Assemble Your Wedding "Dream Team"

The perfect wedding begins with the right team of vendors.
The perfect wedding begins with the right team of vendors.

Find the Right People to Plan Your Wedding

Weddings are big, big parties! Unless you are planning to elope, you are going to need some help in making your vision of the perfect day become a reality. There are so many elements which go into planning an event on the scale of a wedding that no bride can do it all alone. It takes a group of people all working together in harmony, including a wedding coordinator, a florist, a caterer, a baker, a bridal salon, a band, and more to plan and create a beautiful wedding. This is a look at all of the different vendors who go into designing a wedding, whether your event will use the top celebrities in the wedding industry or the local shop in your hometown. Prepare to assemble your wedding “dream team”, the vendors who will make all of your wedding fantasies come to life.

A fantasy wedding at the Plaza designed by David Tutera.
A fantasy wedding at the Plaza designed by David Tutera.
Your wedding planner will help bring your vision to life.
Your wedding planner will help bring your vision to life.

Wedding Coordinator

This is where it all begins. There are certainly many brides who act as their own wedding coordinators (maybe with some help from mom or their best friend), but more and more brides are turning to professional wedding planners. There are numerous reasons why an event planner might be beneficial for your wedding, even if it is not going to be a particularly lavish affair. For brides with busy careers, it can be very difficult to invest the time that it takes to find the best reception venues, caterers, florists, and bands in your region and in your price range. Having a wedding planner to do all of the legwork can be a huge timesaver.

Something else that a good wedding planner can do is help you save money. Surprised? Many couples jump into the wedding planning process with a very hazy idea of what it all costs and what they can truly afford to spend. It doesn't take long for expenses to spiral out of control. An event coordinator can work with the bride and groom to set a firm budget, help them to allocate their funds in the most appropriate manner, and then keep them on budget. Not only that, but an established coordinator will have relationships with the rest of your wedding vendors which can result in them negotiating for you a lower price than if you had hired the same company on your own. Some planners specialize in working with couples with tighter budgets, so be sure to ask about that when interviewing wedding coordinators.

The number one reason that brides hire wedding coordinators is for their vision. The creativity that the best planners put into making each wedding completely unique and utterly spectacular takes them far beyond what most of us could ever pull off on our own. Designing over-the-top extravagant weddings is the purview of celebrity wedding planners. Some of the top names in the business include Preston Bailey, who designed the opulent events for both Donald Trump and his daughter Ivanka. Mindy Weiss is the famous event designer from Beverly Hills who is currently partnering with “Good Morning America”. Then there is David Tutera, who designs Disney Couture Weddings and also has a television show called “My Fair Wedding”, in which he swoops in at the last minute to save brides from their wedding disasters by completely redesigning their events. Other well known celebrity wedding coordinators include Colin Cowie and Texas based Donnie Brown, who was on the show “Whose Wedding Is It, Anyway?”. The good news is that you don't have to hire a world famous event planner to take advantage of their fabulous ideas. Between their books, shows, and websites, every bride can get inspiration from the top artists to take to her hometown wedding planner or to use when designing her wedding on her own.

Every wedding needs gorgeous flowers.
Every wedding needs gorgeous flowers.
Romantic centerpieces set the mood for the reception.
Romantic centerpieces set the mood for the reception.

Florist

What would a wedding be without flowers? Some wedding coordinators have their own floral design companies, otherwise, you will need to find a florist that you trust to handle the bouquets, centerpieces, and other arrangements for your wedding. It is important to realize that every florist has their own unique style. Some specialize in traditional floral arrangements, others in contemporary or quirky design, and others in romantic and lavish decorations. Floral designers will often work out of standard florists' shops, but some of the top artists do events only and have no storefront. The best way to seek out the top florists in your area is word of mouth. If you have a wedding planner, he or she will know who has the most innovative designs, luscious blossoms, and reliable service (after all, it doesn't matter how breathtaking the centerpieces are if they are not delivered in time for the reception!). Others in the know will be the caterers and bridal shops in your area, who hear lots of feedback from other brides and see countless wedding photographs. Also be sure to ask your ceremony or reception venue for their recommendations about wedding flowers. There is a huge upside to using a florist who is familiar with the spaces you are using. They will know how best to spend your floral dollars to get the most bang for buck in your venue. Prices for floral design services will vary tremendously depending on what you want and in what quantity, so try to have an idea of your budget for the flowers before you begin interviewing potential florists. That way, you can meet with each one, discuss the style of centerpieces and bouquets that you like (be sure to bring plenty of pictures!), and see what each florist can offer to fit your taste within your price range to ultimately find the best florist for your wedding.

Great food makes for a great wedding reception!
Great food makes for a great wedding reception!

Caterer

This is another key wedding vendor that you will need for your “dream team”. If you have chosen to work with a hotel, country club, or restaurant, it is highly likely that they will have their own catering staff. This can be extremely convenient, although be sure that you like the quality of their food and menu options before signing a contract at a venue with on-site catering. If you envision a lavish spread of international cuisine and all your venue offers is the standard beef or chicken, that will not be a good fit for you. Caterers have wildly different styles. Some specialize in classical haute cuisine, others in cutting edge trends, while some do their best work for casual receptions. You will be working with your caterer extensively, so be sure that you are as comfortable with their personality as you are with the taste and presentation of their food. As with the florist, it is extremely beneficial to select a caterer who is comfortable working in your chosen venue and knows the amenities. A major question to ask any caterer under consideration is how many events they book on a single day. Will you get their undivided attention, or will your wedding be one event on a crowded (and possibly overbooked) schedule that day? Find out if the caterers you are interested in also offer all the rentals you will need for your venue, or if you will need to source those elsewhere, such as through a tent rental or party rental company.

Sylvia Weinstock "Flora and Fauna" cake.
Sylvia Weinstock "Flora and Fauna" cake.

Baker

Some caterers are also bakers, but in many cases, you will choose a separate baker. Many venues which do have on-site catering will permit you to bring in your own wedding cake from another baker, although they may charge you a cake cutting fee. Wedding cakes are not only big business, but a popular form of entertainment these days. Do you want to splurge on a lavish confection covered in handmade sugar flowers by celebrity bakers Sylvia Weinstock or Ron Ben-Israel? Don't worry, you don't have to be in the New York area to order one of their masterpieces – the top bakers will deliver to almost any destination for a fee, of course. Or maybe you yearn to have your wedding cake made by one of the famous tv bakers like master baker Bartolo Jr. “Buddy” Valastro, aka “The Cake Boss”, or the creative crew at Charm City Cakes, as seen on the “Ace of Cakes”.

Of course for most brides, spending thousands of dollars on a couture wedding cake is a bit of a stretch, but you can always take the ideas that you like from the most fabulous wedding confections and have a local baker translate them into the cake of your dreams. Be aware that different bakers specialize in different techniques. Sylvia Weinstock, for instance, offers only buttercream icing, because she does not like the flavor of fondant. At some smaller bakeries, the painstaking handmade sugar flowers or wacky sculptural cakes featured on the tv cake shows may be beyond the talent or experience of their bakers. If you are limited in your choice of bakeries by geography or budget, be sure to order a cake that is within the range of their bakers. A traditional tiered cake with buttercream frosting and fresh flowers is always beautiful and is a proverbial “piece of cake” for any professional pastry chef.

You will be spending a lot of time at the bridal salon; be sure to shop where they treat you well.
You will be spending a lot of time at the bridal salon; be sure to shop where they treat you well.
It's all about the wedding gown!
It's all about the wedding gown!

Bridal Salon

For most brides, the most delightful part of planning a wedding is finding her dream wedding gown. That is why choosing the perfect bridal salon to be part of your wedding “dream team” is very important. A full service salon will do much more than sell you a dress. They will help you find the best undergarments to make your gown look its best, alter it to fit you like a glove, press it before the wedding day, and possibly even help you preserve your bridal gown for storage after the wedding. If you have a strong relationship with your bridal salon, it will go beyond even the basics. The job of a bridal consultant is half fashion and half psychology. As you shop for your bridal gown, and get further along in the wedding planning process, your consultant may well serve as your sounding board for wedding ideas, recommend vendors (and tip you off about which ones to avoid), reassure you about your body image issues, and even give you advice on how to resolve an argument with your mother or maid of honor. Bridal consultants are used to tears, most of joy, but not always. They keep your secrets, help soothe pre-wedding jitters, and most of all, help you look your most beautiful on your wedding day. That is why picking the right bridal salon is so important to how much you will enjoy your entire wedding gown experience, from the first appointment to the last fitting. A good shop will make the experience an absolute joy, but a poorly run store can cause an endless series of nightmares for the bride.

As you begin shopping for wedding dresses, keep in the back of your mind that you are also shopping for your bridal salon. What type of experience do you want? Have you always imagined indulging in a trip to the Vera Wang flagship salon on Madison Avenue in Manhattan? Maybe you are a fan of the tv show “Say Yes to the Dress” and are dying to find out what the “Kleinfeld experience” is. You might seek an up-and-coming designer who runs her own little boutique specializing in bridal gowns made from eco-friendly materials or one that offers a lot of choices for a beach wedding.

As you walk in the door of a store, pay attention to everything. Are you greeted warmly, or is the reception snooty and reserved? That will give you a big clue into the overall atmosphere of the establishment. Is the salon very particular about the way they maintain their shop and sample dresses? If they request that you remove your shoes before entering and possibly even don white gloves, take that as a sign that your bridal gown will be treated in the same loving and careful manner. Do the consultants seem open to your style, or do they try to steer you towards whatever dress is hot that season, regardless of your taste or budget? When a plus size bride enters a store to shop for her wedding gown, is she greeted enthusiastically or does the consultant look her over and say, “We only carry size 8 samples”? Remember that however you are treated in the beginning will give you quite a lot of insight into what type of experience to expect all along the way. Heaven forbid there is a problem with your gown, you want to be working with a bridal salon that you can count on to do everything in their power to make things right, and with a smile on their face the whole time.

Before thinking that only a big city bridal shop can offer an elegant experience, take the time to see what is available closer to your hometown. It is infinitely more convenient to work with a shop near to your home, especially when it comes time for alterations. Beyond that, though, is that at a smaller salon, you will be one of a handful of brides, not one of a huge group. This can result in a much more personal experience, as you will get the chance to know the people you are working with better, one of whom may well include the bridal shop owner. In addition, many of the upscale shops in large cities charge a much higher markup on their accessories, so even if you do ultimately decide to buy your gown at one of those places, look to smaller boutiques or the Internet when seeking your headpiece, veil, and bridal jewelry.

Don't forget about the little extras that make your wedding shine.
Don't forget about the little extras that make your wedding shine.

The Rest of the Team

There are many more key components to assembling the group of wedding vendors who will make your dreams come true. There is the band or d.j., stationer who will make your invitations, photographer, transportation company, your wedding jeweler, and tent or rental company. Some of these companies may have stores you can visit (particularly jewelers and stationery stores), but many will not, making them a bit harder to locate. So how do you track down the rest of the group you need? Nothing beats a personal recommendation, followed by a visit. In the case of bands or d.j.s, find out how you can see them perform live. There are things you just cannot tell from a cd made in a studio, such as the quality of their sound system, how they engage the crowd, and if they maintain a professional appearance.

When seeking a wedding photographer, there will always be a few top names in any town. There will also be more recently established photographers who may do excellent work at a more reasonable cost. For photographers, their portfolio is the gold standard. Make sure that it is filled with images in the style which you prefer, whether it is traditional, photo-journalistic, or modern and quirky. Your wedding album is one of the few lasting mementos you will have of your special day, so never compromise on photographers. Be sure to check their references, and ask former clients about the demeanor and working style of the photographer. Was he discreet or did he stand right in the middle of the aisle taking pictures and blocking the view of the marriage ceremony? There is nothing worse than an obnoxious wedding photographer who detracts from the entire experience for the guests.

When your wedding all comes together, the result will be the party of a lifetime.
When your wedding all comes together, the result will be the party of a lifetime.

Where to FInd The Best Wedding Vendors

Besides word of mouth, the Internet, bridal shows, and local bridal magazines are all great resources for finding the rest of your wedding vendors. You might find the perfect stationer who handcrafts one-of-a-kind letterpress wedding invitations out of her garage at a bridal show. Your dream set of crystal bridal jewelry may await you at an online boutique. The vendor guide in the back of a local wedding magazine will guide you towards the most popular tent companies or places to rent limousines. Before you know it, you will have your entire dream team assembled, and you will be ready to watch your beautiful wedding vision unfold right before your very eyes.


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