If you want something done right, sometimes you have to do it yourself. As a bride, Elizabeth Bailey struggled to find a planner for her own wedding 30 years ago. Seizing the opportunity in an open field, Bailey traveled to New York City and enrolled in a weeklong course on how to become a wedding planner. Although the course helped lay the foundation, Bailey really credits much of her schooling to a job she held with a local event florist, Flowers by Michael, where she was able to network with other vendors and venues and learn the art and nuance of event flow. It was “instrumental in giving me my start . . . it was the launch pad for my career.” In the decades since, the matriarch of Maryland’s wedding planners has been a key player in marrying and celebrating hundreds of newlyweds who have sought her out for her experience in the field and personal attention to each client. As owner of Elizabeth Bailey Weddings & Events, she’s been “lucky to witness really cool things” through clients’ unusual and personalized requests. Bailey recalls planning a wedding 25 years ago that had a The Wizard of Oz theme, where she had to coordinate a hot-air balloon ride for the bride and groom (dressed as Dorothy and the professor) with a chaser car ready to pick up the couple wherever they landed. Despite all the fun and frenzy that comes with weddings, Bailey’s favorite memories “center on the happiness a couple and their families exhibit at the wedding.” Recently, at her niece’s wedding at the Towson Golf & Country Club—which she planned of course—Bailey was so overwhelmed with emotion at one point that her assistant had to take over. It was a real reminder of what matters most at every wedding. Says Bailey of her couples, “When they are relaxed, socializing, and dancing, the smile on their faces is the best memory ever.”
Q: Why do couples hire planners? A: Couples hire planners mostly because they would like to have a wonderful event and simply don’t have the time to plan a large event. They also would like to enjoy the process and the wedding day, so having a team of competent wedding professionals helping along the way is essential. Couples seek out planners and their expertise because they want an organized, polished wedding.
Q: Are more couples using planners now or are you seeing an increase in DIY couples? A: Since we primarily meet with couples who would like to hire a wedding planner, our view is that many more couples are using a wedding planner. However, for couples that would like to plan and manage the wedding on their own, we do offer a comprehensive seminar on wedding-day management. This seminar guides couples through formulating a countdown checklist and wedding-day timeline, and they are invited to bring their laptops so that they leave with complete schedules. Once the couple completes the seminar, they have solid information to forward to all of their wedding party and wedding-day vendors. It’s the perfect class for those who would like to have an organized wedding knowing that nothing has fallen through the cracks.
Q: After the initial “Yes” moment comes the “Okay, when?” from friends and family alike. Apart from choosing the when and where, what would you say is the next big vendor to tackle? A: Couples will want to first interview and secure vendors who only do one wedding a day. For instance, the band, photographer, and videographer typically limit themselves to one wedding per day while caterers, florists, and cake bakers are able to take more than one. Having said that, it’s always a good idea to interview and book a caterer early in the process simply because the catering will be one of the more costly parts of the wedding, and it’s good to have that figure to plug into the budget early.
Q: Can you explain the differences between day-of planning or month-of planning vs. full planning? A: Day-of or month-of planning is an oxymoron. A month before the wedding, the planning should be complete. If a couple would like help on the wedding day, a more fitting term would be wedding-day assistant. For full-service wedding planning, a couple typically will team with the planner at the beginning of the process. The planner is then the co-manager of the project and works together with the couple in a venue search, securing all vendors, composing a timeline, making arrangements for out-of-town guests, adding special personalized touches, and coordinating the actual wedding day.
Q: How involved are the bride and groom in the planning process if they hire a wedding planner? A: The couple may be as involved or as uninvolved as they would like. If a couple hires us for wedding management, we are co-project managers with the couple in the wedding planning. If they hire us for couture wedding service, we are the project managers and handle every aspect of the planning.
Q: There are so many resources out there for brides to use while planning their wedding—Pinterest being perhaps the most popular right now. How do you suggest a couple keep from feeling overwhelmed during the planning process? A: When starting the wedding-design process, we encourage clients to “pin” and collect lots of photo inspiration for the wedding. It’s a great way to share their design aesthetic with their vendors. Along the way, most couples will edit their collection of photos until they are left with their true vision for the wedding.
Q: What is an absolute deal breaker when planning a wedding? A: Planning a wedding based on only what the couple likes with disregard for the other 150 people who will be attending is discouraged. Be a gracious host and base the wedding timing and menu on all guests, not just the particular taste of the couple.
Q: How important is sticking to a deadline? How do you make sure not to lose the free feeling of a party atmosphere while keeping to the itinerary? A: Forming and using a good wedding-day timeline means that your guests will have a comfortable, fun time and never be aware that there is any kind of a “schedule.” They will just feel that the event is flowing at a good pace while actually there is a team of people behind the scenes who are aware of the timing and managing the party.
Q: Is it necessary for couples to choose a grand concept for their wedding? A: No, not at all. A wedding doesn’t need a theme because it is the theme. Personalizing the wedding is much more important than having a grand concept.
Q: What advice can you give couples on how to actually make decisions about things? A: If a couple cannot reach a decision, it means they do not have enough information. They should shop and research until completely comfortable with committing to a wedding service or product.
Q: What are some ways the couple can involve their family members in the wedding/wedding planning? A: The best way to enlist help with the wedding is to ask parents or friends to take on a specific project. Perhaps it’s planning an engagement party or writing the ceremony program or researching the perfect rehearsal-dinner location or sewing a linen runner for the dinner tables. Choose and assign a project that may be completed well in advance of the wedding so that the helper is free to enjoy the wedding festivities the week of the wedding.
Q: What advice can you give couples in the months leading up to their wedding? A: Relax, have fun, and enjoy the process. It goes so quickly.