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January 11, 2014

To do for your 'I do': Experts offer wedding-planning tips

By Cheryl Petersen Contributing Writer
The Daily Star

---- — A happy wedding day walks the aisle between overlooking details and being mesmerized by details. To make as few mistakes as possible while planning your wedding, and to avoid the Bridezilla syndrome, Foothills Performing Arts and Civic Center is hosting the Wedding Expo on Sunday.

Whether you are planning a simple or over-the-top wedding, checklists and advice can assist a couple along the way. 

“The Wedding Expo is designed to help brides and grooms stay focused on a future together without being distracted by the unknowns,” said Amy Crouse-Powers, Foothills Performing Arts and Civic Center Office Manager.

In its sixth year, the Wedding Expo, which is free, will host about 35 vendors ranging from wedding planners, bakers, caterers, attire, equipment rentals, DJs and accommodations. The Expo hours are noon to 3 p.m.

“This year, Foothills is also offering an ‘All-Access Experience’ from 10 a.m. to noon,”  Crouse-Powers said. “At a cost of $15, attendees will have the opportunity to participate in an interactive fashion show and hear guest speaker, Fallon Carter, talk about weddings and planning a life together.” 

Carter is a prominent wedding planner from the New York City area. For tickets, call 431-2080.

Basic wedding checklists include: start a folder, make a budget, decide on who will be in the ceremony party, make a guest list, hire a planner if desired, reserve dates and venues, and research caterers, photographers, florists and entertainment. 

Finer points, such as choosing colors, deciding on plan B, and figuring out what to do with Uncle Buck, however, will also become a subject of conversation during the interval. 

Professionals in the wedding industry in this region offered a few suggestions as to how couples can approach their wedding planning.

Celebrations Creations wedding planner Kerri Green said, “Design your wedding to fit your family.” Green has been planning weddings in the area for 12 years and recommended, “Know your price range and keep within a budget. When selecting caterers, photographers, or entertainment, don’t be shy about asking for references. Also remember, that wedding venues are booked in advance.”

Venue availability is limited for the sheer fact that weekend dates are in high demand.

After selecting a wedding date, but before printing it on an invitation, couples are encouraged to call around and make sure venue availability can be secured. 

Lodging should also be done in advance. Even if the ceremony occurs at a home wedding, guests may still need overnight accommodations. “Weekends are so busy that Hampton Inn can be booked a year in advance,” said Ashley Camarata, sales officer at Hampton Inn.

“In this area, during the summers especially, wedding participants are competing for space with those who visit the Baseball Hall of Fame,” she added.

Camarata said, “When looking into lodging, ask if there is a fee to hold a block of rooms, or what the cancellation policy is.” Some hotels also offer spaces for weddings and receptions. 

The rural setting of this region speaks to the couples who prefer an outdoor wedding location. Therefore, farm, or barn, weddings are in style. 

At Mapleshade Farms in Delhi, the 200-acre property offers a variety of options for tying the knot. “The couple can choose to be married in the barn, in the meadow, or on top of the picturesque hill,” said Abby Wilson, co-owner of Mapleshade with Jay Wilson. “The barn also serves as a plan B if it rains.”

Many wedding professionals make coordinated efforts with other providers. “The Mapleshade package is customized to each wedding,” says Abby Wilson. “The couple has access to a list of B&Bs, bakers, table and tent rentals, caterers, DJs, and so on. We all work together to make sure the wedding day runs smoothly.”

The bride and groom can ask providers about their organization capabilities. Do you set up and break down the tents? Do you decorate? When will the flowers be delivered, or do I need to pick them up? 

“As for music, ask the DJ how involved they get with the audience,” says Wendy Loucks, owner of Life of the Party. “In the end, you don’t remember if the chicken was dry or if the cake leaned a little to the left, but you do remember if you had a good time. You remember the kindness expressed during the ceremony and reception.”

Loucks reminds the bride and groom not to hesitate to ask for references before hiring for those significant roles during the event. “You want to be comfortable with who you are placing in charge of your wedding day after you’ve made all the decisions,” added Loucks.

“Surprises come up. But, professionals can work behind the scenes to adapt quickly enough that the bride and groom don’t even know a glitch occurred on the wedding day,” said Mark Tuller of Tuller’s Catering.

Tuller’s Catering offers beer and wine, but that is by design, not because of oversight. “Experience has taught us that access to hard liquor never ends well. The couple is encouraged to ask about drinks or an open bar and decide what suits their taste best. We want the day to be happy,” Tuller said.

In regard to food, Tuller also said, “Ask about menus and provisions for special diets. And, know the number of guests you are inviting.”

Photographers can be asked whether their style of photography is traditional, photojournalistic, or creative. Ask for a portfolio to review. Many photographers come as a couple themselves, a male and female. To capture the wedding day in pictures, the male is in the men’s dressing room while the female is in the women’s dressing area. 

Florists can be asked about seasonal flowers and substitution flowers. 

Rainbow’s End Weddings will have a medley of wedding dresses and attire at the Wedding Expo. A fashion show will begin at 3 p.m.

Unknowns can be reduced, along with the fear of the unknown unknown. When planning for your wedding, take the opportunities to make connections and receive personalized information.