Planning a wedding is no small task, a task which involves the coordination of a million different moving parts. From caterers to florists to finding the right officiant and the right dress, it can be daunting. I recently interviewed MaKenna, the founder of Perfectly Planned Moments, a wedding planning service based out of Corvallis Oregon that serves the West Coast. MaKenna was able to explain why you need to hire a wedding planner for the big day.
“I’m MaKenna, the owner of Perfectly Planned Moments, and your wedding planning expert! With years of experience working in catering, floral design, high-end rentals, wedding gown design, cake decorating, and wedding planning, I am here to lead you through the question marks and tough conversations and coordinate a kick-ass wedding.
When I’m not planning weddings, I’m probably hiking around Oregon with my husband, singing karaoke between games of pool at my fave dive bar, refusing to follow a recipe while cooking, or sipping coffee while catching up with a dear friend.”
MaKenna’s Wedding Planning Background
I asked MaKenna how she got involved in the wedding planning business.
“Well, I didn’t realize until I interned with a wedding coordinator, I already had a lot of previous experience. All my past work had unintentionally been in the wedding industry. Before interning, I worked for a caterer, a florist, and a wedding gown designer. I also had some experience in cake decorating. At one point, I worked for a rental company that also does wedding coordination.”
“I got a lot of really good experience from the internship because they did these massive Indian weddings that were multiple day events. When I eventually quit to start my own business, I started my business in California and then moved to Oregon a couple of years later. So now, I service the West Coast and fly between States.”
Related article: Event Planning Across Cultures And Traditions
The Importance of a Wedding Planner
MaKenna explained to me why it is so essential to hire a wedding planner – it’s not just because they use event planning software.
“The industry has grown so much in the last 20 years. For instance, when my parents got married, they just had cake and nuts instead of a big dinner. They didn’t really do dancing. I think they did first dances, but it wasn’t like a big party. Guests just came for the ceremony, which was relatively simple. You hardly need a coordinator for that.”
“Since then, weddings have grown into these enormous undertakings where you have at least 10 different vendors to coordinate with. They all arrive at different times on the wedding day. There are so many different moving parts. That is where someone like me comes in. Having experience in and familiarity with all these different vendor areas, I am able to help ease the job of a couple by being a liaison between them and the vendors. Because I know what the vendors’ jobs entail and what they should look like on the day of the wedding, I can help everything run more smoothly.”
Pro tip: An awesome event timeline will help keep everyone on track, whether you hire a wedding planner or not 😉
Hiring A Wedding Planner Saves A Ton of Time
“Another benefit of hiring a good wedding planner is the time you save in finding and deciding on vendors. I am already familiar with an army of vendors that I have worked with before, I know how they work and can vouch for them. I can say, ‘This is a great starting point for you; if you’re just starting your planning process, take a look at these photographers or these bakers (or whoever) and decide if you want to work with them or reach beyond that group of people.'”
“Just in general, on the wedding day, everything can be so chaotic, and it goes by so quickly. Having somebody whose sole purpose is to work behind the scenes making sure everything happens correctly is invaluable.”
“If it’s not a coordinator or planner doing it, it’s going to be the bride’s mom or the maid of honor or the bride, and those people are the VIPs. They should be guests at the wedding. They should be experiencing it, not running around like crazy, making sure that everything is happening properly.”
Hire A Wedding Planner To Be A Liaison and Advocate
I asked MaKenna to elaborate further on how a wedding planner can liaise between vendors and their clients.
“The way that I communicate with vendors on my client’s behalf starts with my client deciding which vendors they might be interested in working with. We get quotes and availability back and then narrow it down and decide who to set up a consultation with. It might be a phone consultation, Zoom consultation, or in-person consultation where I go with the client. I want to allow the vendors to lead the conversation, but if they’re not really sure what to say, I know what to say because I’ve worked with all of them before.”
“When the clients have questions about why something is priced a certain way or done a certain way, I can inform them. Part of my job is to be an educator to clients, even behind the scenes, not just interfacing with the vendors.”
MaKenna then explained the role she plays as an advocate to her clients.
“Especially now, during the pandemic, I have been doing a lot of advocating. I can see the frustration on both sides. On the one hand, I am a bride who has had to postpone her own wedding, and that is very emotional, on the other hand, I am a wedding planner (vendor) who is having to push all of these weddings out to next year and split the cost between two wedding seasons; that’s detrimental. I understand that the pandemic is happening to the wedding industry, too, not just all the brides who have to cancel or postpone.”
“As an advocate for my clients, I can reach out to the vendors individually and say ‘Hey, look, this is the emotional temperature where my client is at. When you reach out to them, say ‘this’ and not ‘that.’ Understanding where both sides are coming from, I can allow venting and help to defuse some of the frustration on both sides.”
The Distinction Between a Wedding Planner and a Coordinator
I then asked McKenna what the difference is between a Wedding Planner and a Wedding Coordinator. She explained:
“Everybody has a different opinion on how to use these terms, but there is a distinction in my mind between the two because I offer two main packages, wedding planning, and wedding coordination. If you hire me just as your coordinator, my scope of work is going to be less than if I were to help you plan the whole thing.”
“A coordinator is more of an advising role along the way, with the understanding that the client handles the majority of the work. Then, I jump in near the end to coordinate the end result on the day of the wedding. If I’m only coordinating the wedding, I’m not the planner. But if I’ve planned the whole wedding, I’ve been working with the client for a year and a half on every last detail. I then call myself the planner on the day of the wedding because I planned the whole thing.”
“Don’t get me wrong, wedding coordination is more than just showing up the day of the wedding and coordinating. It’s impossible to not do any legwork beforehand and expect the wedding to go well. The whole reason you hire a coordinator is for it to go well. A good wedding coordination package would start at least six weeks before the wedding so that you can get to know who the couple is, understand their vendors and call the vendors or email them to confirm their arrival and departure times the day of the wedding.”
“Also, by building a relationship with the client, which takes time, you can better understand the way that they would make decisions if things go wrong on the day of the wedding. By establishing that prior relationship, you know how to work on their behalf. In the midst of everything, you can’t just interrupt them and be like, ‘Hey, this happened. What do you want me to do?’ You know how to act.”
“So, my wedding coordination package starts as soon as they decide to book me. Clients have access to communicate with me, even if their wedding is a year and a half out. I think that makes my job easier. It might be a little bit more time consuming, but that gives them the opportunity to ask me questions like, ‘How should I go about doing this?’ or ‘What vendors should I book?'”
Common Mistakes That Can be Avoided by Hiring a Planner.
So, why hire a wedding planner? Well, I asked MaKenna some common mistakes she has seen that could have been avoided if the client had consulted her first.
“A lot of people want to DIY stuff. Pinterest is the first place that people go when they start planning their weddings (even before they’re engaged). Pinterest makes DIY look so easy and great when it’s actually really hard. Often, a Pinterest picture looks great, but the final result when you try to do it yourself looks crappy. Not everyone is arts-and-craftsy. I’m not craftsy – I’m much more logistics minded. Some people are, and that’s great. But I’ve seen a lot of DIY projects go wrong.”
“An excellent example is people DIYing their flowers for their wedding. I’ve worked as a florist, so I understand the scope of work that actually goes into that. I’ve seen flowers freeze to death in a refrigerator the night before. People don’t understand what temperature they need to be stored at.”
“Also, making bouquets, boutonnieres and centerpieces is so much more time consuming than you think because there’s a real science to arranging the flowers. You can’t just throw them all together and have it look like a Pinterest picture. Unless you know what you’re doing, it just doesn’t work. So, I’ve had a lot of couples reach out to me and ask, ‘Hey, MaKenna, I want to DIY my flowers. What do I need to know?’ And there’s a lot that I can tell them, but maybe over half of the time, after explaining what the DIY would entail, clients decide to hire a florist instead.”
When Can A Couple Do DIY Right?
I wanted to know if she had seen any instances where a DIY had gone right.
“One of the things I think DIY can work out well for a couple is when the officiant is a family member or a friend because they know the couple so much better. The way that they share about the couple is so much warmer and personal. A hired officiant has a couple of phone calls with the couple and might ask them some personal questions, then totally fake it on the wedding day. I just think that it usually comes across a little flat. So, I encourage clients, if they don’t already have an officiant, like a pastor or something, to think about a friend or family member who might do that for them.”
“If a couple does decide to have a friend or family member as their officiant, I can coach that person through the process of ‘Here are some sample ceremony scripts that you can take a look at, then you can write your own and then send it to me, and I’ll let you know what I think.’ That usually works out very well. But if they didn’t have a coordinator and decided to have Uncle Bob officiate anyway, there are more chances of it going wrong. Unless he has somebody else helping him.”
The Wedding of a Wedding Planner
I learned that McKenna is actually a recent bride. She told me about the experience of planning her own wedding as a wedding planner. And no, she didn’t hire a wedding planner, instead opting to plan it herself.
“I like to be very personal with my couples, so all of my couples have known since I got engaged last year, like “I’m engaged, I’m getting married too.” At first, I was uncertain whether that was too personal to share with them because I want to maintain a professional relationship. Still, I found that a lot of my couples would ask me questions like ‘Well, you’re engaged, what are you doing? What would you do in this scenario?’ Then I was so glad that I shared because it made my clients feel like someone was going through the same thing as they were. I found that really aided my relationship with them.”
“I had three May weddings, and mine was at the end of May also. So, I shared my wedding month with three of my clients. Then, when everything went down with the pandemic, I could relate to exactly what my clients were going through having to cancel or postpone. I’ve been able to coach them better through it because I have a personal understanding of that situation myself. I think that’s really helped me.”
“As far as postponing, until yesterday, my venue thought that the pandemic was just the flu and it would go away; we could still have our wedding in May. Their stance was, ‘No, I’m not going to help you postpone. No, I’m not going to refund you.'”
“I had already paid in full. I’m still paying this venue off, and it’s the middle of a pandemic. But I just got word today that we can postpone it to next year. I said, ‘That’s great! I feel like I have a wedding happening again! But essentially, I’ve had to put all of my emotions about postponing my wedding on the back burner in order to coach my clients through the same process. It’s been a nice distraction, honestly. I think it helps me process things in a unique way. But I eloped in March instead of waiting. I didn’t want to wait another year and a half.”
“Our families live in California, and they were not able to be there. Basically, it was our pastor and our two roommates as witnesses in our pastor’s office. We videotaped it and showed our family later. Everybody knew about it; it wasn’t a secret elopement or anything, but we wanted to elope before our County office closed. We could no longer acquire the paperwork. So, it was kind of a rush.”
Hire A Wedding Planner For The Understanding
As the interview ends, I want to highlight the most significant learning from my chat with MaKenna. You hire a wedding planner for their expertise, but equally for their empathy and understanding. And that’s priceless.