Wedding Planning

Dear Desiree: Answering Your Most Pressing (and Shocking!) Wedding Planning Questions

May 13, 2024

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Welcome back loverves! Today, we are featuring YOU, our loverves, and answering all of the wedding planning questions you’ve been writing in. This is kind of a unique episode because it doesn't happen all of the time, but I am so excited to answer all of your questions. We talk about everything from logistics of candles at the reception to what to do if you cant afford the wedding you want and EVERYTHING in between. I love this episode because I get to share more advice, with real questions from you, our listeners and wedding pros.

In today's episode, we're diving into some of the most intriguing questions you, our incredible listeners, have been sending in. I love creating these episodes where I get to connect with all of you directly, sharing my experience and advice in this wonderful community of wedding loverves and fellow industry experts. So sit back, grab your favorite beverage, and let's dive into your questions.  







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Question 1: Photo Etiquette

Dear Desiree,  I have been dating the grooms father for 7 years. My name wasn’t listed on the photo schedule. The grooms mothers husband also was not listed. Is this tacky and rude for us not to be included? And is it rude for me to ask for an extra quick picture when my husband is done getting his photo done with the bride and groom?
Answer: If you follow us on Instagram, you know I asked YOU all for your feedback because the team and I were MIXED on this question. On one hand, what’s one quick photo? On the other hand, if the couple wanted those photos they would be on the list, right? There's only so much time for photos you have to prioritize on the wedding day. Here’s what I think the BEST answer is based on all of the feedback we got and thinking about it some more, especially having heard from and talking to a lot of wedding photographers. Without knowing all the intricate details of your relationship it’s hard to say for sure why you weren’t included. It could be an oversight, or maybe there's some kind of tension going on in that relationship, whether you know about it or not.
I do think it might be worth asking BEFORE the wedding if you can be included in this photography shot list. If not, I recommend asking for a photo with the couple and your husband OUTSIDE of the formal portrait photo time. You can ask for this to be during cocktail hour when there isn’t an audience and everything feels more relaxed and the couple might have more time. Ultimately, the photographer is most likely being paid for by the couple, so while “one more photo” won’t hurt anyone, nobody wants to do anything that might make the couple feel defensive on their wedding day!


Question 2: Wedding Dates

Dear Desiree, my friend just got engaged, but she’s planning her wedding before mine. I have been engaged for two years, and I feel like she's getting in fromt of me. I feel like that’s rude, am I in the wrong?
Answer: This might be an unpopular opinion, but you don't get to own a wedding date. There are so many factors that go into the wedding date that asking your friend to wait to have her wedding after yours is just not going to be at the top of her priority list. While you can definitely mention to her that you would prefer she wait, she might have her own reasons for not being able to wait, and there are many external factors that are weighing in on her decision. Like when is the venue actually available? When is her family able to travel for the wedding? Does she have a job that requires she available at certain times of the year? Is it a financial consideration that they need to get married at a certain time? Is she just trying to get married so she can have a baby soon?
There's so many reasons and once you get into the wedding planning process, you will understand that it's really, hard to try to juggle other people's wedding dates around yours because you just may not have a choice. Because I know how many details go into planning a wedding. I say, let this one go. It is easy to get caught up in worrying about conflicting time and energy, but it's almost never a reality and it's definitely not worth ruining a good friendship over, especially if you guys are both invited to each other's weddings. Emotions are running high during wedding planning. If you can, I would say you should always leave a minimum of two weeks in between your wedding and your friend's wedding just to ensure that there are no competing events like your rehearsal. But other than that, I think we need to remember that they have a million and one things to consider, just like you.


Question 3: Backyard Weddings

Dear Desiree, I am planning a backyard wedding and really want a wedding planner but don’t know if it’s in my budget! Where should I begin when I am looking for a wedding planner?
Answer: I highly recommend having a wedding planner so you're on the right track, especially for a backyard wedding. They are much more complicated than weddings at established venues because you are providing everything and building the venue from scratch. There are many questions to consider, such as who is going to be doing the setup and cleanup? Do you have enough lighting? What about power? The list goes on and on. Every time somebody says we'll just have food trucks. Guys, it's literally the worst. When you have a food truck who's going to be setting up the tables, who's going to be sitting at the chairs, who's going to be bussing the tables, the food truck people aren't going to do it. Not only will hiring a planner help you with logistical issues, they'll also help you avoid costly mistakes further down the road, like forgetting about key things that you definitely need, which will cause your budget to balloon beyond what you intended and planned for.
To find this planner, I usually suggest starting with something like Google and looking at wedding planners in your area. You can also use hashtags on Instagram like #NewYorkWeddingPlanner or wherever you life. If you have hired any vendors already, I would check with them also who they recommend you hire. Those would be my first places to look. I am weary of recommending places like the Knot or other vendor directories unless they are local and specific because those vendors aren't vetted. A lot of times though, those places are just for who can pay and sometimes it's good, sometimes it's bad. Also, I recommend you check out episode 123 to hear more of my thoughts on vendor directories and where to actually find your wedding vendors, and also you can check out episode 81 for all about tented weddings. That was such a great episode with my good friend Sarah.


Question 4: Candles

It might surprise you all that are listening, but we received a lot of candle questions so this section will have 3 questions about candles:
Question 4.1: Dear Desiree, I have a venue that requires tear down/clean up on the same night and we have 2 hours to do it. Our decor is lots of candles (specifically ones made in thrifted vintage vessels). Do you have any advice on the clean up/load out process with hundreds of freshly burnt candles with (probably) melted wax? We don’t really have the time frame that allows them to sit and cool for an extended period of time.
Answer: Often when we're planning our events, we start cleaning up in phases, so we'll start with picking up all of the paper, like the menus and the place cards, and anything that's left on the tables so that they look nice and neat. That's phase one. The next phase is we'll start to slowly blow out the votives at tables where no one is sitting and then move on to the taper candles at the very end, once the party is over. When the event is over, all of the catering staff and my staff are quickly working together to get everything picked up. Ultimately, it's going to depend on how many people you have on cleanup, but blow out all of the candles as soon as you can at the beginning when the event is over and let them cool.
Then start to take down flowers and lids and all of the other decor while the candles are cooling.  You can move all of the candles to one table or a few tables while they're cooling, and then you can start to take the flowers off the tables, the linens off the tables, all that stuff. Hopefully as you burn them, most of the candle wax will get used up and there's not much wax left in the candles to let them cool, but again, it's just going to depend on you and your candles.
Question 4.2: Dear Desiree, do you have any tips for the wax dripping and keeping candles lit.
Answer: I would be VERY careful about candle wax dripping and use something like hurricane vases to prevent it. It takes very little candle wax to ruin linens or tables OR BOTH and then you are going to be on the hook to replace them which is going to cost you a TON of money. We've talked about this before, but hurricanes are really helpful for keeping the candle wax contained to just your candle stickholder. 
However, they can still drip down the sides because no matter what, if there's even the slightest breeze or air conditioning, that candle wax is going to drip, which is so romantic looking, but now they just give me anxiety because I know it's going to ruin the tables. At our weddings, we are basically on candle duty the whole evening, so if we are looking around and we see some that are starting to have that candle wax drip down the sides, I immediately grab our candle sniffer and just blow it out.
My last tip about candle wax is to get these little acrylic discs, which we also have in our Amazon store and slide them under the candlestick holder. These little discs are great because they will help catch the candle wax and prevent damage to the linens. I don't love the look of putting a plate under the hurricanes, but the discs are clear and they virtually just disappear when you put the hurricane over them and they're teeny tiny and barely noticeable, and I love them.
Question 4.3: Dear Desiree, how do you ensure the candles stay lit during the reception and are the burn times reliable?
Answer: In general, I do trust burn times when they're labeled on the box, but I buffer in extra time because you aren't going to light a candle the second the reception starts. You're going to need to do it beforehand, because it's going to take a considerable amount of time to light up all of those candles depending on how many people are doing it. One trick that we have is lighting the candle wick before the reception and then blowing it out, so we'll do it during the day during setup, and then we relight them right before doors open and this helps them light much faster.
As for keeping them lit, I wish I could tell you, like I said, a hurricane is great and it will prevent most of the wind and air conditioning, but sometimes the air can still get in there and they will drip and there's just no fail proof method of keeping your candles from dripping, even if they say drip-less candles because if there's a breeze, it's just going to happen.


Question 5: Wedding Planning Burnout

Dear Desiree, I’m getting to the point where I’m ready for the wedding to be done but we still have 15 months to go. We haven’t done anything wedding related in about a month. Any advice would be super helpful as I’m just trying to not get too burnt out. It just feels like a lot at times.
Answer: Oh, girl, take breaks. You are so far out from your wedding, and this is what I always worry about with couples booking their wedding two years out. When we do that, I'd say we're going to book your vendors and then we're going to take a break and pause. We'll still do check-ins, but we're going to do the planning in earnest 12 months out from your wedding because there's just so much time between and your taste might change, trends will change, and then you're going to have to re-plan your wedding all over again. Trust me, I've seen it.
So what I would say is book your vendors and then around 12 months out, take a break. You can go dress shopping, you can start your wedding website before then you can work on your guest list and make sure you have everyone's mailing address correct and formatted properly, but take breaks and don't feel guilty for taking a break. I know that the to-do list can be very overwhelming, but you don't get a prize for doing your nine month task 15 months out before the wedding. Honestly, that could change because pricing changes, so many factors can affect that. So I would just take a break, enjoy the process, and I promise you that almost everything can wait


Question 6: Tipping

Dear Desiree, do you have a podcast episode on tipping?  I didn’t really have a tips budget, but expect to have some.  Is there an etiquette? Who gets tips?  Are checks okay?  Can bartenders have a tip jar? 
Answer: So first of all, a tip is never required. It's always appreciated though, so I think if somebody went above and beyond or you want to tell them thank you, a tip is wonderful. If you can't afford a tip, feel free to write them a note. Definitely leave them reviews EVERYWHERE and recommend them to your friends and family because that is the best way to thank them. A tip is always preferred as cash. It is also much easier for a vendor to divide up cash amongst their team that night if they're splitting it with other people on their staff. I recommend putting all the tips and checks into separate envelopes labeled for each vendor, and then you give them to your planner and they will hand it out at the wedding day.
Now, as far as how much to tip, I'm always hesitant to share concrete numbers when it comes to tipping because it is so personal and ranges based on the amount you paid for the service, how much somebody went above and beyond, so many factors, but here are my very, very general recommendations of what I see.
So first, for your photographer and videographer, I would generally say between $100 to $300 each. Again, depending on the level of service and how happy you are with them. If you're super happy, you can give them more. It really is up to you.
For your servers and wait staff. I think a $20 per person or a flat fee of $200 to $300 is fine. Usually there is gratuity included in the catering, so keep that in mind, but not all places do that, and sometimes our couples will still do a small tip for their staff, even if there is gratuity included in the bill.
For bartenders, I usually recommend about $50 per bartender, but again, it's up to you. It is up to you if you allow the bartender to put out a tip jar. If you do that, there's definitely less obligation for you to tip them.
For your band or a DJ, usually between $50 to $100 per band member or a DJ. Again, it depends on you. Sometimes DJs get $200 to $300 or more. It really depends on how much you love that DJ.
For your florist, I would say anywhere from $200 to $300 to about 10% of your flora budget. Again, this is definitely at your discretion, but keep in mind that it will likely be split amongst the florist and her staff that put all of your arrangements together, set up all of those arrangements, hang the flowers on the chandeliers, move everything, and then take everything down that night. So it's a big team. Again, it depends on you though how many people your florist is bringing. If your wedding is more simple, it's probably going to be less.
Next we have rentals. This depends on how much is being rented and set up. Are you having staff from the rental company set up the tables and chairs? Are they doing a whole tent? Generally for larger parties or tent rentals, I usually see a tip for the set up and take down crew, but not always. For specialty rentals like lounge furniture, you don't need to tip the company, but sometimes it's nice to tip the driver or the people that are setting up the lounge.
Speaking of transportation, I always recommend tipping a transportation company. If you hired one about $50 per driver, as long as there's not gratuity in your bill, sometimes they automatically charge a gratuity, so if you did that, you don't need to tip the driver in additional.
Next, we have hair and makeup, which is usually 20% or about $50 to a little bit more for each stylist. Think of it like going to the salon. It's up to you though.
And of course we have the planner and how much you're going to tip them. Just like with all the other vendors, I always tell couples that this is at their discretion, but they're going to ask, so if you choose to tip the planner, and most of our couples are really generous and do, they usually give between $50 and a few hundred dollars per staff person. That also depends on the couple and their budget and how much we're doing for them.


Question 7: Wedding Montages

Dear Desiree, I was curious if you could go over video/photo montages. Everything from the length to when you recommend showing it. My fiance and I are thinking of sharing a 6 minute video that we would show before our grand entrance. My reasoning for this would be to get everyone's attention as soon as they're sitting down for our reception and get them in the feels before we walk in and have our first dance. I would love to make sure to include at least one photo of every guest included in the video (our wedding is on the smaller side of 70 guests) the reason I want to do this is so everyone feels included and can see how important they are in our lives. 
Answer: I love this question and I think it's so thoughtful of you, but I have to be honest, I don't see photo and video montages very often anymore, but they do still occur. I think it depends on what kind of video or photo montage you want to show, but generally I find that they're more successfully enjoyed when it's passive and you don't keep guests from doing what they want to do. So for a more traditional slideshow photo montage scrolling through photos from your engagement, family photos, photos with your guests, I would have this playing during cocktail hour and then you can also resume it during dancing. This way it doesn't interrupt the guest's experience and they don't feel like they're being forced to watch it.
I would do a loop for your montage that's around one to two minutes, maybe a little longer if you have more people. I just feel like people's attention spans are so short and people aren't going to watch something super long. If the photos are from your actual wedding day because the photographer turned them around super fast and edited them during cocktail hour and you're showing them at dinner. Then I would also show this during dancing. I would play it near the guest book or something like that where people are going to be standing somewhere so again, it's more passive. If you're having someone produce a video where they interview you both and there's music behind it and it goes into your love story, then I do think it would be appropriate to play it right before your entrance, but again, I don't really see that happening a lot.


Question 8: Sending Save the Dates

Dear Desiree, I was wondering if you had advice on when we should send out save the dates? We'll be getting married in my home town, but my fiance and I both have family scattered around the US and a few other countries. What would you say is the most appropriate notice to give for a wedding that is 17 months away?
Answer: While I understand the anticipation and can appreciate wanting to give your guests a lot of notice, I would send save the dates closer to 10 to 12 months before and no earlier. Especially if it's not really a destination wedding for most of your guests. Any more notice than that and they're not going to even be able to book their flights. If they need to book a hotel, they won't be able to do that because the pricing for rooms isn't usually confirmed until 11, maybe 12 months out before your date, but usually closer to 11.
Most importantly, when something feels very far away, people are not going to do anything with this information and they will not take any action, so you'll get the most engagement and excitement for your wedding when your save the dates land around that 10 to 12 month window. However, if you do know certain members of your family need more notice, you can always verbally tell them sooner, but sending out the formal save the dates, I still will not do until around 10 to 12 months before the wedding.


Question 9: Band vs. DJ

I am newly engaged, my fiance and I have a local band that holds a lot of sentimental value to us and we love their music and go to their shows as date nights monthly, and so my fiance suggested that instead of spending our music budget on a DJ potentially spending the music budget on renting this five person band. I'm super on board with this idea, however, I have some concerns. One, if we have the band, do you think it's acceptable/logistically reasonable to also play some music from Spotify premium? For specific things like our first dance where i prefer originals, and not the cover. Or maybe when the band is taking breaks, we can put on other genres of music that isn't quite their speciality. Secondly, we will of course be feeding our vendors that have spent a large chunk of the day at our wedding. However, are we expected to include these five band members to our plated meal/open bar package? Additionally, is there anything that you think I'm foolishly overlooking in terms of booking a live band instead of a DJ? Maybe some services that a DJ provides that a live band might not be as good at? 
Answer: Typically, most bands take two to three breaks depending on how long you have hired them for, and during those breaks they will probably be playing something like a Spotify playlist or MP3. So you can definitely ask them to play those songs that you want the original artist to perform for those songs. Your first dance song is something that my bands also will allow. Honestly, some of them prefer that, but it really just depends. Sometimes you just want the original version for your first dance song because maybe that's the version you've been practicing your first dance together with specific timing, so you want it to be that version, totally fine. The thing with live music is that a lot of songs are long and you don't want to be doing your parent dance for six minutes long. So if you tell the band in advance, to play it a certain way, then they can rehearse it that way. A DJ can very easily just turn the volume down and fade out, and nobody notices it as much as when a band is cutting it off, but a good band will seamlessly transition out from that song if you give them advance notice.
Next question, do we feed the band? Yes, unless you are having play after dinner is done, then they would not need to be fed. But typically, especially for a five piece band or larger, you are going to need the band to be set up well in advance before the guests arrive. So they're getting there at two or three, setting up their equipment, doing sound checks, and then they'll have to be there while dinner service is going, and that is when you would feed them. So usually the band will be playing during cocktail hour so you all will break for food and they can sometimes play some prerecorded music like a Spotify playlist during the beginning of dinner while they eat. They have to eat before they perform, and usually they're at your venue, so you do need to feed them.
Regarding how much it will cost to feed the band, a lot of caterers and venues will give you a reduced price for the vendor meal. Unless you choose to give them access to the open bar, they probably won't be on that bar package as well. I don't love it if the band needs to drink. If you're performing, you shouldn't be drinking in my opinion. I think maybe one drink fine to loosen up, but again, we usually don't even allow them to drink. Again, it's up to you and your conversation with the band. I would definitely make sure you go over any dietary restrictions, or meal requirements with the band when you're doing the contract just to ensure that you are all on the same page.
As far as feeding vendors and the band. Feed them a hot meal. Don't feed them McDonald's, pizza or something from Uber Eats. The caterer will give you a vendor meal and they should eat a real meal because they're working really hard, so give them a solid meal.
As far as what are you missing by hiring a band versus a DJ? Not all bands are created equal. While this band is great for the club that you go to, they may not be used to playing for a wedding. You do bring up the point of an MC role. Can they introduce people? Can they move the show along? If they are a band that is used to performing for a wedding, they'll be fine. A lot of them will have an MC package that they can add on or it's included with their services. Definitely make sure that they're able to do this. If this is a band that don't play for weddings as much. You definitely need to make sure you talk this through with them. Talk through your expectations and make sure that they're comfortable in that MC role.
Also, think about logistical things like do they need a stage? What are their specific power requirements? A band does take up more space than a DJ. So, thinking about what that footprint is is super important. Also, thinking about what are their other requirements? Will they be outdoors? Do they require that they be covered? Almost all live musicians require that there be some kind of awning that protects them and their equipment from high sun, humidity and rain. So, also think about that because a DJ also is not going to want to be outside if it's raining.
And finally, with the flexibility of the songs, a lot of bands will have sets that they play that they're used to. Obviously you love their music, so that's probably going to be great. But music that you love and that you listen to is going to be different from what everyone at the wedding is going to be used to or may want to hear. So just think about the range of music that they're able to play. Can they play Motown, fifties and classics the older generation is going to want to hear, but then can they also segue into the songs that the younger generation is going to want to hear? Lots of wedding bands are used to playing a wide range of songs because there's a wide range of guests that are going to be attending the wedding.


Question 10: I Can't Afford the Wedding I Want

Last but not least, we had a few people reach out with different versions of a similar problem, which is they can't afford the wedding that they want, or in some cases they can't afford a wedding at all and they want to know what they should do. 

Answer: While I would love to tell you that all it would take is to cut down on your Starbucks, I know that's not always the case or the reality for some people. Sometimes you just don't have the extra money, and so it might surprise you to hear this coming from me as a wedding planner who hosts a wedding planning podcast. But here is what I want to tell you. You don't need to host a wedding. If you want to be married, go to the courthouse, sign the papers, have somebody take your photo out there and be super excited for this new chapter in your relationship and solidifying the status with your partner. A wedding is not worth going into debt for. A wedding really is a luxury no matter the size or budget for your wedding, and while I know that it can be discouraging if you've always dreamed of having a specific type of wedding, I also want to encourage you that your wedding does not need to be the only time you host a giant party with your family and friends.

I know sometimes when you're in the midst of wedding planning, you are surrounded by all this messaging that if you don't do everything perfectly, you're going to miss out and regret it for the rest of your life. And it can also feel like if your friends are getting married that it might be unfair that you don't get to do what they're able to do. There are so many emotions and all of those are totally normal and valid. But the truth is this is not your only chance to do this. You can throw a five-year anniversary party, you can throw a 50th anniversary party, you can have a vow renewal and it be just as beautiful and special once you've saved up the money and you're more on solid ground financially. You can celebrate big milestones with your friends and family during whatever occasion you want.

We talk about the mood board template in our template shop, and I always joke that once you use the mood board for your wedding, you're just going to keep using it for other occasions. I say this because you will have more chances to create a beautiful and special experience with your friends and family beyond your wedding. I know with the economy, especially with this year, some couples are in very difficult situations, so what I want to say to you is you don't need to prioritize a wedding now or even later. Prioritize financial security first, prioritize getting out of debt, finding a stable home to raise your family, prioritize your health and your relationship, and surround yourself with the right people. I've said this before, but our relationships and the people that we surround ourselves are so important. Support into those and save the wedding for later.



And just like that, loverves, we've wrapped up another episode all about answering your top wedding planning questions! I love when you all DM me and I can help YOU because that really is the reason behind this whole podcast. If you have pressing wedding planning questions, feel free to DM me or check out our blog or shop for a TON of wedding planning resources. I’m sure we will do another episode like this next season!




If you have any questions, DM me on Instagram at @asktheplannerpodcast, call the wedding planning hotline at 585-210-3467, or drop it in your review on Apple Podcasts.

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