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Stay Informed

By Kristen Watkins of Stephanie Rose Events

WASIO Photography

1.)  Who will be on site at my wedding

Most wedding planners will bring assistants to help coordinate your wedding. You will want to know how many assistants will be on site and if they require vendor meals. Also be sure to ask if the planner you are interviewing will be the lead planner on site for your wedding, or if another coordinator from the team will be the on site contact. You will want to meet the on site lead in person before your wedding day to ensure he or she is a good fit for your personality.

WASIO Photography

2.) What time will you arrive at my wedding and how long will you stay?

Once you know who will be on site for your wedding, you will want to know what time they will arrive and how long they will stay. Some planners will leave once dinner starts and they know all the guests are comfortable. They will turn the timeline over  to the emcee to manage for the remainder of the reception. Other planners will stay until the end of the reception and ensure your personal items and rental items are packed out.

MHM Weddings/Feeling Free Photography

3.) How do you charge?

Wedding planners charge for their services in different ways. Some charge a flat fee for wedding coordination, others charge a percentage of your budget, and others receive a commission from exclusive vendors. You will also want to ask if there are any additional charges, for travel, extra hours, etc. Finally, ask if a deposit is required.

4.) How many times do we meet? What is the best way to contact you?

Depending on the level of service, some coordinators have a set number of hours dedicated to your wedding. You will want to understand how often you will meet with your coordinator and if there are limits on the number of emails and phone calls.

WASIO Photography

5.)  Can you recommend vendors that match my style and budget?

Coordinators are a  fantastic resource for vendor recommendations. You will want to make sure your coordinator can match the perfect vendors to your wedding based on your personality, style and budget.

6.)  Have you ever…

This is the time to ask your coordinator about her experience with the specific details of your wedding. Are you planning an at home wedding? Ask if the planner has experience with that. Do you have family drama? Ask the planner how she has dealt with your situation at previous weddings. Are you combining wedding traditions from different cultures or faiths? Ask the planner for her expertise.

San Diego Destination Weddings

By: Kristen Castillo

You’re connected to the world through technology. Phones, email and the internet provide so much content in our lives. Need a recipe? Look it up online. Want to connect with an old friend? Send her an email. Need to ask a colleague a question? Pick up the phone.

Why should wedding planning be any different from your regular life? Use technology to your advantage and make the most of email, internet research, and phone conversations. Use these tools effectively and you’ll save yourself time, money and worry.


Be honest; face-to-face wedding planning isn’t always convenient or an efficient use of your time. This is why a phone call or the internet can be so helpful. You can get informed and comparison-shop on your time.

Think about how an email could get you a quick answer to an easy question like, “How many people can you accommodate in your private dining room?” Imagine surfing the net in your pajamas on a weekend to learn about wedding photography. Picture yourself on your cell phone during your lunch hour discussing which flowers will be in bloom for your wedding.

Use the web to plan your party. Look at samples of wedding packages like dinner menus, music choices and cake flavors. Review a variety of vendors and compile a list of questions you have. Then pick up the phone and conduct an informal interview with the vendor. Or send off an email asking for more info or to schedule a time to chat over your options on the phone.
One benefit of all these tools is that you don’t have to travel to interview vendors. You can pre-screen them from the comfort of your own home.

The phone is still one of the best research tools because it allows you to interact with the person on the other end. Some of the benefits include hearing the tone of the person’s voice and being able to ask questions and get immediate answers. This is a luxury in today’s fast paced society.

Use the phone interview as a chance to get to know the vendor. You can find out a lot about a vendor based on a quick call. Does she have time to answer your questions or is she too busy to talk? If she’s swamped with work, schedule a better time to chat.
Vendors really do want to talk with brides on a personal level. They don’t mind answering questions, especially if it helps to quickly clear up a confusing point.

“It’s our job to educate brides about what they’re getting,” says Melanie Harm, wedding event coordinator for Festivities Catering.

Harm welcomes the opportunity to speak to brides and grooms over the phone. She recommends striking up a conversation with vendors to get a feel for the people who could help you prepare your big day.

Harm doesn’t recommend email because she says it can be a bit impersonal and that’s not something couples want when selecting vendors. The personal connection is key.

Still many vendors like communicating with brides via email and the internet.

Wedding consultant Christie Gowdy says 60% of her clientele come to her via the internet.

According to Cathy Lynn, author of “Laptop Bride” (available at,, Barnes&, and also, the internet is easy to navigate and a great place to get wedding ideas.

“The internet gives you the option to think romance, personalize your wedding, fulfill your heart’s desire and find great ideas, prices and items you want; sometimes even items you never knew existed,” says Lynn. “Best of all, you can shop anytime of day, in any type of weather, in any kind of dress, with someone or on your own. Secondly, you don’t have to purchase everything on the internet. You can just check it out and if you see a few things, get them. Let’s face it; shopping on-line is the ultimate in convenience and the wave of the future.”
Lynn recommends brides take detailed notes when researching and she stresses the importance of developing good communication with vendors. And remember to keep your notes and a calendar handy at all times.

Whether you check in with a vendor over the phone lines or via the web, don’t let your first question be the obvious question — price. Vendors say it’s a shame that money is always the first concern of brides and grooms.

Sandra Ortmeier of Edelweiss Bakery says most vendor prices are competitive. Besides, a bride and groom’s initial assessment shouldn’t be based on price alone. Sometimes when researching wedding vendors, a phone call or an email isn’t enough to make a decision. For example, when selecting a cake, your taste buds ought to make the final decision.

“You’ve got to taste it,” says Ortmeier. “When it’s something that involves quality, you’ve got to sample it first.”

Quality is important and so is a personality match. Brides and grooms really need get along well with the vendor. A great price doesn’t trump a personality clash or a difference in style.

She also advises brides to set up a separate email account to handle wedding business. Free email accounts from sites like Yahoo or Hotmail are very practical and easy to navigate. The benefits of establishing a new account? All your wedding related emails are organized together and not mixed with work or personal emails. And you can access the free email from any computer at work, home, or on the road. You can close the account after the wedding and not worry about spam or clutter in your inbox.

Remember it’s your wedding day and the vendors are there to help you. Listen to what they have to say, ask questions, and make sure you get the attention and service you deserve.

Above all, know that wedding planning help is just a phone call, an email, or a website away.

By: Kristen Castillo

Wedding planning is fun and exciting, but it’s also a business. As a bride, you need to be business savvy as you finalize all the details of your day. One of the most crucial things to consider is having a clear and solid contract for every wedding vendor and service.

Sure contracts sound boring, but they’re really important since they protect your personal interests and your financial investments. After all, you want to make sure you’re getting everything you expect to get on your special day.

You want the custom cake you ordered, not a substitute; your guy wants to ride to the ceremony in a Hummer, not a black sedan; and you both want the venue to valet park your guests’ cars, just like you’re paying them to do. You need to get all these details in writing to ensure they’ll happen and if something goes wrong, you have proof of what was supposed to happen.
Bob Hoffman Photography & Video
Contracts 101
“We have a contract because we should have a contract,” says Daniel Peterson of Disco Friend. “That’s the professional thing to do.” Get everything in writing and make sure you’re clear on all the terms. A verbal agreement may seem like a good deal at the time, but without a written agreement, your spoken understanding doesn’t have much merit. It may seem uncomfortable to ask for every detail in writing, but it’s worth it in the long run, especially if you need to reference the written agreement in the future.

“You’ve got to have who, what, where, how much and all those basics,” explains Peggy Jewell, former President of the Association of Bridal Consultants and owner of Jewell Entertainment. “I think vendors should be very clear.”

Ask your vendors to be as specific as possible in the contract about what’s included and what’s not. For example, your wedding gown purchase may or may not include alterations, so ask about the policy and get it in writing. Find out if your venue includes linens and chair covers; either way, you should get the details in the written contract.

“Read the contract all the way through!” says Lauren Finley of Rancho Valencia Resort and Spa. “Make sure the details match up with your requirements. Note the payment schedule and note food & beverage minimums. Also, be sure to understand what the repercussions are if you don’t meet the minimums. Be sure to note what the event sites options are in terms of your event. For example, if your numbers drop dramatically, can your event be moved to an alternate space?” You want all your wedding plans to work out exactly as you envision and your contract can help you pull all the details together. Still make sure your contract outlines what will happen if all the plans don’t go smoothly as you hope they will. Ask your vendors to explain in writing what recourse you’ll have if something goes awry.

For example, if your stationer orders the wrong cardstock and envelopes, how will she make up for the error? Here are some things you can barter for in case a mix-up happens: a discount, an order upgrade or even a complimentary set of thank you notes.

Every contract should clearly explain what’s expected of you and what you’ll be getting in return. A good contract will cover all the vital information and lots more like payment deadlines, cancellation and refund policies, as well as whether or not substitutions are allowed. Cancellation policies vary from vendor to vendor, but typically if you cancel, you’ll lose your deposit because the vendor is losing your business and needs to recoup some of the price of his service.

Peterson requires one-third of the total entertainment fee as a non-refundable retainer. That fee secures the date for a couple which means he won’t consider other clients for the same day and time. “As soon as I am booked for a date, I’m turning away other people for that date,” he says.

Jewell says she has a similar policy with her entertainment company: she requires half of the total fee upfront as a non-refundable deposit.

If a couple books and cancels within six months of the big day, Jewell gives the couple their deposit back because that’s usually enough time for her to re-book entertainment for that day. Peterson says he has a comparable deposit refund policy if he re-books the cancelled date. A contract should also cover payment timelines. “It is an industry standard to have full payment of estimated food and beverage costs 30 thirty days prior to your event,” says Finley. “In most cases, those deposits are non-refundable.” Check with your vendors about their substitution policies too. A caterer for example, may want to substitute Chilean salmon with Alaskan salmon because of what’s in season or pricing differences. It may not be a big deal for you and your groom, but it’s fair that you should know about the possible changes and get veto power to say yes or no to the decision to substitute menu items.

Contract Timelines
To make sure you’re getting good service, a good product and a good contract, get quotes from other vendors. “I encourage people to meet with two or three different vendors in the same category,” says Peterson. “Shop around and make sure the decision is 100%.” Once you’ve found a vendor you like, make sure you seal the deal in a reasonable amount of time. The timeline for signing a contract can vary, but Jewell says she typically sees contract timelines that are as short as 24 twenty-four hours or as long as two weeks.

Most of the time, a contract is considered final once it’s signed by both parties. Still you may have some flexibility if you need it. “Wiggle-room is going to be determined by each property,” says Finley. “Probably the larger, ‘corporate’ properties are a bit more rigid than the smaller independent properties. Be sure to get all contract changes in writing.” Ask your vendors if they allow changes or modifications to a contract. They may allow it, but they may charge extra for the courtesy.

“I have a standard contract, but you can write stuff into the contract,” says Peterson. Whatever a vendor’s policy, make sure it’s clear and that it’s in writing. Think about Insurance. This is an important day for you and your groom. No doubt about it, you want the event to be perfect. You may want to consider buying wedding insurance to protect your investment.

You can get insurance to cover you for reasons such as canceling due to bad weather, no-show vendors and unexpected military deployment. Some policies will even cover you for lost or damaged wedding attire or jewelry. According to the Insurance Information Institute, prices for wedding insurance can range from $125 to $400. Before buying wedding insurance, check with the California Department of Insurance to make sure the company is registered to sell insurance in California.

Another insurance consideration is whether or not your vendors are insured. Ask them all if they have insurance. If they do, it’s a good sign you’re working with a true professional.

“More and more venues are requiring insurance,” says Jewell. Transportation companies, photographers and entertainers are just some of the wedding vendors who are getting insurance to protect their business interests. For liability reasons, these vendors and others want to make sure they’re covered in case of an accident or wedding day mishap. With all vendors, make sure you have a backup plan in case of an emergency and always try to be calm and fair. Remember having a contract is a good thing. It protects you and your vendors on your special day.