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What the Pros Know: Local Experts Offer Wedding Tips

Austin-area experts weigh in with wedding advice that really works.
By: 
Daniel Ramirez

When it comes to weddings, there’s no lack of ideas, inspirations or suggestions to make that special day into a more perfect one. Everyone, it seems, is an expert in the field of wedding planning. From your best friends and loved ones to an endless parade of Pinterest boards and Instagram accounts, the sheer amount of input can be overwhelming.

Want to know how experts make the most of a wedding plan? From brainstorming to bouquet toss, it’s helpful to consider not just what they suggest, but how they would plan their own weddings or the wedding of their best friend. So we asked them.

Planning

Before taking all of our counsel and attempting to DIY the best wedding plan ever, it’s important to realize that this is one of the most challenging projects you’ll undertake. Considering how much weddings mean to so many people, there’s no shame in leaving some or all of the details up to the wedding coordinators and event planners, who often prove indispensable.

“Treat each aspect of a wedding like a living, breathing organism. Whether you’re talking about the budget or a couple’s needs, it’s important to remember that those things evolve. Instead of trying to nail them down once and for all, remember that evolution is healthy. Make yourself flexible to not only meet, but exceed, expectations.” –Lahoma Dade, Events Unleashed

“Month-of coordination is an increasingly popular package with couples on a budget, but by hiring a planner at the start of wedding planning, brides are more likely to stay on-budget. A planner can easily save a bride 15 percent on vendor spending by helping them avoid common budget pitfalls, leveraging professional relationships and negotiating deals. That savings essentially pays for what you would spend on a planner, not to mention all the time you will save to kick back and enjoy your engagement.” –Sydney Campbell, Olive & Belle Events

“Whatever your guest count is, only print about half of that number in wedding programs. Or better yet, have a cute sign made instead. The programs are never used completely and most end up in the trash as soon as the ceremony is over anyway.” –Cheryl Bailey, Yellow Umbrella Events

Photography

With everyone dressed their best and the venue filled with flowers and greenery, the scenes of the day will make for images to treasure for years to come. The experience of a professional photographer can make all the difference, especially with these helpful tips.

“When hiring a photographer for your wedding, ask to see an entire wedding [portfolio]. I know that people are hiring photographers off of their Instagram accounts, but seeing an entire wedding is very important so you can see how the photographer produces for each event throughout the day.” –Ashley Garmon, Ashley Garmon Photographers

“Consider a private last dance. As the coordinator ushers your guests outside to begin lining them up for sparklers/bubbles/cheers, take one last song and embrace all the emotions you felt that day. Ask your photographer/videographer to capture a few moments, and then head out to be ready for the formal exit. You [can] have just a moment to yourselves at the end of the evening.” –April Thomason, April Mae Creative

“You need to like the photographer you hire, as you’ll be spending the entire day with that person. You certainly don’t have to be best friends, but you should at least not find this person annoying on any level.” –Ashley Garmon

Floral/Favors

The Instagram age has definitively influenced the way couples approach floral design and favors. Many take a glance at staged or filtered photos on social media and adopt them as a model. But elaborate arrangements, fancy lettering on trinkets or even painstakingly decorated favors that you hope make their way into a keepsake box could just as well end up in a junk drawer or, worse, left at the table. To get the most out of these elements, consider the following suggestions.

“Cheaper is not always better when it comes to wedding flowers. Sometimes in the artistry of floral design, cheaper means you will end up with fewer flowers than you are expecting or a floral designer who is inexperienced or not as talented. The best way to avoid letdown on the day of the wedding is to pick the artist who understands your vision and has the portfolio to back it up, not the one with the lowest bid.” –Abby Daigle, Stems Floral Design

“Unless it’s food or liquor, favors are going in the trash. About 50 percent of the favors are left over at any given wedding.” - Cheryl Bailey, Yellow Umbrella Events

“Reusing florals in several places throughout the day is a smart way to make your floral dollar go further. But if you’re wanting those detail shots from your photographer, be sure to block off the reception space for a few minutes once the florals have been moved to give them time to capture those new details without jackets, purses or bottles around.” –April Thomason, April Mae Creative

Catering

The easiest way to be the consummate host? Feed your lovely guests well. The right caterer will make sure that everyone is accommodated for and feels attended to, as any good host would.

“The catering team is the backbone of the entire event, setting up everything from tables and chairs to bars and food stations. Since [catering] teams play such an integral role throughout the night, it’s important to have that communication with the person doing the planning from the very beginning.” –Kristen Stacey, Royal Fig Catering

“A caterer is responsible for more than just cooking food. They’re keeping the event on track, coordinating with the DJ, the photographer, the planner and the venue. There’s setup and teardown involved in every event. Also, you need lots of trashcans and trash bags–lots and lots of trash bags. Super-random, but often overlooked.” –Stephani O’Connor, The Peached Tortilla

Music

The vows are all said and the guests have been fed—now what? The bulk of the time at a wedding is spent at the reception, so music, though often relegated to the end of the planning process, is of significant import. It can be the difference between a good time and a legendary night, so it benefits from as much forethought as possible.

“There are two appropriate ways to approach performers when inquiring about music for an event. 1. Make an offer and don’t be vague: ‘This is exactly what I need for my event and this is exactly how much I can offer.’ From there, a musician can calibrate if that is acceptable, or help you find a solution with the budget you have available. 2. Ask for a quote and don’t second-guess it. A musician completes a measure of calculations before they give you the final price for your event. They are taking into account all the variables you won’t see before they show up in formal wear, and even the logistics afterward.” –Chase Gassaway, musician

“Choosing the right wedding band is an important element that shouldn’t be compromised. The best place to start is by getting recommendations from your wedding coordinator. They will have a top-three list of their favorite bands that are professional and entertaining.” –Loranda Stuart, Sauce the Band

“If you value music enough to have it on your special day, value the people that make it possible. Remember, you are not just booking a band—you’re working together with people to create a moment you want to remember forever. If you take care of them, they will take care of you.” –Chase Gassaway

“Start your research as soon as possible and ask the bands if you can come see them at one of their performances. This could be a fun girls’ night out with your bridesmaids or a romantic date night with your fiancé.” –Loranda Stuart

Honeymoon

Planning a wedding is often likened to a part-time job. As with most jobs where the stress level escalates and the demands are constant, the first thing sacrificed is the fun of the plan. To combat this, we recommend not only dreaming about how wonderful the wedding day will be, but also the honeymoon to follow.

“The best secret I could tell a client, myself or a loved one that I am doing a custom trip for is to learn to let go of the perfectionist mindset, especially once travel begins. This sets high and unrealistic expectations for themselves, others and all situations.” –Skip Neal, Your Getaway Guru

“Learn to have an adventure mindset. [Be] willing to roll with things more easily. … try to be flexible, grateful, realizing this is a wonderful journey to embrace. Realize how fortunate [you] are to travel to whatever destination is chosen.” –Skip Neal