Three Tips Thursday, Vol. #12: A Very Lovely Wedding
I am honestly shocked it has taken me this long to record a #ThreeTipsThursday with Nathalie, owner and lead event planner of A Very Lovely Wedding. I say this because we have done multiple weddings and styled shoots together and have many more weddings in the books!
Nathalie is our lifeline during events and sanity saver during the planning process. She contains the perfect balance of showing tough love while being incredibly generous, being direct with her suggestions while rooting for your love story, and remaining professionally serious while incorporating humor and fun into her process.
Photo of Nathalie taken by Sebastiani Studios.
She has no problem telling Aunt Judy she cannot come into the reception space yet to give you time to take pictures in peace, but she’ll do it in a kind and diplomatic way so that you don’t hear complaints from Aunt Judy in the middle of your grand exit.
Basically, Nathalie is the person you want in your corner during what is often a highly stressful (and fun) season of life.
I am patting my past self on the back for sliding into her DMs on Instagram almost two years ago and asking her if she would like to come tour the venue.
Spoiler: She did come see the venue, well before we officially opened and the plants were all knee-high, and while it took time for us to book clients that needed coordination and planning services, when we finally did, Nathalie showed up in all her above-and-beyond glory for us and for her clients.
Here is a screenshot of the DM I sent Nathalie, which I find highly amusing. Let this be a lesson that cold reaching out to someone can lead to great things!
A screenshot of our first interaction.
With that, let’s jump into my interview with Nathalie, where she drops some amazing value bombs for those in our community who are planning a wedding or event.
Nathalie’s design style is using minimalist décor to accentuate the beauty of the venue and to highlight a couple’s love story. She can make big magic with little décor.
Photo of a styled shoot designed by Nathalie and taken by Sebastiani Studios.
Below are Nathalie’s three tips for planning a wedding:
1. Value your time and your money.
I know this seems counterintuitive, because sometimes wedding planners come with a sticker shock when they present their brochures, but they can save you a ton of time and money.
As Nathalie states, “In my opinion, a planner is an advocate for the couple. When I say, ‘Make sure you stay on budget,’ it doesn’t mean I only look at the dollar amount and then spend within that budget. It means I’m literally gonna go out there as a planner and negotiate for you with the vendors to get you the services you want and need.”
This was a profound point for me. When I was planning our wedding last year, I didn’t even consider hiring a full planner + designer because I thought, 1) it would be way too expensive, and 2) since I was in the industry, it would be easy for me to piece everything together on my own. (Secret: It wasn’t!)
While it all turned out well, I likely could have saved a lot of headache, energy, mental stamina, and money by hiring a planner to help us put the pieces together and, as Nathalie points out, save us money along the way by negotiating with their preferred vendors on our behalf and avoid paying a variety of vendors the dreaded delivery fees and service charges.
For those couples who want to plan their own wedding, having the month-of coordinator is key. Even if you do not hire a full wedding planner, month-of coordination will still save you time and money.
“I take over two months before, starting to alleviate the stress that you built up over that year of planning because you’re getting closer and closer. You don’t want that facial that you’re about to have before your wedding to crack because you’re stressed, right? So, I come in two months before with the same goal I have for my planning clients. Your job on your wedding day is to show up and have fun.”
For the couples who plan their own wedding, Nathalie begins working with them 60 days before their wedding, allowing her to bring together all the final details and giving her enough time to read through their contracts, catch any disconnections between the couple and vendors, and fix those said disconnections.
Photo of a wedding coordinated by Nathalie and taken by Crystal Photography.
2. Only DIY your wedding if you’re already a crafter.
Within the scope of the ‘value your time and money’ tip, Nathalie shares another hot take: you should only DIY your wedding if you’re already a crafter.
As Nathalie points out, “The whole point of DIY – and what people don’t realize – is that it doesn’t look DIY. And if it starts to look DIY, then you can end up spending more money getting all the little tiny details together to make it one seamless look – your own look.
“The thing that a lot of couples don’t realize is when you’re not a crafter and you’re trying to DIY, you over-purchase. The reason you over-purchase is because you don’t know what you need. And 90% of the time, you have a vision in mind, but you’re not quite sure how to put this vision together.
“So, you go to Michael’s, and you purchase a whole row of everything white flowers, everything green, everything red, everything crystals…you buy all of it, because guess what? You justify in your mind, ‘I know I want this. And I don’t really know if I want it with this or with this yet. So let me just buy all of it and then I’ll see what I like.’ When you are supposed to make 20 centerpieces, you end up with materials to make 140.”
Hiring the planner to negotiate with the vendors to do the work for you and within your budget can replace the time it takes you to research what you need and how you’re going to make it, the gas and time it takes you to go to the store to pick out what you want, the time and effort it takes to actually make it (and you’re lucky if you like what you make on the first try), and the mistake of over-purchasing and wasting money (or under-purchasing and having to make more trips to get the items you need).
How much do you make in your job or business per hour? How many hours will you spend planning your wedding? According to this article in Martha Stewart, a wedding can easily take 200-300 hours to plan, so if you make $35/hour at your job and it takes you 250 hours to plan your wedding over the course of a year, it cost you $8,750 in your time.
Someone who already loves crafting is going to be crafting anyways, whether it’s for their wedding or for another project, and they already have a lot of the tools, resources, and knowledge needed.
For us non-crafters (yes, me included!), we often don’t end up saving much – if any – money at all because of the time it takes us (and the stress it adds) and the supplies we need to buy. I. Know. This. From. Experience.
3. Get the big vendors out of the way first.
Whether you hire the full planner or contract month-of coordination, it may be overwhelming knowing exactly where to start and which vendors to book first.
Nathalie’s tip: Book your big vendors first – venue, planner/coordinator, caterer, photographer, and DJ – and then wait for a few months before your wedding to lock in the creative vendors, such as a florist, to allow you to change your mind a dozen times before settling on your final vision.
Nathalie shares, “If you hire me as a planner to plan your wedding, massive planning of your wedding is done within the first five months of us working together. So even if your wedding is two years away, we’re done planning the majority of your wedding in the first five months.
“Florists, which is the other important vendor, I do not touch base with until about six months before your wedding. Why? Because of those changes [you’re going to make about your vision]. So go ahead and change your mind for the next year-and-a-half. But don’t spend money until you have no choice. If you’re somebody who has been wishy washy about your colors, don’t talk to your florist about designs until four to six months before your wedding. Because at that point, you don’t have a choice and you have to settle on the details.”
Photo of a wedding coordinated by Nathalie and taken by Van T Richardson Photo.
“At the end of the day, get those big things out of the way first. If you’re very indecisive, big things that cannot be changed, get them out of the way. And then relax. Take what I call a planning break for the next four months if you have to. And then go straight into those heavy ‘variable planning session’ sessions.”
I felt like Nathalie was speaking to me as we were talking. I was one of those brides who could not choose a color palette or theme for her wedding because there were just too many beautiful options! A few months out, I finally just picked something because I had to.
For the couples and event hosts like me, Nathalie shares this tip: “Have a philosophical design in mind from the start…What you need to do is philosophically plan your wedding, your vision, up front, but do not plan the details of the wedding until later.”
For example, if someone wants a ‘winter white’ wedding, as they visit venues, they should picture the feel of the ‘winter white’ in that venue. Is it a moodier white or a sparkling white? Home in on that feeling you want to create while looking at venues so you can picture if those colors or that feeling will look good there. If it doesn’t, then it’s not the venue for you. Or, if you fall in love with a venue but it doesn’t fit your initial philosophy, then you may need to pick a different theme or color palette, but you can finalize those details in the months leading up to the wedding.
Bonus Tip: Streamline the communication.
Nathalie was kind enough to share a bonus tip, which is all about communicating! When working with a wedding planner or coordinator, keep them in the loop regarding the decisions you’re making so you don’t have to rehash everything multiple times.
Nathalie states, “The one thing I love is when the communication stays streamlined. Meaning, I might not be your full planner. But if every single vendor communication comes through my email, even if I don’t read it, the first thing I do is literally take a screenshot of it and add it to your file. I might not read it right away, but I’m going to go back to it at some point or when it’s time for me to start working with you. I’m gonna go through these things before we speak to each other.”
It may feel like overcommunication at times but keeping your planner/coordinator in the loop will prevent details from falling through the cracks and keep you on the same page for when you do touch base during a planning session.
Thanks for tuning in!
-Emily, Co-Founder, The Gardens of Weber Manor
Photo of a wedding coordinated by Nathalie.