re looking to achieve in the past. Examples of a photographer’s editing style, the different styles of a stationer, a planner’s published works, or having examples of menus (or what the food will look like) from a prospective caterer can all reflect on the overall look of your wedding.

4)      Be sure to also have floor plan options (like if you prefer round tables or rectangle, where buffets will be, etc), different lighting, and poses you would like for your photos. The little things will add up and can make a big impact on the overall look of your wedding. Also include pictures of how you would like your groom and his party to look, and where they can get their attire from.

5)      Include all parts relating to your wedding day. Often on wedding boards you’ll see dresses, hair styles, flowers, and how to break down budgets, and rarely will you find readings, prayers, or timelines you can follow or build off of. Include that in your materials, because the timing of when events take place will effect set up, breakdown, the hours of photography and videography, and can further tailored around how long you have your venue.

Want to see a board showcasing all these elements, and give you a starting point to curating? Check out our sample Louisiana Saturday Night | A Curated Look on Pinterest. We created this board specifically in how to show clients what it means to have a cohesive, final look, and make sure of such boards when working to create customized events. If you would like your own board or want help styling, feel free to contact us! We’d love to help!

Happy planning,

Randi

How to Establish a Budget for Your Wedding

Randi Fracassi

Hello Poppies! I had mentioned a few weeks ago in Pinterest: Good or Bad for Your Wedding Planning about the increase in wedding budget info-graphics and more advice from popular wedding websites like The Knot and WeddingWire, and as engagement season is coming into full swing, I thought that perhaps I would share with you how I help establish budgets for my clients. Creating a budget for your event is the most important factor in the planning process: without an established budget, the entire planning process will lack a level of control and consistency (that is, you will always be stressed about the costs piling up).

Photo:  Rachel Erin Photography

First and foremost, determine what is important to you for your wedding. Sit down with your partner, and put it into writing what is important, whether it's the venue versus the date, a certain photographer or style of photography, food, entertainment, invitations. Prioritize where you want the money invested from your wedding, and then get accurate quotes from those vendors. 

Determine who is funding what. This is a must have conversation with both parents or anyone who has said they would like to contribute to the wedding. It is best to be frank, and write down exact amounts that are being contributed; trust me when I say that making sure you keep everyone accountable for everything they commit to in the long run will be better for relationships with family members. Share what you have already collected from your research earlier, and be honest as to what costs are going to be for those vendors. 

So, what happens when the vendors you want are outside of the budget after talking about money? I'll be sure to the upcoming posts relating to budget at the bottom of the post!

Now that there is an understanding of what the important aspects of your wedding are going to cost, divide and conquer the rest of the budget with other costs. This is where an Excel sheet is key! You can also keep track in your wedding binder, or have your wedding planner keep track of your budget for you. Set up your sheet with Vendor Name, Point of Contact, Contact Number, Email, Quote, Quote Date, Invoiced, and Invoice Date. I would also include when payments have been applied and when payments are due (and making sure your phone, planner, or agenda have it noted when these payments are due in order to avoid contract cancellations). 

Another thing to do is make sure to either round up the total cost or entail the exact cost in this spreadsheet. You can scan your receipts and invoices and add them to the sheet, or keep them in an envelope in your wedding binder, highlighting what the total cost of that vendor will be. In my personal budgeting, I always round up my expenses versus my income, and then subtract from my exact income. If you would like to see a spreadsheet that demonstrates what is left of your income for your event versus the expenses, let me know! 

Lastly, stick to your budget. I like to think of it this way: when you go for a night out with your friends and you're getting dressed, you're making a commitment to the shoes you're wearing, right? In the middle of the night, you're not going to take off your shoes because doing so will probably result in dirty and cut up feet and you might loose your shoes. It's ok to splurge here and there on items and services throughout the planning process, but know that those costs do add up, and can send you over your budget.

So, in summary:

  • Prioritize what vendors or services you absolutely want for your wedding and get quotes

  • Determine income for wedding expenses and make sure that income is committed 

  • Establish a spreadsheet or tracking method for wedding expenses

  • Stick to your budget!

I promise that doing this form of budgeting will make a difference in the way you plan your wedding! Keeping what is important to you and making sure you get what you want out of your day will make sure that you get the wedding of your dreams (and keep down the stress of planning it ;) ).