The Wedding Assistant {St Augustine and Jacksonville Wedding Photographer. Mady Joe Photography}

A little background for you. I met Tabbatha of  The Wedding Assistant last year shortly after we moved to the St Augustine area. I love her. I really do. It is not often that you meet someone so helpful, hardworking {seriously, I don’t think that she EVER sleeps!}, fun….I could go on and on. She’s introduced me to great people, great vendors, and is quickly bringing together so many wedding vendors in the Jacksonville/St Augustine area by creating a great community for  networking, advice, questions, and get togethers. I mean, who doesn’t love a chance to get together after work for a little fun?
Why did you become a wedding planner?

Hhhmmmm…. Well I can’t say that I have ALWAYS wanted to be a planner. I have had moments that happened in my life that have taken me to this point. And looking back it is funny to “connect the dots” on how my life was supposed to be.  I have always loved decorating as far back as me playing with my Barbies in the garage at 4 years old. I would not really role play as much as I would set up and rearrange for events and display. Growing up I had a natural talent for organizing paperwork, parties and events and just wanting to make people happy. (Yes I am a natural people pleaser) But it was not until March 2009 when I had my “Ah-Ha Light bulb moment”. I was helping a Bride on her wedding at RCBC (River City Brewing Company) when the ideas just flooded out of me to her. She loved everything I had to say…enough so that she told me to “do whatever I wanted to do”. I was thrilled for the opportunity and after that wedding I just knew that I wanted to pursue this as a career and I jumped in with both feet and have never looked back.

 I know you’re a BIG advocate that brides and grooms hire real businesses that are licensed and insured. Why do you think that is so important? 

Yes, I am a HUGE advocate on that…lol, just ask any of the vendors around me!! I understand that EVERYONE starts somewhere but if you decide you want to “operate as a business” then you should do just that.

Let me give you some background on me before I get called out on it:

After advertising on Craigslist from June 2009 on, I had my first “REAL (paying) BRIDE” and her wedding was in August, so yes I operated un-licensed. I created The Wedding Assistant into and LLC and was licensed by the city the following week all by my second wedding in October of 2009. My insurance is a different story. Since I did not have any weddings until from October 2009 until March 2010 I did not purchase my insurance until February 2010…hey it was $45.00 a month and I was not racking in the dough, so I decided it wait until the last minute. I have maintained my license and insurance since starting it though.

So back to you question… I would ask these “unlicensed vendors” why? Why would you choose to operate illegally? Why would you risk your so-called business name for a “situation” that is guaranteed to happen at some point in your business life. Why would you risk your financial situation and your family’s livelihood all to save a little extra money by not paying taxes, not having to renew a llc every year, a business license every year or pay liability insurance every month. This is not only to protect the you and your family as the “business” but this protects the Bride by knowing that the business owner is compliant in every way to insure her that the day will be flawless and if it is not then there are steps that can be taken to remedy the situation.

Have you ever had a couple not listen to you about the importance of licensed and insured businesses? Were there any negative things that happened?

I stress this a lot to Brides but I have never had someone openly say they were choosing someone knowing they were not licensed and insured, I think Brides think just because they found them at a Bridal Show makes them a legit business or just because they have a business card makes them real. Just because the vendor has you sign a contract with a business name on it does not make it a “legal business” or a binding contract in my opinion. If you are signing a contract with a “fake name or a non-existent business name” than how can the vendor hold the Bride to that contract and also how can the Bride hold the “non-existent business” to its obligations. I am not lawyer but to me this is entering a contract under false pretenses…I would love to see what a lawyer would say about this.

For you, what is the best part of a wedding?
For me it is the thought of making an almost perfect memory for a Bride that will pass on from generation to generation. (I won’t say perfect because there is no such thing as a perfect wedding day!) To be able to control the situation to allow the Bride to enjoy herself and bask in the moment that will fly by so fast. I treasure these moments of happiness on the Brides and Grooms faces. It is kind of crazy but it fulfills me and satisfies my “people pleasing needs”.

Why is it important to have someone else taking care of all the things going on during a wedding day?

More than likely everyone that you know, like and love is in the wedding or supposed to be there to witness and share the excitement of this magical moment in history. Why would you expect someone to “work your wedding” instead of helping you celebrate it? My next statement is said in my stern business voice. Your friends and family are not trained to foresee possible situations or to work around, fix or alter the rush of the moment. You may say “nothing will go wrong and everything will be perfect”….but what if it is not. Don’t be that Bride after her BIG Day and say I could-a, would-a and should-a hired a professional.

You offer two different packages, the “organize it for me’ and ‘coordinate it for me’ what is the difference and benefits?

Yes, I do have some new packages coming out in January 2012. The “Organize it for me” is for the Bride how needs an outline, budget suggestions, vendor suggestions and to be able to ask all the whos, what and whys of her BIG Day but without an actual coordinator on-site for their wedding, It does include a 30 day walk-though and a suggested Timeline. I hate to say I don’t want someone to choose this package but I do hope that they would include a Coordinator on their BIG Day when the stress is higher or when things could need altering. (Again this is Your one moment, please don’t ruin it over budget). So that starts touching on the “Coordinate it for me” package which includes the organizing part of the details as well as making sure you have someone onsite for 10 hours on Your Biggest Moment! We are also coming out with a “Plan it for me” package which is kind of self explanatory. It is for Bride’s who need more “hand holding” or guidance in selecting EVERYTHING for her BIG Day.

Can you explain what a “Day-Of” really is and why it costs so much?

The term “Day-Of” for Wedding Planners/Coordinators is quite misleading. A Professional Wedding Assistant does not, and cannot, come in the morning of your wedding after all your months of planning to only coordinate the “Day-of” the wedding.  

As with any good executed plan, there must be strategic design, organization, communication, and execution.  Wedding consultants who are hired at the end of the wedding planning process must do a tremendous amount of catch up, no matter what the size of the wedding, to get up to speed on their clients’ wedding planning.  The average wedding is planned somewhere between nine and fifteen months.  That means wedding consultants coming in after such a lengthy time period must work harder, longer and faster to conceptualize the wedding vision…. Your Wedding Vision!!

It is important for every bride to really understand the pricing for this service when considering company to perform any wedding planning service. She is hiring that company primarily in the capacity of consulting/planning for the execution of her wedding plan, up to and including the wedding day.  Wedding consulting/planning is labor.  Labor equals time. Time is the main mechanism by which wedding planners and consultants get paid.  

Just like with every “service/labor” company  (i.e.:  attorneys, electricians, etc.), there is an hourly labor rate that said earns.

 

So, you really don’t just show up the day of and make everything perfect. How much time do you typically put in prior to wedding day?
Well, every wedding is different but the average time I spend on one single Bride for just the “Day-Of” consists of about 36+ hours of work on my part.

A breakdown of  just ONE of our Wedding Assistant’s time for “Day-of” service can look something like this:

10 Hours: Inquiry emails, Consultations, Proposals, Data Entry , Research and Timelines

 10+ Hours: Wedding Planning hours to get caught up with YOUR vision

6 Hours: Driving Time from Consultation, Walk-Through, Ceremony to Reception and back

10 Hours: Wedding and Reception Management (from set up till the last guest leaves)

?+ Hours: Countless emails, phone calls and texts of random thoughts, concerns and questions that we are there to answer

(Should we even talk about the supplies, gas, maintaining licenses, insurance,
paying Uncle Sam 20% off the top… and what it takes to run a legal business!)

 

 I laugh when I hear the “Why do you cost so much for only one day”. Please do not EVER hire someone to show up on your wedding say and expect them to “run the show” with no prior knowledge about anything that your wedding entails. That is asking for trouble!

 

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What I wish I knew when I got married! {Saint Augustine | Jacksonville Wedding Photographer}

Now, I’m going to have to choose my wording on this carefully because tone is hard to figure out through email, blogs, facebook, texts, etc. I know that I can read an email one day and think one thing and the next realize maybe I was wrong. It’s easy to do, it happens. Especially in a world where social media, email, texts messages, and blogs have taken over our ways of communicating. So please, know that this post is nothing more than thoughts that have gone through my head the last week or so and trying to find the best way to price my wedding and portrait sessions for everyone involved.

#1

Hire a wedding planner! I didn’t, I wanted one but thought this was the spot to ‘save some money’. It wasn’t. I bet I wouldn’t have cried at my rehersal when the priest changed how we thought our ceremony would go {it’s an emotional and stressful time, we’re all allowed a few tears!}. My wedding planner would have known way in advance the way we wanted our ceremony to proceed. I bet the morning of our ceremony, the church would have been opened up for us to get ready at the correct time instead of an hour late even though we confirmed our arrival time the night before.

 One of my least favorite things from our ceremony was that the musician playing while the guests were seated and the ceremony, he would not play until he was paid. Everyone was trying to find a checkbook to pay him because he never mentioned that he had to be paid prior and he didn’t want to come to our rehersal, even though my husbands parents invited him to the rehersal dinner. Also, I didn’t know the check was all ready for him sitting in an envelope on one of the seats and have you ever seen a bride in her undergarments trying to find a checkbook of some kind? Not easy. I know a wedding planner would have been on top of that and my stress level would have been diminished.

 Most importantly, the wedding planner would have guided us to the vendors they trusted through years of experience and the about to burst onto the scene vendors we maybe would not have been able to afford in a few years. Example for you, our dj. We paid him an arm and a leg, well not really. But we paid him A LOT! We wanted music playing during the cocktail hour, it didn’t happen. We wanted a total of four hours of music, I think we had between 2.5 and 3 hours. The ‘big’ things during the reception {toasts, cake cutting, garter, etc} were done very quickly and granted, we had a morning wedding, so people weren’t going to dance the day away. But, if I had a wedding planner, she/he would have been confirming with all the vendors the timeline we would have created making sure everyone knew where to be at what time. He/she would have been working to slow down or speed up the reception so that everything ran smoothly. Seriously, a wedding planner is your best friend when you need someone to count on! They get your ideas, thoughts, and visions past every pushy mother-in-law/best friend/aunt/uncle/cousin. And that is someone you want helping plan a wedding when it is an overwhelming experience!

If you’re in the Jacksonville area, you must check out Southern Charm Events, Made of Honor Weddings, and The Wedding Assistant. They are all fantastic to work with!

#2

Every vendor you use will have expenses you do not think about and you don’t even want to know how much time and money they put into equipement, editing, creating, etc. Obviously, I’m a photographer. I’m new to the business and to the wedding world, so obviously I do not think that just because someone is new means they must not be worthy of someone’s time or business. New vendors can be a great way to save a little bit of money and still get amazing results. Example, our wedding photographer was Nate Root. He was just venturing into doing weddings as the main photographer after second shooting for another local photographer. And you know what, he is and was amazing. He now shoots with his wife and their pictures are remarkable. They now travel the world photographing weddings as well as weddings local to them. Pretty amazing the difference five years can make. If we were to get married today, I probably would not have been able to afford him. But we have his amazingness framed on our walls because we knew Nate and we completely trusted in his ability. But Nate wasn’t new. He was like I am now, or I think anyway. He had, as do I, professional equipement, back-up cameras and lenses, extra batteries and memory cards, knowledge of how a wedding runs and how to deal with things as they come up during the wedding day. He was, even then, nowhere near amateur or a hobbyist. But just to give you an idea of what a professional photographer may have to help them succeed:

Professional quality camera and lenses {and backups! Just in case}

Plenty of memory cards and batteries to last during a six to eight hour event {about average wedding coverage}

lighting equipement

second shooter or assistant

Editing software {I’m a Lightroom and CS5 kind of girl!}

Renewing the companies LLC or Scorp, etc every year

Insurance, license……

And don’t forget, vendors pay taxes too! Income taxes and sales taxes and probably a CPA or lawyer to help them along the way as they venture through the business world.

I know if sounds like a photographer makes a ton of money. I don’t, the super famous ones do, but for the most part everyone does it for the passion of the perfect picture, the perfect moment captured that makes a couple laugh, or cry, or that they finally find a picture they didn’t realize existed five years later while unpacking boxes after a move. That’s why people become photographers and wedding photographers. You should read this blog from Heather Lilly Photography. It’s very informative and she explains it very well!

#3

Almost nothing else matters except that at the end of the day you’re married and if something does happen that makes you cry, or stresses you out, the most important thing is that you will be married to the person you want to spend the rest of your life with and one day, you might even look back and laugh. And another thing, while the budget is always important because debt is never fun, if it’s important enought to you to fight for, get it for your wedding. Don’t look back and cringe because you couldn’t ‘afford’ something or thought you could live without it. If it’s a vendor you must have, they might have some wiggle room to help aid in the bottom line or maybe you do not need their biggest and most expensive package. It’s worth a shot!

Have a good weekend everyone!