With a plethora of Pinterest ideas and online info at every bride’s fingertips, today’s wedding couple can do plenty of planning on their own. But everything goes smoother with the help of professionals. Luckily, the Lowcountry is home to top-notch wedding industry pros to fit every bride’s budget, style and personality.
There are common-sense guidelines for hiring the best florist, caterer or wedding planner that your budget allows. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you hire professionals to help with your wedding:
- Book vendors as early as possible. If they’re really skilled and accomplished, their calendars will be as full as yours.
- Never put down a deposit unless you have a fully detailed contract in hand that has been thoroughly reviewed with the vendor.
- Don’t be swayed by your emotions; consider each vendor contract as a business deal.
- Contact vendors’ references, ask if any of their clients have been unhappy and why, and sit down with the pro personally. Ask to see examples of the work they’ve done for other weddings and events, and make sure you feel comfortable with them. If you want to be very thorough, check with the Better Business Bureau and the local chamber of commerce to see if any complaints have been filed against the vendor.
- Research, research, research. Use friends, websites and chat rooms as tools to help you make the most well-informed decision.
- Ask lots of questions. You’ll want to know what they charge and what’s included in that fee, if a deposit is required and how much, and if there is a cancellation fee or any additional fees. Also, ask whether they carry liability insurance, if they will be present at the venue during the wedding or reception (and if so, what they will be wearing) and if they have worked at your venue before. If vendors are hesitant to provide any information or seem to be deflecting your questions, move on.
- After the contract is signed, stay in contact with them throughout the planning process. It can be as simple as a quick phone call or email, and timely responses should be expected by both parties. Frequent communication will prevent unexpected surprises.
Setting the Mood With Music
What kind of music and vibe will fit best with your personality, your guest list and the venue? Do you have room in your venue for a multi-piece band, or do you want to dance the night away to your favorite songs? These factors can help you decide whether you should go with live music or hire a DJ.
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. Many couples opt to hire two different types of entertainment for 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 review the song list — which, if it will cover the reception, could include up to 100 or 200 songs.
Love In Bloom
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?
Then realize that one flower and one floral design do not fit all needs. You’ll need several different flower arrangements, including the bridal bouquet, bridesmaids’ bouquets, boutonnieres, corsages, centerpieces (large and small), ceremony arrangements, additional arrangements and cocktail arrangements.
Once you’re ready to begin contacting florists, have your list of questions in hand. You’ll want to ask about their experience in their field and at the venue, to see samples of their work and a list of references, as well as information about available services like setup and delivery, sit-down consultations to go over each detail, and fees.
How Sweet It Is
Would you like 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? Cakes can be complicated.
Most bakers and pastry chefs charge by the slice, based on your guest list, and those fees can range from $1.50 to more than $12 a slice, according to The Knot. The more intricately detailed your cake is, with multiple flavors and difficult-to-pull-off icing and decorations, the more expensive the per-slice fee will be.
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? Are there extra charges like a fee for utensils? Do you deliver and set up the cake display? How will the cake be displayed? How do you determine per-slice cost?
Going The Distance
Are you planning on a silver Rolls, antique Bentley or the traditional white stretch limo to get you to the church on time? How about a horse-drawn carriage with Spanish moss and live oaks as your backdrop, or a boat to help you really make waves? There are also trolleys available to rent on Hilton Head Island for a quaint and fun way to arrive in style.
In addition to the transport itself, keep in mind whether you’ll want any refreshments on board — Champagne, anyone? — or if there’s music you’d like to have playing or anything special you’d like your driver to wear. If your ceremony and reception sites are far apart, you may want to consider providing a shuttle for your guests.
Most rental companies charge by the hour, typically $40 to $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,” many brides say of their wedding planners. A planner or coordinator can be involved from the minute you are engaged, organizing every step of the planning process, or their role can be limited to “day of” coordination to ensure things run smoothly with your team of vendors on the big day. How much you want them involved depends on your budget and level of comfort.
Be sure to ask how much a planner charges for full-service design and coordination versus day-of coordination for the wedding weekend. Ask if they take commissions on products they sell. And remember to ask when payments are due.
Pretty As a Picture
There are no shortages of spas, makeup artists and hair stylists ready to make you picture-perfect. Hire expert bridal makeup artists, especially ones who are well-versed in makeup for the Lowcountry’s heat and humidity. You’ll need someone who understands how to keep your face fresh and which products won’t melt in the South Carolina sun. It is not as easy as painting on a little foundation.
Consider a trial run of your wedding day hair and makeup. 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.
Cater To The Couple
Catering is likely offered by your venue if you are getting married at a hotel or resort, but what if you are tying the knot in another Lowcountry locale? The area is full of fantastic chefs who are capable of catering to hundreds in a variety of unique settings. See our resource guide for a complete list of trusted professionals.
Light It Up
Lighting is one element of a wedding that’s often neglected but is money well spent. Hiring lighting professionals can ensure you have spotlighting on key centerpieces, mood lighting in romantic spots at your venue, and the perfect highlighting accents near your sweethearts’ table. Lighting professionals can set the mood for an amazing party, so don’t forget to consider your lighting as an important part of your 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, tents, gold flatware, dishes, cups, linens, chargers, furniture, pillows, vases and anything else you can imagine. If you need it, they’ll find it for you – for a price, of course.