I hope you are ready for a short and sweet – yet, very important – post today about planning a wedding in the Washington DC area. I’ve heard this piece of wedding planning advice over and over again from wedding vendors in all categories and it is time to put it out there: There is a huge difference between a wedding planner and a venue coordinator or catering manager who works at your wedding location.
Not too long ago, I was at a wedding planning advice session at Washington DC area stationery boutique, The Dandelion Patch, and the topic of wedding planner vs. venue coordinators came up. Every wedding planner and every venue manager at the event agreed wholeheartedly on this point and wished that couples knew this information about planning a wedding in the Washington DC area. Knowing who does what on your wedding day is a critical issue to having a smooth, stress-free wedding day. Let me explain a little bit more…
The on-staff coordinator who works at your wedding location (sometimes called a catering manager, if you are at a hotel or similar type property) is not your wedding planner. They are knowledgeable about planning weddings because they are intimately involved with weddings on a daily basis, but they are not your full, partial or day-of wedding planner. They don’t work directly for you like a wedding planner does. They work for the venue. The venue is their employer, not you. They will not support you on your wedding day in the way that a wedding planner will be there to support your wedding.
What does this mean for your wedding? It means that if you want a wedding planner, hire a wedding planner. Don’t rely on the venue coordinator or the catering manager to be your wedding planner. Just because they seem like they can do it – they may even say that they can do it – this doesn’t mean that they can, will or should be your wedding planner. Furthermore, having your venue coordinator moonlight as your wedding planner as a way to save money is not wise. You are better served finding other areas to cut the wedding budget. (Read here for a few ideas for saving money on a DC area wedding.)
A venue coordinator can make helpful recommendations in advance of your wedding, especially when it comes to making suggestions for other vendors like DJs or photographers who they have worked with in the past. They can help you out with rental selections, maybe they even have access to items like chairs or tables. They can give you logistical ideas for things that work well at their venue like where to put the cake. But, on the day of your wedding, their priority is their venue. They need to be at the venue to do their job making sure the venue functions properly. And, that’s how it should be. You don’t want your venue coordinator distracted with things like helping you find your friends for group photos. You want them managing the venue’s needs.
Different from the venue coordinator, a wedding planner is there for you. Their number one priority is you and they work for you. Wedding planners will immediately handle issues such as the buses not arriving and your guests being stranded. A venue coordinator is not responsible for solving this problem, but your wedding planner is – and they will. Your dress rips, your brother is sick, the cocktail hour musician is late, these are all issues that will be handled by your wedding planner. While these issues are going on, your venue coordinator will be busy at the location, making sure that everything is running smoothly over there with their staff, food and beverage.
Venue coordinators and catering managers know a lot of about weddings because they are involved in weddings all the time, but they aren’t wedding planners. They don’t necessarily know about things like wedding invitation wording or ceremony seating or how to navigate budgeting issues between family members, nor is it their job to know these things for you. Do not expect your catering manager to be your wedding planner and do not be fooled by a venue coordinator who over promises what they can and will do for you on your wedding day. If you want or need a wedding planner, hire a wedding planner.
So, that’s my advice for planning a wedding in the DC area! Don’t forget you can use our DMV wedding vendor guide to find a wedding location in the DC area and a wedding planner. Again, special thanks to The Dandelion Patch for hosting me and giving me a chance to learn so much about planning a wedding in the DC area.
Welcome back to part two of today’s ultra glamorous wedding in Maryland! Kelli and Kyle’s big day, both ceremony and reception, took place at the swanky Sunset Room by Wolfgang Puck in National Harbor, Maryland, a spot that had sentimental meaning to the couple. If you missed their lux wedding ceremony, be sure to check it out here. When it was time to celebrate their union, their wedding reception space became one amazing dance party atop a white dance floor, complete with custom gobo monogram! The rest of the wedding reception decor was just as fabulous to match – touches of sparkle all around with hints of pale pinks and light tones on the linens and flowers. We can’t forget about the wedding cake, as it was an amazing, three tiered cake topped with a creative custom cake topper that read “Miller Party of Two.” Love it! Special thanks to everyone at Love Life Images for sharing Kelli and Kyle’s elegant wedding on the National Harbor with us!
From the bride:We wanted our wedding to be a huge party and never a dull moment. And that’s exactly what we had, the dance floor was never empty! We had a great time! The main priorities for our wedding were the photographer, DJ and the venue. I wanted our wedding reception room to be filled with candles to set the tone. Everything turned out perfect!
My favorite memory of my wedding day was our first dance. We choose a non-traditional first dance song that happened to be a more upbeat pace. My now-husband is quite shy, but during our first dance he showed moves that I’ve never seen before! He was just so happy that he couldn’t contain himself and that set the tone for the rest of the wedding reception. The room was filled with so much happiness and joy!
Our wedding planners also handmade made our table number frames with sparkle paint. Inside the frames we had song titles of specific love songs that mean something to us as a couple. For our wedding favors we had fortune cookies with a personal fortune inside that read “and they lived happily ever after #kelliandkyle2015.” Our planners created these lovely to-go boxes with silver glitter ribbon with a thank you tag for the fortune cookie favors.
The bride’s advice for other Washington DC area couples?
Pick your wedding venue first! Start a Pinterest page. If you’re indecisive, like myself, start the planning early – just in case you change your mind!
Congratulations to Kelli and Kyle! Thank you for sharing your elegant National Harbor wedding reception with us!
The following Washington DC area wedding professionals contributed to their wedding:
We are going ultra glam today, so get ready for today’s featured wedding in Maryland! Kelli and Kyle’s wedding style makes me swoon! This happy couple said “I do” at The Sunset Room by Wolfgang Puck at the National Harbor in Maryland, a place very near and dear to their hearts – it’s where they met! Their grand wedding day was filled with pretty tones of taupe, ivory, navy, black and even hints of blush too! Of course, the fashion was flawless for the adults, and we love that even the tiny, super adorable ring bearer rocked a tux too! This blushing bride and rather shy groom exchanged vows and said I do in front of loved ones at this Washington DC area wedding before showing off their dance moves at a reception at the same spot (which you’ll see next!). A big thanks for our friends over at Love Life Images for sharing their special Washington DC area wedding day with us!
From the bride: For my wedding day decor, I knew I wanted a soft romantic palette. Blush, silver and cream were the colors I chose for our wedding. Pictures last forever and you won’t get the wedding day back, so having the right wedding photographer was very important to us. Kyle and I met at the National Harbor seven years ago, so it really meant a lot to us to get married where we met. The Sunset Room was perfect! It has amazing views and the food was delicious, it encompassed everything we were looking for in our wedding.
Congratulations to Kelli and Kyle! Thank you for sharing your stunning formal wedding ceremony with us! Stay tuned, up next we’re showing you their wedding reception with you!
The following Washington DC area wedding professionals contributed to their wedding:
Welcome back to today’s fall rustic wedding celebration! Alexa and Ben celebrated their wedding in Maryland at the rustic Smokey Glen Farm in Gaithersburg where they also exchanged their wedding vows. If you missed their beautiful outdoor fall wedding ceremony, be sure to check it out here. Their DIY-clad big day was filled with natural wedding details, beautiful fall colors and even a contribution to the groom and groomsmen by grandma! Alexa and Ben wanted to celebrate their wedding with a big party, so finding such a special wedding location was key. They adorned their wedding venue with small decor elements and rustic touches that fit the location and their personal style flawlessly. It’s the cute bride and groom cake toppers and the perfectly executed sparkler sendoff that I adore most! Big thanks to the talented wedding planing team at Candy+Co. Events and photography from Pangtography for sharing Alexa and Ben’s magical wedding celebration with us!
From the bride: Our main wedding day priorities were accommodating a large number of people and still having good food at the wedding reception. Our wedding took place at a large barbecue catering facility, which fit our theme and wedding priorities perfectly. Our cousin created artwork for our wedding stationery suite and a large poster for our guest book. Our table runners, faux clocks of bridesmaids, old windows with childhood pictures, and wedding center pieces were all handmade. My grandmother also made incredible paper flower bouquets and boutonnières.
Advice for other Washington DC area couples from the bride:
Plan early for your wedding venue! A year ahead was barely enough time for us. Get creative with wedding venue ideas, there’s a lot out there.
Tapering down a wedding guest list is hard work! Set a goal and try to stick to it. Most of the money spent is directly related to your guest count.
Congratulations to Alexa and Ben! Thank you for sharing your farmhouse rustic wedding reception with us!
The following Washington DC area wedding professionals contributed to their wedding:
We are getting so close to the fall here in the DMV and I can’t think of a fall wedding that better celebrates the autumn season than Alexa and Ben’s wedding in Maryland! Alexa and Ben hosted a beautiful outdoor, farm wedding in the fall at the rustic Smokey Glen Farm property in Gaithersburg, Maryland. The couple “tied the knot” (quit literally, see below!) and celebrated their wedding reception in the same location, which was filled with lots of fabulously rustic DIY wedding details. The fashion, especially the bride’s gorgeous gown, was a standout in design for their big day! Alexa’s bridal style was effortless and elegant, just right in the natural setting; while her ‘maids were dressed pretty in pink tones perfect for fall. (We can’t get enough of the fantastic tug-of-war game that the wedding party played after the ceremony to signifying a true “tying the knot”!) I’d be remise if I didn’t mention their bouquets, oh their bouquets! They are paper flowers made by the bride’s grandmother! Absolutely stunning! I’m truly smitten with Alexa and Ben’s wedding photos from Pangtography all planned to perfection from the team at Candy+Co. Events.
From the bride: We wanted a wedding that was low key and focused out the outdoors, trees, and natural colors. We both rock climb, so we also incorporated knots in our theme. A favorite detail from the day was the geese flying overhead while we were married under a beautiful, fall tree.
Congratulations to Alexa and Ben! Thank you for sharing your fall, jewel tone outdoor wedding with us! Stay tuned, up next we’re showing you their fall farmhouse wedding reception in Maryland.
The following Washington DC area wedding professionals contributed to their wedding:
Good morning Washington DC area wedding lovers! I hope that you are ready to spend this lovely Sunday morning wedding dress shopping with one of our fabulous sponsors, Soliloquy Bridal Couture. If you are searching for the perfect bridal dress in the Washington DC area, then you must get yourself to Soliloquy Bridal Couture, a full-service couture wedding dress boutique in historic downtown Herndon, Virginia. Featuring wedding, bridesmaid, and mother-of-the-bride dresses for all body types and styles, the bridal stylists at Soliloquy will ensure that you confidently and enthusiastically choose a wedding dress that is as special and unique as you are. Soliloquy features dresses from the top bridal designers including Heidi Elnora, Angel Rivera, Julie Vino, Eugenia Couture, Francesca Miranda and many more. They carry a stylish collection of headpieces, veils and wedding day accessories. Soliloquy also features on-site alterations, in-house design, styling appointments, trunk shows and wedding gown preservation services. They even offer your friends who can’t make your appointment to join in via Skype! For more on Soliloquy, be sure to visit their website, or see a few of their beautiful dresses in action on their past features on United With Love.
We hope that you’ll check out Soliloquy Bridal Couture as you are wedding dress and accessory shopping in the Washington DC area. Join us again next weekend for Sunday brunch with another fantastic supporter of United With Love! We’ll see you back here bright and early Monday morning! If you are interested in joining us for brunch on United With Love, please send us an email.
Summer is coming to an end and we can think of no better way to say “good bye” to the season than with a glamorous sunset wedding engagement session out on the water celebrating all that is nautical in Baltimore! Heather and Awori’s wedding engagement session, photographed by Nat Wongsaroj Photography, was taken along the Inner Harbor in Baltimore at just the perfect hour of sunset. Sailing on a beautiful boat, looking out over the water and walking the streets of Baltimore, we can’t think of a better way to spend a summer evening or a wedding engagement session.
If you’re a lover of romantic weddings in the Washington DC area, then this blush pink Parisian infused wedding inspiration will stop you in your tracks! You and your wedding guests will not have to grab your passports to enjoy everything lovely about Paris, as this wedding was photographed right here in the Virginia countryside! With a Parisian flare (and lots of French details, like an Eiffel Tower adorned wedding cake), this wedding look is perfect for a feminine bridal shower or an oh-so romantic wedding just about anywhere in the Washington DC area. Filled with blush pink roses and an array of lush floral details, the cream, gold and pink palette is dripping in sophistication. Designed by Pure Elegance Events and photographed by Erin Kelleher Photography this team of DMV wedding vendors brought European sophistication and romantic wedding ideas to life, right down to the French chair signs for the bride and groom. I’m completely in love with this soft and elegant wedding day look and obsessed with all the sweet details for this could-be wedding day!
From Tynise of Pure Elegance Events: Here at Pure Elegance Events, we are romantics at heart. We love the notion of love and all that it entails. So, what better idea to infuse our styled shoot with none other than Paris: The City of Love. From the lush greenery to the scenic background, it provided the perfect backdrop for the wedding inspiration. Even down to the bride and groom models, who have an affinity towards each other in real life, you can see the love and chemistry. I tell engaged couples all the time, “You do not need to overkill on infusing ideas into your wedding around a desired theme.” For our Parisian themed wedding inspiration, we infused Paris with subtleties of Eiffel Tower images, French desserts, French sayings, and more. Lots of small wedding day details make a huge impact. Our color scheme consisted of soft pinks, creams, and gold. And, we especially loved the wedding invitation suite entitled “Amour,” and our mini “Oh la la” wedding banner.
Thanks, Tynise, for sharing this stunning Parisian inspired vintage wedding shoot with us! The following Washington DC area wedding vendors contributed to this inspiration:
The Supreme Court’s ruling in June said that same-sex couples can marry nationwide and that states can no longer deny marriage to couples based on their sexual orientation. Yes! Married same-sex couples will now have the same legal rights as heterosexual couples in all states. Here in the DMV, we have been celebrating and honoring same sex marriages for a few years. Same sex couples have been marrying in the District of Columbia since 2009 and in Maryland since 2013.
Now that same sex couples can marry in all states, I’m wondering is there any difference between planning a marriage for a same sex couple as for a heterosexual couple? Are there any specific challenges or things that LGBT couples wish they knew before getting started in their wedding planning process? Here at United With Love, we’ve taken the approach over the years that it is all just a wedding, straight or same-sex, and each wedding poses its own unique challenges regardless of the sexual orientation of the couple. We try to give general wedding planning advice specific to the Washington DC area so that couples can then apply that advice to their own marriage in they way they see fit.
For more on the subject of LGBT wedding planning challenges (or not!), I turned to Candy at Candy+Co. Events. Candy reached out to a few of her past wedding planning clients who are same sex couples who were married in Washington DC. What did they have to say on the matter? Was their wedding planning experience different or more challenging because they were a same sex couple? What would they advise current LGBT couples planning a wedding? What should they look out for? Here’s what they had to say about their wedding planning experience as it specifically relates to being a same sex couple…
“The two best pieces of advice someone gave me was: 1.) Hire a professional, even if it is just to coordinate the event on-site. This is your special day, you want to be able to experience it, enjoy it and remember. And not be worrying about whether Uncle Warren is going to remember to pay the caterer. 2.) When planning the wedding, schedule and devote time to NOT TALK ABOUT THE WEDDING. The closer you get, the easier it is to let the final decisions and planning take over every moment. Take some time to let in some oxygen and allow you relationship to breathe.” – DJ + Mike
“My advice to any couple is make sure you are getting married because you want to and not because you are trying to make a statement. I wanted to be married where I live; not to travel to another state to do it. It just wouldn’t have felt right. My partner and I are not real religious so getting married in a church just didn’t feel right. It is your wedding and your special day so get married where ever you want and find that right person to marry you; not someone that feels obligated because of the new law that was passed.” – Jeff + Jim
“My husband and I thought about how we wanted ourselves and guests to feel at the wedding to make up a mission statement. We decided we wanted it to be fun, elegant, relaxed, with some Southern (me) and Midwestern flair (him). We gave those ideas to our wedding planner along with our budget and she compiled lists of websites and contacts for us to visit. We found our wedding planner through a referral by a friend. – DJ + Mike
“Given that we lived in a jurisdiction that legalized gay marriage back in 2010, we didn’t have as many issues. Our wedding was also not right after the legislation passed; a good 18-months went by until our wedding day. We still did run into instances where people asked about the ‘bride’…and then apologized. We found ourselves using the term ‘bridal party’ and ‘bridesmaids dresses’ a few times as a slip of the tongue. I could only imagine planning a wedding in a location before gay marriage was legalized nationwide. I could also see challenges with some foreign destinations. There were minor things that came up, ‘traditional elements of a wedding’ that did not make sense to be part of a gay wedding. Overall, it was nothing major.” – Bill + Harry
“The main thing that made my wedding day easier than I hoped was knowing that I had a dedicated wedding planner and team of close family and friends that were going to do everything to make the day run smoother. I felt that I had a good idea of who was going to show up, how the day was going to run and felt I’d be able to be emotionally, mentally and spiritually present. Also, knowing that my wedding planner had talked to each and every vendor, from the venue to the caterer to the limo drivers, to make sure they had no issues with serving a wedding for two men. I’m lucky to live in Washington, DC, which has been pretty open to weddings of same-sex couples even before the district legally recognized out-of-state weddings in 2009, and then full marriage rights within the district in 2010. I was fairly confident most businesses would be accepting, but given how people all types of political leanings are in DC, you never know how a business might react.” – DJ + Mike
“For the most part, we didn’t feel like we were planning anything more unusual than a wedding. We did, however, make sure that our vendors had worked with gay couples before (this mostly involved scouting websites to see if there were photos or examples of same-sex couples). One of the photographers we talked to had never shot a same-sex wedding, and we ended up going with someone else partly because of that. We also faced some family drama around the fact that we were two women getting married, but we figure every wedding has its family drama, so that was just our particular flavor.” – Kate + Alex
“Frankly, we never paid much attention to weddings before we got engaged. Once we started the planning process, we discovered the size and scope of the wedding industry and that many vendors are not up to par…Seek those who want your satisfaction, not just your money. With that being said, being in D.C. or the nearby suburbs, we never felt any of our negative vendor experiences were due to our sexual orientation. Do not assume that those who might treat you poorly are doing so because you are LGBT. In fact, we met with an openly gay caterer who was late, unfriendly and left bridal magazines all over the tasting room. Meanwhile, the straight caterer we ended up hiring (Spilled Milk) wowed us with delicious food and incredible hospitality. Our sexual orientation was irrelevant. Also, realize that a lot of the marketing, advertising and branding has not caught up to the laws or culture. You might have to spend a little extra time or money to find LGBT-inclusive or neutral cake toppers, cards, etc. As an interracial gay couple, we got creative or made a couple of DIY items because of this lack of representation. For example, we bought love birds for our cake toppers because the pre-packaged statues only featured straight couples or they looked nothing like us.” – M and T
“Separate from the services they provide, it is critical to get a sense of the wedding ascetic that the vendors work with. We met with (and sampled) a lot of really good vendors but it was clear which vendors would fit best with our vision of our wedding day. Thinking about the caterers in particular, most prepared really good food, however, some were very traditional in their service and conceptions about wedding menus. For us, that was not a good fit I never really thought about this until after the fact. Would have saved us and them a lot of time.” – Bill + Harry
“For my wedding, I did not feel I ran into any unusual challenges that prevented me from planning my wedding. Even though everyone wants to be treated equally and have the same wedding as a straight couple, there are some differences with a gay wedding and some of your challenges will be with people and businesses who do not want to be part of your day, and frankly why would you want them to be? Look for the people and businesses that are at least gay friendly and/or gay owned and that will hopefully alleviate some of the stress and challenges you might face. Be upfront with them from the start; you are looking for someone to be a part of your gay wedding. You will know if they are worthy of your business.” – Jeff + Jim
“I did get married in Washington, DC, so gay life is very much recognized and I feel most businesses that we could have chosen from, caterers to flowers to venues and even your officiant, was not difficult to find. In other states, this may be an issue. I felt that every business and all of the staff we worked with were very comfortable with us and our guests from start to finish. I could not have been more pleased. After all, it is your special day and you will find all of the right components, otherwise you won’t be choosing that particular person, venue or area.” – Jeff + Jim
“Focus on the ceremony – for us, that was the part that mattered. The reception is just a giant party – we wanted to have it planned out well enough that people would have a good time, but didn’t want to stress too much about the details.” – Kate + Alex
“Don’t skip out on the pre-wedding couples counseling. No matter how long you have been together, getting married is a life changing event. Working with a professional or spiritual adviser to put that all into context is very important, and also helping you paint a picture of how your relationship will and should change as a married couple is critical.” – Bill + Harry
“The only two challenges we faced dealt with tradition. First, my husband and I needed to decide which traditions from our families, or heritage we felt were appropriate for us. Were we going to jump a broom? Hold it in a church? Have our parents walk us down the aisle. And the other challenge was that my family didn’t really know how to react to a wedding for two men. This was the first time many of them attended. To find traditions that felt us, we did a lot of reading, talking to other married friends and thinking about other marriage ceremonies we’d seen that touched us. We decided to start with a social happy hour to get our families interacting. We decided to skip the church, but have a close friend who is a former minister do the ceremony. We didn’t jump the broom, but did have other mother’s light candles that we then each used to light a unity candle right before exchanging rings and vows. As for my family, I had some one-on-one conversations to remind them that they should treat this wedding just like any other wedding they had attended: Congratulate us, send back the response card and don’t bring extra uninvited guests. On the day of, my family had some touching, heartfelt moments that was more meaningful than I could’ve ever imagined.” – DJ + Mike
“Our primary challenge was deciding on our strategy for inviting wedding guests – particularly extended family members – who we knew or suspected did not support marriage equality for same-sex couples. With friends, we were more selective. But ultimately, we chose to invite all family members, putting the onus on them to RSVP ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ Others may decide to do otherwise or may feel uncomfortable doing this, but we did not want family members who wanted to attend (and did indeed attend) to feel slighted or insulted that their mother/brother/etc was not invited as well. We also did not want anyone to claim, down the road that they would have attended if invited. Perhaps, and hopefully soon, this won’t be an issue.” – M and T
Wow, thank you so much to Candy and to all of the couples who provided such amazing and personal wedding planning advice for having a same sex wedding here in the Washington DC area. For more from Candy and her incredible team of wedding planners in DC, be sure to check her out at Candy+Co. Events.