So you’re a bride who just got engaged — hooray! Time to pop bottles! After the champagne, the phone calls, all the ‘eeks!’ and ‘ahhs!’, many brides are left thinking…”now what? Where do I start trying to plan this shindig?” They’re overwhelmed in an instant, bombarded with ideas from their own dreamy wedding day reveries, unsolicited input from family and friends, and the rabbit hole of Pinterest staring at them from behind every screen. Or maybe ideas and inspirations aren’t the issue. You want that table length greenery chandelier and by George it’s happening! But…how much does it cost? Can monogrammed cocktail napkins really be that expensive?! It’s hard to know how to budget and what to prioritize. We see it all the time: brides who’ve dreamed of a fairytale wedding since the sandbox only to find the actual experience incredibly stressful.
In the beginning, brides tend to think they can plan their wedding by themselves, only to get overwhelmed and anxious from all the choices and costs. They’re hesitant about dedicating a precious chunk of their budget to a planner, yet they don’t want to spend their entire engagement as a ball of bridal stress. Similarly, some brides are prepared to hire a wedding planner, but aren’t sure exactly what they’re getting in one. Are wedding planners and wedding coordinators the same thing? Do they help design weddings down to the last detail, or are they there just to wrangle fellow wedding vendors and wily members of the wedding party?
Candace Hightower, owner and curator of award-winning Mingle Events and Vintage Rentals, understands the entire spectrum of thoughts and emotions brides experience while trying to plan their wedding. A type-A go-getter herself, Candace’s down-to-earth yet all-business approach to wedding planning puts her brides at ease and lets them relax and enjoy being engaged while she takes on all the heavy lifting.
“Your engagement and wedding day should be fun, not stressful!” says Candace. “So that my brides can look back on their wedding as a joyful experience, it’s my job to sweat the small stuff for them. My goal is to make the whole process as smooth and seamless as possible. My bride may never know her baker turned up 30 minutes late, her Maid of Honor got a mimosa stain on her dress, or her mom went on a crying jag trying to come to terms with her baby becoming a wife. It’s my top priority to make the biggest day in your life the day of your dreams.”
Wedding Planner 101: Full Service, Partial Service, and DOCs
With tons of experience and a Borrowed & Blue Best Wedding Planner title under her belt, Candace is just the person to walk through what a wedding planner can do for you, what types of services they offer, and how to compare and contrast multiple planners before you make your final decision. The first step when shopping for a planner: deciding how hands-on you want your planner to be, and seeing if they offer a service at the level you’re most comfortable with.
A Full Planning Service is a global, all-inclusive package that covers every base and the dirt in between. This service offers a planner’s expertise and guidance for the entire journey, from saying ‘yes’ to ‘I do.’ “At Mingle, our Full Planning Service is designed to alleviate stress on every level by helping to manage and prioritize your wedding budget, as well as offering event design, vendor recommendations, etiquette expertise, contract reviews, hotel and transportation logistics, and management of all your personal details,” explains Candace. A full wedding planner keeps the bride on task and ensures the running “to-do” list is pared down and prioritized.
Candace highly recommends destination brides hire a full service planner to provide key insights and troubleshoot logistics for her. They will have invaluable insight into the venue, local wedding vendors, and other details pertinent to the location that the bride simply wouldn’t – and couldn’t – know.
For brides who need assistance in some areas but feel comfortable managing certain aspects of the wedding planning process, a Partial Planning Service is a great option Booking vendors, outsourcing rentals, refining timelines, and ironing out logistical details are some of the amenities usually included, as they are in Mingle’s partial planning service.
Occasionally, you’ll find a planner willing to jump in at the last minute to offer a guiding hand and a little elbow grease on the day of your event. A “Day of Coordinator” so to speak, is exactly who a bride should turn to when she realizes she can’t ask her mom, sister, or best friend to actually manage all the details she’s been planning for the past several months. Nobody in your inner circle should be working on your wedding day! They should be beside you, celebrating your union and cherishing all the little moments of such a big day.
A DOC’s primary focus is to execute the game plan so that you and your loved ones can let loose and enjoy your big day. Candace lays out how this service works at Mingle, explaining “we jump in feet first about 60 days before your nuptials. In these 60 days, we familiarize ourselves with your vendor list and a detailed version of your overall wedding vision. Next, we draft a timeline and begin communicating with your vendors so that everyone knows and understands their role. You do the planning, we execute your hard-work!”
While your wedding day is obviously the main event, Candace points out that additional a la carte planning services, ranging from event design to rehearsal dinners and engagement parties, can often prove helpful to brides and grooms short on time, patience, or creativity.
Choosing The Right Wedding Planner For You
Click. Connect. Vibe. However you prefer to describe the feeling of being in-step and in-sync with someone is up to you, but meshing well with your wedding planner is a must. They will be your guide and guru, mentor and advocate. You’re trusting this person to step up to bat for you, to speak with a strong voice in some cases while offering a gentle voice of comfort in others. Knowing your planner “gets” you and has your best interests at heart is crucial.
Equally essential to establishing a good connection with your planner: finding one with a solid reputation and well-rounded experience. When searching for a planner, make sure it is someone who has experience executing real weddings and not just someone who has “been a guest at one many times” or “helped a friend out once and loved it.” Read reviews and check their portfolio. See if you can reach out to some of their past brides and clients to get their feedback. You’re trusting them with one of the biggest days in your life, so it’s very important to feel confident in not only their style and vision, but in their personality and work ethic as well.
Once you’ve narrowed down your list, here are a few questions Candace suggests asking each one before you sign on the dotted line:
- Who is your ideal client?
- Do you take more than one wedding in a single day?
- Do you have an assistant that participates in the planning and is on-site on my wedding day?
- How do you prepare for unforeseen circumstances, such as bad weather, last-minute issues with the venue, rescheduling, etc?
- How do you handle complicated (read: crazy) family dynamics?*
*Only if this applies to you but let’s be real…does anybody not have at least that one aunt who may cause a stink?
In two words, your wedding planner should be solution oriented. From the start, they should be dialed in to what you want and always at the ready to accommodate your wishes and resources.
“Mingle’s goal is to deliver southern hospitality,” says Candace. “We seamlessly execute all types of wedding budgets — from backyard weddings, to barn weddings and Biltmore weddings — but I would say that we specialize in making your wedding day personal and true to who you are.
Something Old, Something New…
The Bottom Line: Why You Need A Wedding Planner
Born and raised in Tennessee, Candace admires southern charm and hospitality. She lives for sharing a laugh (and glass of wine) with friends, loves monogrammed everything and gets giddy when there is something to celebrate. Candace’s calm nature and fun personality will help you feel at ease during your planning process. She specializes in creating personalized events and loves adding that “something old” to your special day!
Mingle also offers an eclectic selection of vintage furniture and props to style your wedding, life event or photo shoot. Whether you need a vintage dresser to display your desserts, mix-matched vintage fine china to feed 200 of your guests, a vintage or vintage transportation to ride to your “happily ever after,” Mingle can help.
Feature photo credit: Theo Milo Photography