Got Milk?

The newlywed owner of Strawberry Milk Events knows the ins and outs of wedding planning.

Despite her childhood fascination with parties, Julie Savage had no idea what she wanted to be when she grew up. The Annapolis native stumbled into a wedding and events manager position for a historic hotel on Main Street but soon realized she longed to be on the more creative side. Thus, Strawberry Milk Events was born. In addition to all of the local weddings she organizes, Savage also helped plan her own destination wedding in Paris. Being a newlywed has influenced her work and reinforced the quality and level of service that she provides to her clients. “A competent wedding planner who goes to bat for you can make all the difference,” she says.

Q. What are some steps the bride can take to make the wedding-planning process less stressful? A: Hire a great planner right off the bat. Interview several; pick the one with the best references, whose personality you click with and portfolio you identify with. They will make the process so much more streamlined and take so much weight off your shoulders. And they should be able to save you money in the long run to justify their cost.

Q: Any tips on making sure you hire someone who’s professional and the right fit? A: You need to click with your planner—you will be spending a lot of time with them. Someone that annoys you probably won’t cut it. Other than that: Check references, see the types of weddings they’ve planned before (real weddings and not photo shoots), and consider who is recommending them.

Q: How can a bride decide whether she’ll need a full-time planner or a coordinator? A: Most brides who have a full-time job or no previous event-planning experience can benefit from a full-time planner. If brides have jobs that allow their schedules to be flexible, and this is their thing, then a partial coordinator may be just fine.

Q: Are you a romantic? A: I don’t think you can be a wedding planner and not be a romantic! Seeing the groom’s face as the bride walks down the aisle, or the couple’s first dance to their special song at their wedding reception, gets me every time.

Q: Do you prefer decisive or indecisive brides? A: I find that most of our brides come to us because they love our style. They often have a great sense of style themselves, but just don’t know where to start or how to translate that into the wedding world. We take the ideas floating around in their heads and put them on paper.

Q: Are there any trends you try to steer your clients away from or steer them toward? A: I don’t like to cater to trends necessarily. If it means something to you, great. For example, to me, a cupcake tower is a played-out trend. However, if cupcakes have special nostalgic meaning to you or are your favorite treat, or your first date with your fiancé was at your favorite cupcake shop, then, by all means, let’s incorporate cupcakes. But instead of a tower, perhaps we come up with a cool, different presentation.

Q: When do you suggest booking all the vendors? Which one do you think is the most important to book first? A: I think the worst mistake brides make is thinking they have to book all their vendors right away. There is definitely a timeline and order to things, which is why we create a month-by-month timeline for all of our clients according to how much time we have before the wedding day. The first vendor to book (besides wedding planner, of course!) is the venue, then the photographer.

Q: Do you prefer planning informal or black-tie weddings? A: I love interesting events of any shape and size, as long as they aren’t cookie-cutter. An informal garden party with a Great Gatsby vibe, or a black-tie event serving late-night snacks from food trucks. It doesn’t all have to be one note. Let’s shake it up.

Q: Is there any aspect of the wedding that you do not play a role in? A: It all depends on what stage in the process the bride hires us, but usually we roll up our sleeves and get involved in pretty much every aspect of the event (at least for full-service clients).

Q: How can a bride involve her groom more in the process? A: The honeymoon, the wedding website, the food, and the band are all great places to get your future hubby’s help. If you don’t want his honest opinion on those mint-green linens, then don’t ask. You probably won’t like his answer. And if you don’t ask, he would show up happy as a clam on wedding day and never notice or complain about that questionable shade of green.

Q: What are some tips for staying within a budget? Do most budgets tend to grow during the wedding-planning process? A: I find that as guest lists grow, budgets grow. And if your guest list grows and your budget can’t, you may not be getting everything on your wish list. Set your priorities early on, and decide what the non-negotiables are.

Q: What are your top tips for brides-to-be? A: Don’t have a meltdown when you find out peonies aren’t in season. Enjoy it. State your opinions, but go with the flow, even when sometimes things aren’t going just as planned. And don’t forget that underneath all of the fuss, the stress, and the details that are so easy to get wrapped up in, the day is really about a union that will last a lifetime.

Q: Ever have a last-minute disaster? A: Fortunately, we’ve never had a disaster— that’s a big word. We’ve had last-minute little hiccups, such as the caterer showing up without the dinner tables and we have an hour before the party starts to find a nearby rental company that can deliver—stat. But we’ve always made it work! And the client just enjoyed the party they were hosting, never knowing there was the slightest problem. That’s why they hire us. 

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