Always the Planner… Now a Bride.

Today, we have a special post from our Lead Associate Coordinator, Courtney Brust. It’s special because she is getting married this Saturday.. and she is sharing her wedding planning experience and tips from a planner-turned-bride!

NathanCourtney

The final countdown is here. Actually 3 days to be exact.

While wedding planning, the question I get asked the most isn’t the normal “How did he propose?” “Can I see the ring?” –  it’s “since you’re a wedding coordinator, how has it been planning your own wedding?”

For the most part it’s been wonderful – and I think that is what everyone expects to hear; that it’s a breeze – that I have it “easier” than other brides.  Which again, for the most part, is true. I have industry knowledge that has let me make great vendor selections, keep within budget (..sort of), and saved money by not having to hire a full wedding planner. And if I’m looking for advice – I just happen to have a boss who is willing to share her expertise.

But when I get asked this question, the first thing that comes out of my mouth is usually a *sigh* – which tends to shock people!

Let me tell you something: Planning a wedding is easy – it’s hard to be a bride.

Be the bride, not the planner.

I’m sure anyone who is a planner or knows a planner, understands the characteristics we have. We like to have control of situations, we have a knack for details, and logistics come easy. This is me to a T – which makes it BEYOND difficult to just let go.

I’ve been told numerous times – “You need to be the bride. You need to enjoy this.” And this goes out to every bride: we walk into vendor meetings all business – when what we’re really missing is the big picture. This is YOUR wedding day. Every planning experience happens once. So for the control-driven brides like myself: let it go! Be the bride and let your vendors talk about things you already know and just enjoy the fact this actually happening for YOUR wedding. And keep in mind that your fiance may have no idea whats going on – and not letting the vendor talk about all the facts and details because “you know this” , probably leaves fiance in the dark. Poor, poor fiance.

Trust the professionals

Trying to have confidence in your vendors, mixed with the inability to let go of control is a hot mess waiting to happen. When you basically had all your details and wedding timeline done a month after you were engaged, it’s hard to hand that over to someone else. But these people are professionals. When I work with a bride & groom on their wedding day, I hope to have their full trust that I can take care of their wedding day just as they want it. If I expect that out of my clients, shouldn’t I be giving that to my vendors too? For all brides: Trust. Your. Vendors. But of course, don’t be afraid to speak up when something isn’t the way you envisioned. Let me tell you, I make sure I do this often :) It’s your day, your vision, with professional tweaks from someone who actually does this for a living (that last sentence should be easy to understand why I’m so conflicted, haha)

Actually writing the checks

When we work with clients at Sweetchic, we keep their budget in mind throughout the whole planning process. When I work with bride and grooms for day-of coordination – they’ve basically handled the budget themselves and may just need suggestions on tipping vendors. So although we like to keep them on track – we never handle the money.

It’s kind of like when it was so much easier spending your parents money when you were younger, but as you made your own, it was harder to spend coming out of your own pocket. That’s how we’re feeling now. I’m not used to booking vendors — and actually paying for it. Each check written and credit card swiped creates a bit of uneasiness.

Tip to stay on budget:
1) When you make an initial budget to stay within – make sure you have some cushion room.  The “cushion” will be for those extra things you just “had to have”, unexpected costs, and of course, gratuity & tips. A good amount would be a 10% cushion, but at minimum a few extra thousands.
2) Make a budget spreadsheet, broken down into each category (i.e. venue, catering, decor/floral, apparel, entertainment, stationary, etc.) — and stick to it. I actually overheard a woman shopping for her wedding the other day and she was complaining that she’d have to go home and track down what she just spent, since her fiance is very strict about their budget spreadsheet. You’ve got a good man, honey.
3) Keep track of where “wedding money” is. Keep it all in one place such as a checking account or even a savings and withdraw as needed. It’s like those old ING commercials, “This is orange money. I can’t use this.”

More than just the bride & grooms’s opinions…

Sure parents, siblings, and friends may come to initial meetings and some vendor meetings, but most of the time we’re just communicating with the couple. This makes our job easier for the most part. Then I step into the role of a bride and realize how many opinions are really coming your way. This is what my clients deal with? People’s opinions on not keeping the traditional “not seeing each other before the ceremony” and when we’re going to cut our cake?  Let’s not forget the parents. We may feel obligated to respect and follow our parents wishes because they may be paying for all or some of the wedding, or you just don’t want to start off on the wrong foot with your in laws.

Here’s our tip: find out your parents priorities early. Just as you have expectations for your wedding – they may too. If they have different opinions than the couple, as long as it doesn’t completely stomp on the couples dreams, try to meet at a middle ground where everyone is happy. If you lay out the expectations and priorities from all parties in the beginning, there will be no surprises (hopefully!) in the middle of planning when you had no idea that a parent wanted a certain thing or felt a certain way.

But do keep in mind that it is your day, and if you and your fiance really want something that maybe isn’t the favorite of a parent’s, go with your gut feeling.

Day-of Relaxation…TBD

I’m not quite sure how I’ll be on my wedding day. As of now, I feel like I’ll be an anxious wreck wondering if everything is under control. It wouldn’t matter how many wedding coordinators I have there, because I’m not in control, I get nervous. But this is NOT how I want to spend my day. I want to fully enjoy the moment and all the emotions – with the exception of stress. Feeling like me about your wedding day?

Tip Number One: hire a wedding planner, or at least a day of coordinator. Trust us ;)
Tip Number Two: As much as you don’t want to have your family and friends help (and your wedding coordinator says they will take care of everything ,because we will..), they will WANT to help. Even if its just little things. Grabbing something for you here, relaying a message there. Don’t ask them to set-up the centerpieces, but if you forgot to tell you coordinator something, have someone else call them. It’s the little details like that that can stress you out – so its better to hand them to someone else.

Keep calm and be the bride.

Tips for Booking a Wedding Hotel Block

It’s always a courteous gesture to reserve room blocks for your out-of-town wedding guests. They may not know the best hotels or the closest hotels to your venue. Or you may want the majority of your guests to stay at the hotel where you are staying on your special day. Keep in mind not all guests and out-of-towners will use the room blocks you provided them. A lot of your guests may be loyalty members to specific chain or will use discount bookings sites such as Expedia or Travelocity.

What is a hotel block?

AKA a ‘wedding room block’, is a selection of rooms (usually 10-15 rooms) that are put on ‘hold’ for your wedding guests. These rooms are often offered at a discounted rate (but it really depends on what is going on in the city that weekend!). The wedding block will usually be labeled under the Bride and Groom’s last names, making it easy for guests when they make reservations. **When making reservations over the phone, it’s very important that your guests say that they are  here for that specific wedding so they receive the correct rate**

How do I book a hotel block?

By contacting the hotel’s “Group Sales” office. Many hotels will have a specific person who deals directly with wedding room blocks. You’ll provide them with the dates that you’re looking to hold (normally, checking in one day before the wedding, and checking out the day after), and how many rooms you think you’ll need to hold. This is all based on how many out of town guests you have. If the majority of your guests are from out of town, you may consider having several blocks at different hotels at different price points. The Group Sales will send you over a contract, and from there is like normal contract business :)

Who pays for it?

Unless you decide to pick up the tab for everyone, the guests will pay for the room themselves.

Key words:

Courtesy Room Blocks: A lot of hotels in Chicago offer courtesy blocks, where they will hold these rooms for you, and if not every room gets booked before the cut-off day (explained below), they will ‘put the room back on the market’, without cost to the bride and groom.

Attrition: When a hotel says they can offer you “10 rooms for $198 per night, with 90% attrition” this is what they mean:

If by the end of your cut-off date,90% of the room block HAS NOT been reserved, you will be charged for the rooms that were not sold. For example, if your guests booked 7 out of 10 rooms, with 90% attrition, you would be charged for the 2 rooms that were not picked up.

How do I inform my guests about the blocks?

Send a printed “Accommodations” card with your invitations stating where the room blocks are, and that they should request “Name of Wedding Room Block” when they make reservations. A lot of hotels offer web links for you to put on your wedding website, that directs your guests to reserve within the room block.

Disecting the Contract 

What is a “Cut-Off” date?
This is the last date that your guests can book a room under the wedding room block and still receive the group discounted rate. After this date, the rooms are “put back on the market”. This date is usually one month before the wedding day, perfect timing with when your guests need to respond!

What are Concessions?
Upgrades. Concessions are bonuses the bride and groom receive for having awesome guests who booked this hotel block. Some hotels will offer the bride and groom a complimentary suite upgrade if their entire room block or percentage of their room block is booked. Sometimes they even offer complimentary suite upgrades for the parents!

Things to watch out for…

  • When Group Sales gives you a single rate, be sure to ask what types of rooms that includes (king, queen/queen, etc). In contracts, if only one rate is listed, be sure to check underneath in the “Rates” section, as if may state there is an extra fee on top of the given rate for a queen/queen room.
  • How long the rates are available for. Some hotels will list in their hotel contract that these discounted rates will be available to your guests 3 days before, and 3 days after the event. It’s nice to relay this information on to your guests, as they may want to make a longer vacation out of it.
  • Welcome Bag Policy. It’s a nice idea to welcome your out of town guests with a surprise gift when they arrive — but you’re probably going to pay delivery charges. Different hotels have different policies.

    Wedding room blocks can be confusing to navigate, so we hope this helps! 

How to Find the Perfect Restaurant for a Rehearsal Dinner in Chicago

With the plethora of restaurants in Chicago, and new ones popping up, whats seems like every week, choosing a place for your rehearsal dinner can be quite the challenge. Here at Sweetchic, we’ve even put together our own Rehearsal Dinner Restaurant List just so we can stay on top of all the restaurants!

But first… What should you look for when searching for a rehearsal dinner spot?

  • How many guests can the restaurant’s private dining space hold?
    Tip: Some restaurants will list out the capacity on their websites, stating that they can hold up to 100 in such-in-such space. Keep in mind that this maximum number listed is most likely for a cocktail reception, not a sit-down dinner.

  • How much does it cost per person?
    Tip: Keep in mind, this normally does not include alcohol, just the food. It also does not include tax OR gratuity (which can be about 18 – 22%)

  • How much are the alcohol packages?
    Tip: Just like a wedding, there are different alcohol packages offered. It could be cash bar, based on consumption, or an open bar. Packages for rehearsal dinners usually start at 2 hours of open bar.

  • What is the food and beverage minimum and/or rental fee for the space?
    Tip:
     What is a food and beverage minimum? It is the minimum amount of money that the client must spend/reach in order to book the space. Again, keep in mind that this does NOT include tax or gratuity. Most of the time, the room rental fee will be waved if the client reaches the minimum, but if not, they may charge you a  “rental fee” of the amount left over to reach the  minimum. Basically, if your short of your minimum – just order some extra food or beverages – you don’t want your money to go to nothing! Food and beverage minimums are normally determined by the space your are renting, the number of guests attending, and the date and time!

 Your rehearsal dinner can be as casual or formal as you want it to be! Stay tuned for some of our favorite Chicago restaurants to host a great rehearsal dinner!