If you are in the wedding and event industry, you know that we are experiencing a high surge of clientele following the drought year of 2020. I know just this week alone, as I write this, I have 3 weddings all in one week, which is a personal record for TGA. It's kind of crazy to think that just three years ago I was putting on my very first wedding, having the experience of working in a restaurant and planning my own birthday parties, but that was really it for my knowledge. As I go into what is my busiest season ever, I feel nostalgic to share about my first wedding to reflect on what I’ve learned from it. Hopefully if you are new to this industry you find it helpful to learn from what I did (or didnʻt do) and if you are a seasoned wedding professional, maybe this brings you back to your first event. Nevertheless, here are some of the things I wish I knew when I planned my first wedding.
Let me start off by saying, Caitlin and Erika, who were the first couple I worked with, are the sweetest people who ever lived. To allow a young 20 something year old fresh out of college with a degree in Kinesiology to plan one the most important days of their lives is immense trust, and for that I am grateful. None of what could have gone better is a reflection on them, but rather me still finding my footing.
My first wedding was on September 22, 2018 in Monrovia, California. I remember it clearly because it was a week after I celebrated my birthday and I made a wish that everything went smoothly. I will say that in the grand scheme of things, it was a successful first event, but I walked away with a handful of ways that I could have done things better, like a true enneagram 3 would.
One of the biggest things I wish I knew prior to my first event, was how fast time moves. A three hour set up period can feel like 30 minutes when you have a hundred things to do. I remember in one of our first meetings, the couple expressed that they planned to do a lot of DIY at their wedding. It seemed like an easy task to handle, but in reality it was quite a lot of work for myself and one assistant (who at the time was my wife Ipo, because I had $0.00 to pay anyone). We thankfully were able to be fully set up by the time guests arrived, but I was sweating in places I didnʻt know one could sweat trying to make sure everything was done.
The second thing I wish I knew and it may seem like a no-brainer to some of you, but as a planner you are literally who everyone looks to. Caitlin and Erika decided to hire vendors who were just getting into the industry as a way for all of us to grow our portfolios (again they are the best). However, when all of you are super green and donʻt quite know what you are doing, it can become a bit of a guessing game. As the planner, all of the vendors, guests, and couples look to you for answers, so knowing your shit is part of your job description. Looking back, it might have been beneficial to have shadowed one or two weddings prior to throwing myself into a live one, but I've always been a learn as you go type of person.
Third thing that might have been handy to know is that there are certain details that you want to get cleared up prior to the big day, one of which is trash. Knowing who is incharge of trash clean up and where it needs to go is a huge thing to figure out ahead of time, because you will be the one who is incharge of it at the end of the night if that task is not explicitly designated to someone. Trash was not at the forefront of my mind in any of our meetings, but at the end of their wedding we were stuck with about ten 30 gallon bags of trash that we had to take in our Kia Niro to the dump at midnight; not the tea. Now, asking about trash cleanup is one of the first things I ask in timeline meetings to make sure that is taken care of.
Another thing I wish I knew is how much hard work it is to be a wedding planner. Emails, phone calls, and meetings are all part of the pre-wedding stage which is a lot of work organizing those details, but the day of the event is a brutal workout on the body. With the wrong shoes or outfit, it can be a miserable experience. I did not have the right footwear on my first day of work and I paid for it over the days that followed. I remember spending what I made on that wedding to buy a new pair of sensible shoes and a foot massage. While it is a rewarding job that Iʻve had the pleasure to do for a while now, it is nowhere near as glamorous as JLO makes it in The Wedding Planner movie.
The last thing I wish I knew when I planned my first wedding is how quick thinking you need to be. Being able to come up with a plan ABCDEFG is a huge part of being a wedding planner. Almost never does everything go according to plan, so being flexible with change and ready with a solution needs to come like second nature. One of the biggest hiccups at the wedding and what I vividly remember saying under my breath “I should just quit now” happened during the ceremony. As I mentioned before, most of the vendors were new and the couple opted for a ton of DIY. So when it came to their wedding arch, it was a structure that was not the most stable set up. Moments before the couple were to walk down the aisle, the arch and flowers timbered over as guests awaited the processional. It was a fight or flight moment, but I rushed over and was able to readjust the backdrop. I found anything I could that would support it back up. As for the flowers, they took a nosedive, but I was able to reattach what I could quickly back to the arch and utilized the remaining flowers to make a circle on the ground where they stood. I made a quick joke to the crowd that seemed to offer some lightheartedness back into the situation, ran over to the wedding party lineup, and we were back on our way. At the end of the ceremony, I remember the couple saying how cool that circle of flowers was on the ground. They had no idea that anything had happened moments before, which as a planner is a huge success. So yeah, thinking on your toes, HUGE part of being a wedding planner.
I am lucky enough that after every wedding I take time to reflect and find one thing that went great and one thing that can be improved on. Each wedding, I leave with more experience than the last and it is cool to see how far Iʻve come. While I'll never make the same mistakes again, Iʻm thankful to have the space to learn and grow. One of the greatest things I learned from my first wedding is how much I love being able to play a part in a couples love story and how special it is to walk alongside them on this journey, something that I am glad to know now is the greatest part of my job.
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Photography Credit: Peter H Weddings