A Bride-to-Be’s Best Friend
Wedding Planner Michelle Hope shares tips for a bright and beautiful ceremony
Interview by Casey Hilder
Click Magazine: What is something that takes a lot of time that most brides wouldn’t consider during the planning process?
Michelle Hope: Planning and following up with vendors is a very time-consuming process that people don’t usually expect. You can end up on the phone for many hours and it gets a little frustrating. However, one good thing about this business is that it’s very relational — your planner will usually have the contacts and cell numbers for some of these people on speed dial, allowing you to communicate in a way that clients might not be able to.
Another very time-consuming process is creating a vision for someone. I don’t like to just whip out an inspiration board based on the color of someone’s dress — we spend hours researching not only online, but in stores and other markets. Creativity isn’t quite as easy as putting together a report.
CM: Where do you get ideas?
MH: Online, but I don’t like to use Pinterest — it’s what everybody else is doing right now. I look at a lot of design magazines for homes and architecture, but I really draw inspiration from all kinds of places. Even browsing through Pottery Barn Kids has given me a few ideas in the past. I can go to Home Goods, Hobby Lobby or Marshall’s if I need to. Because I’m always trying to build things in a practical way, shopping is a great source for ideas.
CM: What are some recent trends in the wedding market?
MH: Pretty much every wedding has a photo booth and lounge furniture. These days, you can’t attend a wedding that doesn’t have at least one of those elements. Now the big thing is tons and tons of details with paper signage — logos and monograms designed by the couple that signify something. It could even be some kind of cute hashtag. Branding is big. Online resources have definitely made this easier than it used to be.
CM: What advice would you give to someone planning a wedding on a budget?
MH: The average wedding costs somewhere around $35,000, based on 250 guests attending. That’s very average for this field. But if you think about taking 250 people out to a moderately priced restaurant, as well as treating them to a glass of wine or beer, you can see how quickly and easily that money could be spent. That’s without the dress, the photographer and other things. If you’re looking to cut costs, start with the guest list.
As co-owner of Social Butterflies,Michelle Hope tends to the needs of hundreds of local brides-to-be on a yearly basis. Social Butterflies, which was founded in 2007, specializes in luxury and high-end weddings around the Mid-South and beyond. “We’ve done weddings everywhere from Jamaica to California,” she says. This month, Hope, an avid event planner and frequent Click contributor, offers advice for the lengthy planning process.
Building a Better Wedding:
A Bride’s Checklist
Catering and Cakes
• Before choosing the time of your wedding reception, consider the time with correlation to meals/food. If you are on a tight budget, host a brunch earlier in the day to help with food costs. Sit down dinners tend to cost more than a buffet and hors d’oeuvres.
• Buttercream cakes are less costly and, typically, less labor intensive. Fondant decorated cakes allow you to choose a design that is really unique and detailed. If you are opposed to the taste or texture of fondant, most bakers use a layer of buttercream under the fondant, so you can easily discard it when you serve the cake.
Floral & Decor
• Go simple if you are on a tight budget. The majority of your time will be spent at the reception, so spend your money where it will be seen and remembered the most.
• Personal flowers can add up quickly and put a big dent in your budget, so keep that in mind when deciding on all those bridesmaids. You can also opt for something less traditional and have maids carry a lantern down the aisle for a candlelit ceremony or a single stem rather than a bouquet of flowers.
• Finalize your guest list before choosing the venue. The worst thing is to be crowded or not have enough space. Plan on every guest you invite attending your wedding, you will have more space than you need but be prepared and not over crowded in most cases. It’s always easier to fill empty space than create more room that does not exist.
• Consider Plan B in all venues. Should you have inclement weather on the wedding day, how will guests get from their car to the reception or if the ceremony is outside, what will you do? We ALWAYS have a full working plan B for every event we do and we rarely ever have to implement them. Better to be safe than sorry.
Invitations and Paper Details
• If you are a DIY girl or guy, this is definitely an area you can create/design and execute yourself. There are numerous commercial printers and even supply stores that print locally that you can have your invitations printed by if you have a design ready to go.
• If you are dreaming up a design but don’t have the skills to make that happen, invitation shops may be able to help realize your vision. And if you just want to save money in this area, Etsy Shops and online companies like Vista Print offer unbeatable deals for wedding stationary from design to print and delivery.
• Do some research to have an idea of what you like, what style looks good on you and where you can find the different designers/dresses. You may have to travel to find a dress you love, even if it’s just to try it on.
• It pays to shop with a local boutique that will help you every step of the way. This will likely be the most expensive gown you ever buy and you WANT the customer service to go with that price tag.
Photography & Videography
• These two vendors will be some of the most important you invest in for your wedding, other than the wedding planner that holds your hand through it all and runs the show (wink wink). After this precious memory of a weekend is over- you will have photos and a video to relive every minute of it. Don’t skimp on these, hire professionals that come with the highest recommendations.
• Entertainment can make or break your reception- so know your audience and choose accordingly. Live music creates a different atmosphere than a DJ, but both are great options for dancing. Opt for a string quartet or acoustic guitar if you are planning for a more cocktail style reception. This is a lighter sound and allows guests to talk and visit without having to yell.
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