Friends vs. Professionals: An interview with wedding professionals

We approached a few of the wedding professionals whose services frequently get replaced by a well-meaning person close to the engaged couple. We asked them to give their thoughts and helpful advice on proceeding with a non-professional for some key elements of a wedding.

Let’s address cost. How can you help brides stick to a budget, but keep the professional quality that you offer?

Julio Freitas (JF)
: We usually find that couples have a very hard time pinpointing their floral budget. It seems as if they are afraid of “offending” the floral designer they are wanting to hire by throwing a number out there that may be too low. We try to work with all budgets and often make suggestions on where to cut, be it a flower, number of centerpieces or size of arrangements.

Abby Turner (AT)
: One of our primary roles is to help the couple stick to a budget. We help them not only determine a number, but how they use the money. One of those strategies is to help them hire professionals that are within their budget, but will also provide a quality product. We take this role seriously to make sure everyone is happy. We serve the couple and the wedding professionals in this aspect.

AJ Rohrer (AR)
: I love chatting with clients on how to use their budget to emphasize the things that matter to them. Do not be afraid to allocate money in your budget to places that reflect what’s important for you. Great music helps propel a good party to epic levels and a great DJ is often much more affordable and helpful than most people imagine. Your DJ is very similar to the rudder of a ship, they are the voice that can turn the direction of your party and keep it running true.

What is one professional tool/experience that you bring to the table that a “friend vendor” can’t?

JF: Our style is rooted in color theory, and many principles and elements of floral design, such as texture and movement. We work very closely with our vendors, who understand our style, to bring the best product we can find while minimizing shipping costs, which can be such a huge expense. We have found that, over the years, those two things have been the foundation behind a client’s decision of hiring a professional to bring their floral vision to life.

AR: Many people think that the key to being a great DJ is music knowledge. I would argue that it is the ability to communicate effectively. The experience of your DJ plays directly into how well they communicate. The biggest difference between a DJ who has done 200 gigs and one who has done 20 is how well they can control a crowd. What do you do when no one is listening to you? What if there is an emergency of some kind? What if no one is dancing? You’ll want to be in experienced hands when the unexpected happens.

Beth Renick (BR)
: When a couple asks a friend or relative to officiate their wedding ceremony they may assume all will be executed perfectly, because it is a person whom they love and trust. However, this connection may not replace the experience of a seasoned professional. The value of a professional is the ability to expect the unexpected and choosing the appropriate action for the best outcome.

How do you strive to make the couple’s day the best wedding day they can experience?

JF: It’s all in the details! We try to work out as many kinks as possible long before the wedding day, and we drill into so many details couples rarely think of! We always ask for a couple of on-site contacts, be it a wedding planner or an involved relative. And we always deliver the bouquet, it’s our favorite part!

AR: We do about 200 weddings as a company every year and it could be so easy to just treat one event the same as another. We combat this by streamlining our basic services while still allowing for full customization. We encourage our clients to be as involved as they want to be in the process the day. Whatever end of the spectrum you are on, we match your DJ to the personality, overall feel, and the skills required for your wedding.

BR: I believe that it is the joy of officiating which reflects a motivation to customize each couples interests and create a ceremony that is personal and perhaps just a bit unique. I have an understanding that the event is not about me, I have no agenda other than to craft a small piece of a great day. Through ten years of experience, I have performed a variety of ceremonies at unique locations. It is through each couple’s unique love story that I am able to create a memorable experience.

Is there a tool brides can use to help their “friend vendor” complete their wedding day task?

JF: Many wedding sites will offer a day-of checklist, and those can be extremely helpful. When a “friend vendor” is helping with flowers, they should be aware of a timeline of when flowers need to be set out. If there are any on-site pieces to be made, an arch, for example, that should also be accounted for in the timeline; set up time is extremely important. If the wedding is during the summer, also take in consideration the weather, so the flowers look perfect for their big show.

AR: If you’ve already tagged a friend to be your vendor of choice, get together a simple day-of schedule. Give them an idea of what order you want things to occur in, specific times are not as important. Get them a list of songs you want played and songs you definitely do not want to hear. Finally, when the big day comes, do not be afraid to communicate if something is not going the way you planned. Communicating with your friend will help minimize any obstacles that may arise.

AT: There are a lot of planning tools on the internet for couples to use when putting together their day. At the very least, give your “friend vendor” a day-of timeline. Give them the contact information to all other vendors, and have the discussion with the vendors and your friend as to task lists. Who is going to take care of each of the portions of the wedding day? As long as everyone knows that it’s covered, there won’t be a question in the moment. Finally, discuss clean-up! If you have tagged a friend to be your day-of coordinator or help, make sure they have a plan for cleaning up.

What should couples look for in a “friend vendor” who can provide realistic wedding services?

JF: The bottom line here is: does the person you want to hire actually do what you want them to do professionally? I have been to so many weddings where the friend hired for a certain position, didn’t work in the wedding industry. There’s nothing wrong with that, but the end result rarely is what the couple expected. Working on a wedding requires a set of skills that’s very specific to that setting. Having a close friend or relative help with the wedding can be a very rewarding, meaningful act, and if your styles mesh, don’t hesitate. But if their work is not what you’re looking for, don’t be afraid to turn down the offer. You’ll want to look back on your wedding and be glad you hired the people that you did.

AR: Be sure that they have good quality equipment and know how to use it properly. Make sure they know the overall feel you want. Whether this person is just doing announcements and playlists; getting people on the dance floor all night; or something in between - communicate what you want for your wedding. Be sure your friend knows where to turn if something unexpected comes up. Finally, make sure they are someone who is reliable and can perform under pressure.

BR: As far as officiants go, a few points to consider are: does the “friend vendor” officiant feel comfortable speaking in front of people, enough to handle the unanticipated? Does the friend know how to write a personalized ceremony that reflects the couple’s love? Can they make it personalized without uncomfortable bits of information? Can the friend direct the bridal parties, family and guests? And finally, do they know the nuances of a basic wedding ceremony?

Your day will be great with a perfect mix of friends and professionals on your team.