OK planning people! So a real bride has reached out for some wedding planning tips for her upcoming fall wedding. It totally takes a little extra guidance to plan your own wedding on a fixed budget, so thank goodness one of Chicago’s finest wedding planners, Shannon Gail, is here to hand over brilliant advice! Don’t miss out on her quick Q & A for some friendly and convenient tips!
Bride: Is it customary to negotiate with venues, vendors, caterers, etc.? It seems like once you say “wedding,” a lot of places tend to increase the price.
Shannon Gail: Within the wedding industry, I do think you’ll find that vendors of one category are priced rather competitively among one another. Upon receiving an initial proposal, I would not view it as a “negotiation” as much as a restructuring of what you are looking for. Choose the vendor with the package that best fits what you and your fiancé are looking for, and look to customize it from there. By swapping items you really want with others that are not as important to you, you will save yourself a great deal of money.
For example, if you didn’t want to do an engagement shoot, your photographer might credit you that money to use toward an album that you may really want. This is your best form of “negotiation” in this industry.
Bride: To cut cost, my fiancé and I plan to do much of the planning ourselves. What is the typical timeline for sending out save-the-dates, invitations, ordering dresses, etc.?
Shannon Gail: As a rule of thumb, I like to plan on sending save the dates 8-10 months before the wedding, finding your dress and the bridesmaids’ dresses as soon as possible to allow for ordering time, and sending invitations right at the 2 month mark. Many of the online wedding sites have great timelines to follow, but one change I always make for our couples is to have your reply-by-date be AT LEAST 1 month before your wedding day, if not 5 weeks. This only allows more time for you and your family to tally your guest count and complete your seating chart!
Bride: We plan to hire a Day-of Wedding Coordinator. What is the average range of fees?
Shannon Gail: “Day of Coordinator” is an industry wide term that is actually a poor description for the package itself. Most planners’ “Day Of” packages begin one or two months before the wedding. These services are usually in the $1800 – $2400 category on average in the major cities (I am in Chicago). Do your homework, and get a few price points, but really focus on what each planner is offering. For this type of service, it’s usually best to choose someone in the top tier of your pricing categories as you will definitely get what you pay for here. You want someone to step in early and help you navigate through the last month or so of planning so that you can step back as the point person. You also want someone there on the day of your wedding who has been involved in the planning enough to have a firm understanding of the details of the day.
Bride: Ideally, I’d like to include bridesmaid dresses and hair/make-up in our budget (we’ll see!). What is the common practice?
Shannon Gail: The majority of bridesmaids still plan to pay for their dresses, as well as their hair and make-up that day. I only see about 10% of our couples who cover both costs for their girls. That being said, I do see brides paying for the bridesmaids’ hair and make-up as their gift. You can put a cute gift certificate together to let them know you’ve taken care of it, and it’s a great gesture to get them something they otherwise would have had to pay for!
Bride: How much should we spend on party favors for guests?
Shannon Gail: I think less is more with favors. Many of my couples have been foregoing favors in the past few years as so many “extras” have been added to weddings (cigar bars, dessert bars, photo booths, etc.). These are considered favors that are experienced AT the wedding to enhance the guest experience. If you’d like to do something additionally, I always recommend keeping it simple and ensuring the favor has some type of meaning to you. Maybe it’s a small chocolate from a place down the road from you that you both love, or a donation to the animal rescue where you found your dog together. But in any case, keep it simple, and do not spend a fortune. I would say keep it in the $3 per guest range if you can!
Bride: My fiancé is a scientist, and I really like science fiction, so we’ve been googling and finding interesting ideas like the Periodic Table of Tables. What sources are available for the nontraditional couple?
Shannon Gail: I think you’ll have a lot more luck doing some Pinterest searching for these ideas. I just did a search and found some great ones immediately! One great way to incorporate this part of your personalities is with readings/quotes! One of my favorites that would work well here is by Arthur C. Clarke: “The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.”
Here are more amazing wedding ideas from Shannon Gail Weddings!