Over the last few years I’ve had the pleasure of working alongside some pretty amazing people! The crazy wonderful wedding day ride is made even more enjoyable when you can work with a great group of people. These vendors become your support system, and by choosing the right team, you’ll assure a smooth an memorable wedding day. With engagement season in full swing, I had to take a moment to spotlight one of my all time favorite planners, the lovely Courtney Caplin Cotter.
I’m thrilled to have Courtney of The Joy Parade here to share more about her business, style and approach to wedding planning. She’s also included some amazing advice for the newly engaged, so take note, and you will quickly see why she is truly one of the best!
Tell us a little bit about how you got started in weddings?
I got started in weddings after I spent some time evaluating what I liked about my corporate entertainment job, and what I didn’t. I spent over 12 years as a stage manager doing both large scale theatrical shows and various sized events from movie premieres to gala dinners. I learned so many wonderful skill along the way, and made some fantastic lasting relationships (it’s where I met my Husband!) but I found myself feeling like I wanted to produce something more meaningful then just a show or an event for a company. I wanted to find a field where I could apply all of the things I loved about my entertainment position, as well as be able to apply the expertise I had invested in and developed over the years. I felt like weddings was something I was drawn to. Planning a wedding is the perfect mix of producing a unique and meaningful event, developing relationships, making people happy, and being part of a team! Plus, who doesn’t love a kick-ass party!
How would you describe your artistic style?
I have a nice mix of clean, earthy, androgyny along with a clever, sophisticated, graceful side. I am drawn to unique spaces that can be enhanced by what each couple can infuse into their event.
What inspires you?
Every couple has their own story and their own personalities to share. I get excited at each opportunity to create something new and different that distinctly represents each of my clients.
I personally believe in…
– laughing so hard you can’t see because your cheeks are encroaching on your eye space.
– remembering to believe in your self-worth.
– both the thrill of the untraditional and the calming beauty of tradition.
– pink wedding dresses, a first look and monogrammed Converse, if that’s what strikes your fancy.
– the strength of a handshake and eye contact when speaking to someone.
– relentlessly searching for the passion in all things.
What do you love about weddings?
What I love most is the overwhelming feeling of joy and love that surrounds the wedding day. Not just from the couple, but from all of the friends and family too. I know a wedding has been successful when all of the guests, and the vendor team look just as happy as the couple getting married. I love the planning process of working towards attaining that feeling. Unbroken moments of joy that span into an entire day.
What are the most important factors couples should consider when choosing a planner?
I think the most important factors to consider when choosing a planner are the following: Do you know what a planner’s job function is? If you aren’t sure, or even if you think you do, it’s great to ask each person you are interviewing. Everyone’s process is a little different as well as the way they prioritize each event structure. Know what you want out of a planner – Strong organization skills? High creative concept? Strong prop building skills? Someone to really KEEP things on track the day of the wedding? A strong voice of reason to keep your creative vision on track because you love Pintrest just a little too much ;-). Do you like them as people, meaning – Are you comfortable telling them when you do, and don’t like something? Are you receptive to listening to their honest feedback even if it’s not what you were hoping to hear? Are you confident in their abilities to effectively manage your wedding day? Do they understand your vision for your day?
This is important even if they’re just coordinating your wedding. Why? Because that will ensure that throughout the process – from choosing vendors, to making detail decisions, all the way to making good choices if last minute changes or issues should arise; they will have clear understanding of what you want to achieve and can make the best decision to maintain you vision.
What sets you apart from others in your field?
I come from a corporate entertainment background versus a hospitality based field (food service or hotels as an example). I believe this gives me a unique perspective in producing events as well as how I handle situations and myself the day of an event. Though the years I’ve honed my skills for pre-planing and foreseeing issues before they arise along with keeping a cool and clear head for troubleshooting on the fly. I’ve also become comfortable with adapting to a multitude of personalities which really comes in handy on the wedding day when emotions can run a little wild at times.
What advice do you have for newly engaged couples?
This answer has a few layers :-)
Firstly: before you Pin, plan, book the venue, or start the registry – Nail down that guest count. Include your parents or anyone else that might have a say in who is getting invited. Do a pie in the sky list, everyone you can think to invite then whittle down from there. Having a preliminary guest count in place will also aid you in coming up with a realistic budget.
Second: Figure out a budget – If you don’t have a number right out of the gate, a great way to get an idea of what it might be would be to look into the average cost of a wedding in your area and how those weddings compare to what you may want. You can then estimate up or down depending on your personal situation. If you want a sit down dinner with a farm-to-table multi course dinner, at a killer venue, and the best dance band in town for your closest 150 friends and family – have an idea of what that cost may be before you start booking a venue and vendors. Likewise for a backyard wedding soiree with a similar sized guest count. Yes, you can always do a wedding on any kind of budget, and those are just as awesome as a more lavish event but be realistic about what you can afford and what your personal abilities are to DIY.
Third: I really do suggest hiring a planner or coordinator. They will keep you focused and on track, they can whittle down the mountain of available wedding vendors to a manageable amount of vetted professionals they know will execute your wedding day the way you want it to be. They have the ability to aid you with helpful guidance and will be a dose of realism along the way. The day of the wedding they will be on site to oversee set up and tear down along with keeping a timeline of the day so you can relax and focus on each other and all of your friends and family. They’ll make sure you and all of they key players are in your places ready to go for all of the big events taking place the wedding day.
Most importantly: Set aside time for yourselves along the way – a periodic date night. Don’t talk about the wedding, just enjoy the company of each other. Maybe do things you did together when you first started dating. Planning a wedding can be stressful – even if you don’t have budgetary constraints, its a highly emotional time for both of you, and your families. It can get tense, take the time you need to keep your relationship in focus because that’s what really matters.