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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Tips From a Wedding Coordinator

Tell us a little about yourself, what you do, where you are located. If you would like your contact information included for promotional purposes, please feel free to add
that too!

My name is Alison Goodnight. I am a wedding coordinator for a church in Norman, Oklahoma. I have been coordinating weddings for three wedding seasons now. My busiest time begins in late May and runs until August. Spring and summer seem to be the busy season; however, I have coordinated, on average, one wedding a month during the fall. Winter weddings are almost obsolete at this church due to the holiday season. My main responsibility is that I am the representative for the church on the big day. Anything the family needs, I provide, except for their personal decorations, food and outside errands. Of course, those would gladly be completed for an additional charge. Specifically, my job is to work with the bride and groom to get the ceremony off without a hitch. I usually meet with the couple before the event to discuss their needs. I coordinate the rehearsal with the entire wedding party, family members, the minister and the couple. We practice the processional, timing, spacing, special events during the ceremony such as lighting the unity candle, communion or solos and the recessional all with the ceremonial music. I share this task with two other coordinators. We rotate weddings from which we are usually assigned; however, brides can request one of us specifically. The coordinating fee is included in the package when the bride’s family reserves the church. If a bride already has a coordinator, I work alongside that coordinator more as a helper. Each bride must use a coordinator because we are the only church staff member on hand the day of the wedding. I have also coordinated weddings for brides outside of the church.

What is the best piece of advice you can give to a bride about choosing a wedding coordinator?

Choose someone who has good references, you can trust and you’ve seen in action if you get the chance.

How far ahead of the wedding date should you be contacted?

If the church you are marrying in provides a coordinator, about 8 weeks out to nail down the planning of the ceremony and reception. If you are hiring an independent coordinator, I would say as soon as you begin planning anything which is shortly after the engagement for most brides. You want your coordinator on board from the beginning, so he/she can see your vision to make your special day memorable.

How can a bride on a budget get the best deal for the money? Do you have money-saving tips?

Oh yes! Being once a bride myself, I have learned some money-saving tricks! There are some areas where you can skimp and your guests will not notice! Choose a church (if you don’t have a home church) that is already decorated whether that be for a special religious celebration such as Easter or Pentecost. Churches usually already have gorgeous flowers, banners and other décor in the sanctuary. Also, when choosing a church, look for the architecture. If a church is already brilliantly constructed with a lavish pipe organ or stain glass windows at the back of the pulpit, then it’s less decorating expense for you.

Skimp with the flowers. Just order bouquets or corsages for the women and boutonnieres for the men. You really don’t need alter arrangements. However gorgeous and smelling fresh, flowers die anyway. The tuxedos and dresses will be enough décor. Your guests won’t remember the arrangements anyway. Ask the church coordinator or representative if there are any donated weddings items available for decoration. A lot of times, brides spend gobs of money on candle holds, pew bows, table runners, etc… to decorate the sanctuary and when the wedding is over they find themselves stuck with a million things they now have no use for, so they donate them to the church for future weddings. At my church, we have a huge closet full of donated items. Brides may use any of these items at no additional charge. The brides are simply requested to buy new candles. At the most, that is about $10.

At the reception, skimp on the cake and food. I ordered too much at my own wedding. When it was over, we had all this food and cake that went to waste. I would say to under-estimate rather than over-estimate.

Another area to skimp is in your bridal gown. Most women do not want to skimp in this area because it’s the day and the dress they have been dreaming of since they were twelve! However, you can rent your dress which can be cost effective if this isn’t a keepsake you want to hang on to. Have someone (preferable a family member or friend so it’s free) make your dress. If you are getting your dress made, go to wholesale fabric stores when you can get more for your money. Another idea that seems to becoming popular among brides is use a family heirloom as your own such as your mother’s dress or grandmother’s veil. Or even borrow a friend’s dress if she is your size! This will also cut costs and make your day more meaningful. It could be your something old or something borrowed. If an item is yellowed due to age, getting it professional cleaned or soaking it properly in Oxyclean is good get it back to white. Or buy your dress from a wholesaler or on sale. I purchased my dress on sale from a store that was going out of business. If you play it right, you can get a gorgeous gown (like I did) that was in the $3K price range originally and end up paying pennies or $300 dollars for it in the end. Remember it’s just a dress. You only will wear it once.

Another area is the paper – invitations and programs. Making these yourself can be very cost effective. It is time consuming, but pays off in the end. Just think people usually don’t save your invitation or program, so most of these exquisitely printed documents will end up in the trash. Just throw a program party and have all your bridesmaids assemble them for you!

Never skimp on photography or videography because those are what you will have then it’s all said and done 50 years down the road.

How much should a bride expect to spend?

I think this depends on the bride herself. I have seen weddings done for very cheap and weddings that were definitely over the top. In my opinion, I don’t think it is necessary to spend double digits in the thousands. I think you can achieve a nice, simple wedding for at least $5K. You just have to shop around for the best deals.

What are the most popular songs played at weddings?

For the bridesmaids’ processional, it is Canon in D by Pachelbel, the Bride’s entrance – The Bridal March by Wagner or Trumpet Voluntary by Clarke are tied. Recessional is the Wedding March by Mendelssohn. For special music, the most common is The Lord’s Prayer by Malotte. However, music chosen that is personal and representative of the couple’s relationship or God is also the most special.

Do you have a ‘most memorable’ wedding or wedding incident to share?

I have severable incidents that stick out in my mind. Although I said skimp on the flowers, this wedding had the most gorgeous, lavish floral décor. The mother of the bride was a florist, so go figure. It’s probably not the best example to discuss without a picture. Hopefully I can paint it for you. There were two large flower boxes on either side of the pulpit with green bamboo shoots at least four feet tall. Entwined with the bamboo were all kinds of white delicate flowers with long stems such as lilies and orchids. On the alter in front of the pulpit where three very tall and wide glass candle votives with a white candle in each. Around the candle, disguising it, were white rose petals. The glow of the candle just illuminated the delicacy. On the alter railing and choir loft railing that ran in front of the floor or ceiling pipe organ were votive candles. It was an evening wedding and just gorgeous.

Another memorable one was a wedding where the mother of the bride controlled everything and just made it a miserable day for everyone. I think she had good intentions because her goal was to get everything just perfect for her daughter, but it was difficult to enjoy anything because she was constantly huffing and puffing. It was sad that she was missing her baby girl’s wedding.

What is the best advice you can give about planning for a wedding?

1. Don’t plan for the wedding, plan for the marriage. The wedding is just a passing day. The marriage is what you want to last forever.

2. Take time during your reception to stop and be with each other. There will be so many people wanting to congratulate you. It will be a whirlwind day.

3. Choose a photographer who will capture everything. Most of it you won’t even remember. This kinda goes along with #2.

4. Have a friend pack a doggie bag of food and cake for you and have it waiting in your getaway car. You won’t really have time to eat except for the bit of cake you feed each other.

10.What is one thing you wished all brides knew about your job?

There isn’t a need to stress. That is what I am here for. Let me handle the details. You just enjoy your day. Some brides miss all the small things because they are so anxious. They’ve waited their whole life and planned for months just to be stressed and frustrated on the big day.

11.Is there anything you wish brides would NOT ask you to do?

Wash dishes after the reception. It’s just easier to get disposable dinnerware. Receptions go into the late hours of the night sometimes. The bride and groom go off to their honeymoon and leave the cleaning up to family and friends. Some families expect coordinators to do the dirty work. That’s not my job.

12.Anything else?

Enjoy the day. Make it personal. A get place for ideas is www.theknot.com

One more thing. Don't use a candleabra if you can. One of the candles always acts up during the ceremony. Either it's burned down too far or the AC blows it out. I have seen too many candle lighters struggle during ceremony. It's just best to omit it.


Blogger Julie Hilton Steele said...

First, I really resonated with this because I have been both a wedding coordinator AND a pastor. I personally think I should go into the biz, selling my credentials to pastors as "I know where you have been". I once had a wedding where the groomsmen came up the aisle, would face the groom, open their tux jackets and there were nasty messages displayed on each and everyone from "still time to get out" to raunchier. I almost stopped the wedding but figured the bride looked miserable, the groom was NOT smiling at his buds so why punish them. Fortunately most guests couldn't see what was going on and the mother of the groom gave the guys grief afterward.

MORAL: Make sure the wedding party knows this is a special occasion NOT a free for all.

As far as the flowers go, my mother was a florist too who did nothing but specialty weddings. My wedding bouquet and altar flowers were gorgeous. But then they didn't cost a fortune. Love that memory of what she did for me.

Sooooo...Goodnight, huh, the name sounds familiar :-)

Peace, Julie

July 10, 2008 at 1:15 PM  
Blogger catslady said...

We have two and a half weeks to go before my daughter's wedding so it's too late for most of the advice lol. She spent too much on the dress (had to get a second one which was more after the first couldn't be altered correctly) and they fail to tell you how much all the altering and undergarments etc. cost. Pretty much the only thing she was frugal on was the invitations. I guess one is better than none :(

July 10, 2008 at 1:54 PM  
Blogger Brandy said...

Good advice for those seeking to be married! I didn't know Churches had coordinators!

July 10, 2008 at 2:33 PM  
Blogger Julie Hilton Steele said...

Had to leave another comment especially since folks don't realize that churches often have their own wedding coordinators. There is a growing business of "professional" wedding coordinators who do it all, who can be helpful or overbearing, like anyone else involved in a wedding. Churches however often require that you use their coordinators for the wedding. Please don't resent this but rejoice in it. These wonderful women know the church, the pastors, certain rules about the sanctuary or ceremony, and often have experienced every scenario and therefore know what to do when that last minute crisis occurs.

God bless em.

Peace, Julie

July 10, 2008 at 3:27 PM  
Blogger Melissa James said...

Someone asked a wedding coordinator to wash dishes?!?!?!?

As someone who did skimp on flowers and bought an ex-rental dress, I can say it made no difference at all the the joy of my day, but it really helped us have funds to set up our home.

Thanks for the tips, Alison!

Melissa J

July 10, 2008 at 8:42 PM  
Anonymous Cathy S. said...


This was fun to read. I'm just going to be in the audience of two weddings over the next few weeks. I'll pay more attention to what they do because of your insights :)

BTW, did I miss an explanation about how your relationship to Linda? I noticed you share the same last name.

Cathy S.

July 11, 2008 at 8:12 AM  
Blogger Linda Goodnight said...

Yes, Alison is my son's wife--a pretty recent bride herself!

Linda g

July 11, 2008 at 5:33 PM  
Anonymous Kayleigh said...

Great post!! I recently got unique designs of candles from Illuminations... They are so nice!!

July 12, 2008 at 2:34 AM  
Blogger Lily said...

I didn't know that churches had their own wedding coordinators!!

It is a bit bizarre in a way... as the reception is usually more of a show/banquet than anything else.

July 12, 2008 at 7:49 AM  
Blogger kimmyl said...

Thanks for all the great advice. You do not really think about these things beforehand.

July 13, 2008 at 8:39 PM  
Blogger Nathalie said...

So... no candles at my wedding...
Thanks for the advice!

July 27, 2008 at 3:37 PM  

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