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WHERE you will and won’t find help::the 5 W’s of wedding planning

Myth::Your reception hall “coordinator” will help you plan your wedding

Truth:: I often hear brides say that they “don’t need an outside planner” because their venue has an on-site coordinator, and unfortunately, some brides find out too late that this is just not the case. The on-site coordinator is there to manage the services being provided by the reception hall, and the services they will provide are very different from those that a professional wedding planner will provide.  A good on-site coordinator will assist you with items setting up your tables and chairs, place settings and linens (if provided by the venue) and opening the building for vendor deliveries (depending on your venue). Don’t get me wrong—they are super helpful, but as part of the venue, they are there to help with very specific tasks.

Unlike an actual wedding planner or day-of coordinator, your on-site venue coordinator will not call your vendors to verify anything the week before the wedding, find you vendors that meet your budget (though they may give you a pre-made list), call your bakery with your final numbers, or help you to trouble shoot difficult issues with vendors on your wedding day.  Don’t get me wrong, on-site coordinators are great, but it’s important to understand what they will and won’t do for you, so you can be properly prepared for your big day!

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WHY you should hire a professional::the 5 W’s of wedding planning

You may have noticed in the posts in this series, “The 5 W’s of Wedding Planning,” I have consistently mentioned professional planning, and there’s a reason for that…

If you’ve already done any research on wedding planning in your local area, you’ve probably noticed that there is a large range in pricing, services and experience. It’s important to remember that—like most things—you get what you pay for. If you’re hiring a day-of coordinator for $350, you can expect to get service and experience that is on par with that price.  You can also expect that if you hire someone who is a planner as a hobby, versus a full-time profession, you can expect to receive a different level of service & attentiveness. Remember that you are not only paying for the planners time & actual services, but you are also paying for the personal experience, knowledge and relationships a professional planner has. A professional planner has planned multiple weddings for clients, has an established reputation with local wedding professionals and will be able to show you a portfolio of professional work.

Sure, your friend can step in and help you set up your tables and tell everyone to walk down the aisle, but she has most likely never worked at that venue and with your vendors—when a problem arises she won’t be much help to you—she hasn’t faced similar problems and doesn’t have connections with the local professionals that could help. And while a professional planner is going to charge much more than your friend or someone who plans as a hobby, they will also bring with them an added value. A good professional wedding planner will help you create a realistic budget, find you vendors that will fit within that budget, will save you countless hours of your own valuable time with their knowledge and resources and will save you money in the long run. So when comparing planning services and wedding planners, be sure you aren’t comparing apples to oranges and know what you are getting for the price!

Do your research and find a professional wedding planner who fits not only your budget, but also has the experience needed to help make your day spectacular!

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WHEN should you reach out for help::the 5 W’s of wedding planning

It’s never too early to ask for help. In Southwest Michigan, many of the most popular venues book their Saturday dates a year in advance, so it’s very common for couples to start planning 9-18 months out! So if you’ve just gotten engaged and are already feeling overwhelmed, reach out to a professional wedding planner. They can help you map out a plan that will get you from “I will” to “I do,” while maintaining your sanity, keeping your budget in check and creating an amazing day!

It’s also never too late to ask for help! We have helped brides as early as 18 months before their weddings, and as late as 3 weeks prior to their wedding! If your wedding date is just around the corner and the last minute details have you feeling unprepared, you don’t have to be alone. From last minute seating arrangements to day-of delivery schedules, a professional planner can step in and help you pull it all together. If you’re feeling overwhelmed a few months prior to your wedding, it may be helpful to look into Day-of Coordination services, to help alleviate stress and relax on your wedding day!  A Day-of Coordinator (DOC) will confirm your orders, set up delivery times, manage your set up, assist with the ceremony, assist you in executing your timeline, and be there to help trouble shoot any issues (among other things!)

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WHO needs a wedding planner::the 5 W’s of wedding planning

As a professional wedding planner, of course I wish I could say that “if you are engaged, you absolutely, positively, MUST hire a wedding planner”…BUT, it just wouldn’t be true.  I also wish I could say that the list below is a definitive guide to determining if you need a wedding planner…but I can’t. What I can do, is let you know that there are many reasons for hiring a wedding planner–it’s a personal choice for each and every bride—one that I believe helps brides and grooms to have a more enjoyable engagement, and save time and money.  Here are just a few reasons why you may find yourself in need of a professional wedding planner:


  • You’re planning your wedding from out of state or out of town…
  • You have a demanding job or hectic schedule….
  • You can’t find the perfect venue…
  • You want to make the most of your budget…
  • You are so stressed you cannot enjoy the process of planning your wedding…
  • You don’t know how to get started…
  • You’re planning your wedding in a short time-frame…
  • You’re struggling to define the look and feel of your wedding style…
  • You need a “go-to” person for your wedding day…
  • You are concerned that the planning process will cause family stress…or it already is…
  • Your wedding is being held at a non-traditional venue or on the beach…
  • You want to plan an incredible event while staying stress free and enjoying your engagement!

If you feel like you could use some help, you don’t have time to plan the wedding you’re dreaming of, or that the planning process is overwhelming you, set up a consultation with a professional wedding planner in your area, or the area where you’re holding your wedding.  A professional planner will be more than happy to talk through your issues and concerns to determine if planning is right for you, and what level of assistance would be the best fit to ensure your day is fabulous, and you remain a stress-free, beautiful bride on your wedding day!

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WHAT does a wedding planner do::the 5 W’s of professional wedding planning

If you’re already planning your Michigan wedding—or a wedding anywhere—you already know that there are a lot of fun decisions to be made: the perfect flowers, those beautiful linens, an amazingly delicious cake, just the right song for that special first dance. And you probably also know that there are a lot of “experts” out there that are happy to help you with all of that “fun stuff.” Your cousin who got married last summer and knows the ONLY florist you should go to–which was hers, of course…your sister, who is happy to email you picture after picture of all of her favorite ideas…your future mother in law who wants to take you to her favorite caterers (though she hasn’t asked you about your food preferences).  Brides rarely find themselves with no one to offer assistance, but rather, it’s just not the assistance really needed, and it’s overwhelming. Everyone above is very well meaning, but the truth is, that most people are used to planning their wedding.

If what you’re looking for is ideas for your wedding, then your friends and family can be a great resource (so are bridal magazines!). But if you’re looking for more, then a professional wedding planner can offer you the kind of assistance that will make planning your wedding enjoyable and manageable, and leave you with a wedding that reflects you!  Your cousin probably had a great florist…but that doesn’t necessarily mean that that florist fits your style or budget or can cater to what you are looking for.  There’s a reason there are a ton of wedding vendors out there —every vendor is not a perfect fit for every bride—each one brings their own style, strengths, personality and pricing.  A professional wedding planner has connections and working relationships with vendors of all styles and budgets, and can help connect you with the vendors that will get you the most for your money. So while your family members may point you to the florist who is well-known in your area and will do a fantastic job (for a pretty penny), your wedding planner can direct you to a florist who can create what you need within your budget, saving you hundreds, or even thousands of dollars. A professional wedding planner can also take your style into consideration, and isn’t just pointing you in the direction of their favorite things.

When the “fun stuff” is done, your professional wedding planner will be there to figure out the flow of your reception setup, handle the logistics of shuttling your guests from one location to another; put together time lines so your family, bridal party and vendors know where they’re going and when; negotiate with vendors to ensure your orders are correct and on budget; troubleshoot any issues that arise; and will, at all times, make decisions that are best for you, and go along with your overall vision for the day.  And those are just a few of the things a wedding planner can handle for you!

Planning vs. Coordination

Day of Coordination
This is for the bride that wants to plan the wedding herself, but would like the assistance of a professional to ensure that everything is executed properly on the day-of, to oversee the vendors, assist with the ceremony and reception flow, trouble shoot any issues that arise and generally, be the go-to person making sure that your wedding day is wonderful and stress-free for the bride & groom and their families!

Full-Service Planning
This is for the bride who wants to sit back and enjoy her engagement, while a professional wedding planner walks her through every step of the planning process.  From finding a venue and matching you with vendors that match your budget and style, to helping create every detail that will make your day shine, a full-service wedding planner is your partner in creating an amazing wedding!


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quick tip:: choosing your wedding colors

I was chatting with one of our fabulous 2012 brides the other day, and she had a dilemma that I think a lot of other brides out there probably share, so I thought I would share!

The dilemma

Choosing a color scheme, when she doesn’t have a “favorite” color, or anything in mind. There are just so many colors to choose from, she doesn’t know where to get started!

Tips to Find Color Inspiration

Take a cue from your closet:: You may have some favorite hues, and not even realize. Take a look in your closet—are there any colors that you see stand out? Is there a color you wear and always get compliments? Perhaps emerald looks amazing with your hair or wine red is the perfect color for your skin tone? Take a cue from the colors that look great on you—you’ll be surrounded by those colors all day, from dresses to linens to flowers!

Venue inspiration:: If you don’t have any favorite colors in mind, consider choosing a color palette that complements your venue. Is there a piece of artwork at the venue you could pull color inspiration from? Does your venue have a subtle color scheme you can take inspiration from?  Does the venue have beautiful upholstered vintage chairs? Consider working your color scheme around elements already present at your venue!

Professional design help:: If you need some help, you can turn to a wedding planner or event designer to help you come up with inspiration for the perfect color palette. We love helping brides & grooms design their perfect days—from the color palette to all of the details, if you’re struggling with the aesthetics of your wedding day, a professional can help take the stress out of the process!


Stella Event Design works with couples from around the country as they plan their perfect wedding in Southwest Michigan and we look forward to helping you make your very own one-of-a-kind memories! Stella Event Design has a talented team of event planners and is happy to assist brides throughout Michigan.

new for 2011::full service destination ceremony services


This summer we had 2 lovely brides who contacted us to help them plan destination weddings on the beach in early July! Both of them were planning from out of state, over the course of just a few months and wanted assistance pulling together everything they needed to host a beautiful destination wedding on the beach, followed by intimate dinner receptions at local restaurants. We are beach wedding pros, so we put custom services together for them, and now we’re excited to offer those services to future brides—because we loved helping these ladies relax and enjoy their engagements while we planned their perfect destination wedding on the beach!

If you’ve considered a ceremony in the Caribbean but want to stay closer to home so you can have friends & family join you, then consider hosting your beach ceremony in Southwest Michigan, and we will make it simple and fun for you by providing everything you need for a fantastic beach ceremony—from finding the perfect beach for your ceremony, to your flowers, music, officiant, photography and more—it’s all included!

All-inclusive beach ceremonies start at $2000 and are customizable to meet your needs! You get the dress—we’ll do the rest!

slow responding wedding vendors

It’s the time of year when we have a lot of newly engaged brides contacting us, as they come across their first issues while planning their wedding, and as I get these questions, I’ll be sharing them on the blog as well, because they are issues that 99% of brides will come across at some point. If you’re a bride, mother-of-the-bride, or groom who has a question,  feel free to submit them to!

Q: I found a photographer, and really liked their work online, but I left them a voice mail and an email over a week ago, and have not heard back from them. Should I book them, or is this a bad sign?

A: Unfortunately, there is no clear yes or no here. Unfortunately I know some vendors who do a fabulous job, but aren’t prompt with answering emails (and that doesn’t just apply to photographers). You need to consider your own personality & expectations…if you are the kind of person (like me) who likes a prompt response to messages (I consider less than 24 hours prompt, and less than 48 acceptable) then you’ll want to hire wedding vendors who have similar expectations. For you, hiring a slow-responding-vendor may cause more stress than it’s worth.

On the other hand, if you yourself rarely check your email, and aren’t at all unnerved by a response that takes a week, then this won’t be an issue for you. The key to having a good wedding planning experience is hiring vendors you trust. So whether they respond quickly…or slowly…make sure they have great references, a stellar portfolio, and address all of your questions and concerns. It never hurts to get a first-hand professional referral, so reach out to a local wedding planner for trustworthy vendor referrals. Whether you need a fantastic florist or the perfect photographer, a professional wedding planner can match you up with vendors that fit your personality, budget and style!

Now, I’ll be honest, if a vendor doesn’t respond to you for weeks—after multiple messages and emails—I would personally cross them off of my list. Think about it this way—if this is the level of customer service you’re receiving BEFORE even putting down a deposit—then what will the service be like once you are committed to working with that vendor? It’s your wedding day, and you deserve to work with vendors who communicate with you and value your business!

the reality of a backyard wedding

I received a phone call recently from a bride who had an excellent question, and one I think a lot of other brides could probably use the answer to as well. She was considering hosting her wedding on a piece of family property, and wanted to know what things she should consider when deciding between her property, and an actual reception venue/building.

The key to creating a tented wedding on your own property (or even a rented space), is keeping in mind all of the rental costs you are going to incur. While a tented wedding may seem like the budget-friendly option, let’s take a look at how the numbers break down in comparison to a local venue that has a flat $2800 rental fee:

Tent Rental (main tent & catering) $1,600 Room Rental $2,800
Tent sides, in case of rain (10) $350
Lighting $200 Lighting included
12×12 Dance Floor $60 Dance floor included
Guest tables (19) $165 Guest tables included
Tables: Cake, gift, food, bar (8) $68 Tables included
Basic white linens for all tables $216 Basic white linens included
Chairs for reception (150) $565 Chairs for reception included
Restrooms $500 Restrooms included
Total $3,724
Total $2,800

I am not by any means saying you shouldn’t get married in a backyard or on a beautiful piece of family property—that can be a very meaningful and beautiful option for your wedding location—the thing you have to consider is if you are choosing that option only because it seems like the cheaper way to go.  Because in most cases, bringing in all of those rental items will cost you much more than renting a venue (not to mention all of the extra work for you and your family), and that’s something you should realistically consider when choosing between a tented wedding on private property, versus a reception venue.

Besides the actual cost, you also need to consider logistical issues like where everyone will park, if your music will effect neighbors or cause the police to be called, and what you will do in the case of inclement weather (ie. renting heaters), etc.! If a tented wedding on private property is something that is definitely the right choice for you, you can take a lot of stress off of yourself and your family, by hiring a wedding planner. A professional and experienced wedding planner will be able to ensure you aren’t forgetting or overlooking any of the key elements needed to make your tented wedding a success, and will help you and your family to actually enjoy your beautiful wedding day!

green wedding 101::invitations & stationery


(Invitations by Earthly Affair)

You may not realize all of the paper used in the process of your wedding. Save the dates, invitations, response cards, menu cards, place cards, escort cards, table numbers, programs, wedding announcements, thank you cards and all of those envelopes can add up to a huge tower of paper that will go to waste after the wedding.

Here are a few suggestions to lighten the paper load of your wedding:

Save the Dates::Send out a postcard-style Save the Date so you can ditch the envelopes

Invitations::If you make your invitations you have a whole array of earth friendly products available to you from partially recycled papers to 100% recycled! If you’re purchasing, use an earth-friendly company such as Earthly Affair who uses recycled materials and has green business practices! Set up a personal wedding website where guests can rsvp online and you’ll cut down on fuel usage by cutting out the mail drop for that RSVP card!

Place Cards::Use alternatives to paper such as beach glass, river stones or reclaimed wood with guests names! This isn’t only earth-friendly, but also unique and beautiful!

Programs::You can make a big dent in your paper pile by cutting out programs all together!

Planning::You can use a huge amount of paper just in preparation for your wedding. We’ve all seen a bride with a 4 inch thick binder of printed materials! If you’re thinking about printing it, save it instead! Think twice before printing out pictures, emails or spreadsheets and make sure everything is a final copy before it hits the printer!

Have your own green wedding tips? Share them by leaving a comment below!


Class: Green Weddings 210::Creating an Eco-Friendly Wedding

Class Description: Planning a “green” wedding doesn’t have to mean growing your own flowers or wearing a gunny sack dress. We’ll go over creative, chic AND realistic ways to make your wedding day more eco-friendly, and it’s easier than you think! Class will include an additional 15-30 minute Q+A portion!

How to Register: Visit the Bride2Be University website, and click RSVP!