Hiring The Professionals

Wedding Planning

Though plenty of people can pull o hosting a wedding on their own, especially with lots of DIY projects, almost every wedding will require hiring professionals.

Luckily, the area is chalk full of top notch wedding industry professionals that are here to serve the booming destination wedding market! There are professionals for every budget, style and personality.

professionalsThere are common-sense guidelines for hiring the best that your budget allows. Here’s a quick summary of what you should do to ensure your expectations are met from every professional you hire:

Never put down a deposit unless you have a fully detailed contract in hand that has been thoroughly reviewed with the vendor.

Distant your emotions and consider each of these vendor contracts as business deals.

Contact their personal references, be sure to ask if any of their clients were unhappy and why, and sit down with the pro personally. Ask them about their wedding vendor history and experience. Make sure you feel comfortable with them. Also check the Better Business Bureau and local chamber of commerce about any complaints.

Book these professionals as early as you can. If they’re really skilled and accomplished, their calendar will be as full as yours.

Research, research, research. Friends, web sites, chat rooms. Enough said.

Here are some questions to ask (some are obvious and some aren’t!): What do they charge, what’s included in the fee, what’s the deposit, what’s the cancellation fee, additional fees, do they carry liability insurance, what will be their personal attire at the venue, have they worked your venue before? If they nudge at all and don’t answer or deflect your questions, move on.


After the contract is signed, communicate with them moving forward. It can be a quick phone call or email, and timely responses should be expected by both parties. Communication will prevent unexpected surprises.


The first decision to make is which kind of music and vibe fits best with your personality, the size of your guest list and the venue, your budget and whether dancing is in the stars.

The options are endless: a harpist, pianist or string quartet for a small, intimate gathering; a live band that can inject energy on the dance floor; or a DJ whose flexibility as a performer can switch gears instantly. Or you can hire two different types of entertainment as the afternoon and early evening progress throughout the ceremony and reception.


Your search should begin at least six months before the wedding day. You’ll want to listen to audition tapes, check references, conduct interviews to discuss musical selections and their experience performing at weddings, discuss costs and performance logistics and details, review their song list that should show one or two hundred titles.

The average national cost for a four-member live band playing for four hours in 2015 is $3,357, according to weddingstats.com. Expect to pay $712 for a DJ and double that fee is he also serves as master of ceremonies.


Before beginning your search for a florist, there a few questions you should ask yourself: How much do we want to spend, and what kinds of flowers and floral designs--think classic or modern, wild or romantic--do we like best?

professionals03Then realize that one flower and one floral design does not fit all needs. Here’s the checklist of decisions you and your florist will have to make for each application: bridal bouquet, bridesmaid bouquets, boutonnieres, corsages, centerpieces (large and small), ceremony arrangements, additional arrangements and cocktail arrangements.

If you’re ready to begin contacting florists/floral designers, have your list of questions in hand: experience in their field and at the venue, samples of their work, references, services available, setup and delivery, sit-down consultations over each detail, and fees.


One, two or three tiers? Fondant, buttercream or fruity filling? Traditional chocolate with a sports team symbol for the groom’s cake? Which cake topper best represents who you are as a couple?

Choices and more choices. Expect to spend about $543 for the wedding cake, the national average, according to The Bridal Association of America. Most bakers and pastry chefs charge by the slice, based on your guest list, which can range from $1.50 to more than $10 per slice.

After you’ve done your homework, here’s a short list of questions to ask: When will the cake be baked? Who actually bakes it? Extra charges like utensils? Do you deliver and display? How will the cake be displayed? How do you determine per-slice cost?


Planning on a silver Rolls, antique Bentley or the traditional white-stretch limo to get you to the church on time? Or how about a horse-drawn carriage with Spanish moss and live oaks as your backdrop, or renting a boat to drop you off at the site nautical-style? Remember, on the island here, we have trolleys at your service, too.

In addition to the transport itself, keep in mind what kind of champagne you want on board, what musical playlists you want to hear and how you want your driver to dress. And don’t forget to shuttle the wedding party and invited guests if they’re staying at hotels on Hilton Head.

Most rental companies charge by the hour, typically $40- $75 per vehicle, with coach or shuttle buses for your guests from $700 to $1,200 per hour.


“Hands downs the best money I’ve ever spent” recounts one bride of a local vendor. A wedding planner can be involved from the minute you are engaged, planning every step of the way – or they can be “day of” coordinators to ensure things run smoothly with your team of vendors on the big day. This will depend on your budget and level of comfort.

Make sure to ask: How much they charge for full service design and coordination, day of coordination, the wedding weekend. Ask if they take commissions on products they sell. Remember to ask when payments are due.


With so many hotels and resorts on Hilton Head and in Bluffton, there are no shortages of Spas, Makeup Artists and Hair Stylists armed and ready to make you picture perfect. Hire expert bridal makeup artists, especially ones that are well versed in makeup for the Lowcountry. You’ll need someone who understands the humidity and how to keep your face fresh and picture ready. (It is not as easy as a little foundation!)

Consider a hair and makeup trial. In many cases, this is included upon booking your day-of wedding services. Pull inspiration from your favorite wedding magazines and Pinterest- and bring your desired look to your consultant to try out.


Catering is likely offered by your venue if you are getting married at a hotel or resort locally but what about if you are getting married in an untraditional setting in the Lowcountry? The Lowcountry is blessed with many skilled professional caterers, catering companies and chefs that are experienced in functions of hundreds in unique settings. See our resource guide for a complete list of trusted professionals.


Here’s one element of a wedding that’s often neglected but is money well spent. If you spend hundreds on centerpieces but the room is not properly lit and no one can see, what is the point? Hiring lighting professionals can ensure you have pin spot lighting on key centerpieces. They can also set the mood for an amazing party. Consider these professionals as part of any wedding design.



Depending on where you are getting married or hosting your reception, you may have all the linens, tables and chairs that you need. Or the venue may have them but they aren’t quite up to your style. In this case, consider sourcing event rentals locally. These vendors are able to offer unique chairs (for 300 or more!), tents, gold flatwear, dishes, cups, linens, chargers, furniture, pillows, vases, the list goes on…