You and your betrothed need to talk

The Suitor's Visit, by Gerard Terborch, 1676.

The Suitor’s Visit, by Gerard Terborch, 1676.

There are 405 photographers listed in the Hudson Valley area on popular wedding website TheKnot.com. There are 93 caterers, and 66 bands/DJs. There are 387 venue suggestions. What kind of decorations will you have: minimal, rustic, shabby chic, extravagant, homemade? Will you have a buffet, passed hors d’oeuvres, or a full sitdown meal? Will you have a theme? Are favors required?

Are you overwhelmed yet? Planning a wedding is no easy task, but there is help available. A wedding planner can be there from a year out to day-of ceremony help. Not so fast, though. There are 110 Hudson Valley wedding planners listed on The Knot. How does a couple choose?

Poll friends, family and co-workers to see whether they have recommendations. Do some Googling, and then a few phone interviews.

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A couple should look for a wedding planner who fits their communication style. Most wedding planners have websites where prospective clients can see examples of their previous work. The Knot has a recommended list of interview questions: availability, price, familiarity with your favored venue/vendors, payment plans, etc. You also need to figure out if their style works with your vision: what’s their wedding specialty? Examples of unique weddings they’ve planned? Examples of disasters and how they handled it? Will they be ready to advocate for you with vendors and/or family?

If you click with someone over the phone, great! It’s also okay if you want to narrow your selection to a couple of finalists, and then set up face-to-face consultations to see how you’ll work together. You’re going to be spending a lot of time with this person. You want to make sure it’s a good fit.

The Hudson Valley Weddings website suggests another aspect of researching vendors. “The Better Business Bureau should be contacted to check on any complaints that may have been registered against an individual or business. It is also important to check the insurance coverage of the professionals couples choose, to make certain that the coverage is complete.”

Before you start your hunt for the perfect wedding planner, you and your betrothed need to talk. Karin Hlywiak, owner of Cinderella For a Day and wedding planner for more than 15 years, advises the newly engaged to “sit down and figure out your budget and priorities.” Budget will be the biggest factor in most decision-making.

Scan Pinterest, Etsy, Facebook, and start some idea boards. Once you know what you like, then you can figure out how much it’ll cost. “It’s important for couples to be on the same page,” Hlywiak said. “Set a time frame for the engagement, and don’t rush into things.” When couples jump in to the planning process without a clear idea of what they want, the budget can quickly spiral out of control. “A good wedding planner will save you time, money and energy. I put my knowledge and connections to work for my clients.”

After the budget discussion, start with the venue selection, Hlywiak suggests. A venue can help shape the rest of the arrangements. Is it a space with personality, or will you need to invest in decorations? How many guests will fit? Some venues are all-inclusive, which saves you time looking for a caterer and a DJ, but that can also curtail your creativity, depending on how many personal touches you were looking for. Venues and wedding planners tend to book about a year in advance, so plan accordingly.

A wedding planner will work with your vision. They can help with an initial consultation, wedding-day coordination, design ideas, or the whole year-long planning process. Day-of coordination can be everything from setting up tents and lighting for an outdoor ceremony to perfecting tablescapes for an upscale reception.

“Sometimes a bride just needs someone on her side,” Hlywiak adds. If the bridal party and/or the family has strong opinions that don’t agree with the happy couple’s, sometimes it can get tense. “A wedding planner will have your back, and make sure things go according to the bride’s plan.”

Don’t be afraid to express yourself, Hlywiak advises. Today’s wedding is much less by-the-numbers. She’s seen bridesmaids in non-matching dresses, groomsmen in Chuck Taylors, donations to couples’ favorite charities in lieu of favors, food-truck vendors at the reception, and a whole slew of non-cake wedding cakes. The industry has changed over the years, and many of the previous must-haves have gone by the wayside (for example, almost no one does the garter toss anymore. Figure out what traditions, if any, are important to you, and mix and match to suit your own vision.

Hlywiak has also noticed a decrease in budget size. “Photography does not seem to be as prioritized these days, when everyone has an iPhone,” she said. “A lot of couples are also focusing more on do-it-yourself favors, decorations and other personalized touches.” According to The Knot, the average cost of a wedding is $31,000. “Wedding budgets ebb and flow depending on the economy,” Hlywiak notes, “and couples are thinking more of the future, like making a down payment on a house.”

Historically, wedding planning has been the purview of the bride and her family. These days, however, it’s much more common for the couple (two brides, two grooms, one of each, or any other permutation), to work together. “It’s important to incorporate elements of each person, then elements of the couple as a unit,” Hlywiak said. “Everything is joint, but it’s nice to have your own things as well.”

Know what you want (at least a general idea and a wish list), know what your partner wants, and know what you want to spend. Then do some research to find the best person to help you achieve those goals.

This is all easier said than done, I know. I’ve been engaged for two years, and my fiancé and I haven’t settled on a single detail. I’m thinking courthouse, but he’d like something a little more officially ceremonial. We’ll see how we feel in another year or so.

May your own compromising and decision-making be smooth, and congratulations!

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