Wedding Planning Happy Hour Part 1: Planning in the Joy

On January 26, the Guestie team gathered to host a virtual Happy Hour with three amazing expert panelists. The goal? Prioritize the joy and magic of your wedding day. So much advice can get caught up in the small decisions and it’s easy to lose sight of the bigger things, like making memories, leaving time for fun and enjoying your time with your guests.

You can get the full experience of the Happy Hour in case you missed it. Here is the full transcript, broken down into two parts. Read part 2 here. First, we discuss how to make the planning process more fun and personal. No time to read the full transcript? No prob, we picked out some of our favorite bits of advice in our recap here.

Jessica Lamarre: Hi and welcome to the Guestie Wedding Planning Happy Hour!

Congrats to everyone joining us tonight who’s engaged and planning a wedding. My name is Jessica and I’m the founder of Guestie. It is our mission to help you have the absolute most epic wedding. Part of that, of course is navigating the pressures of planning and hosting such a major event. Tonight we brought together a panel of experts to share their advice with on how you can make the most of your celebration. Jackie is here from the Guestie team and will be moderating our Happy Hour.

Jackie Rupp: Hey, Jessica, I am excited to be here. It’s great to see everyone. Let’s get started by introducing our awesome panelists.

Landis Bejar is a licensed therapist in New York and the founder of AisleTalk, a boutique therapy practice specializing in wedding stress and premarital counseling. Hey, Landis!

Landis Bejar: Hi, everybody. Thank you for having me.

Jackie: Next up, we have Susan Moran. Susan is a Texas native, a Pennsylvania transplant, the proud female business owner of That’s It Wedding Concepts and an award winning wedding planner, with a pinch of Southern charm, years of experience and a hand to hold throughout the funnest journey ever. Hey, Susan!

Susan Moran: Hi, everybody. We’re going to make this process fun!

Jackie: That’s right. Next up, Rachel, L’Antigua. Also a Texas native, Rachel is an international wedding and engagement photographer with 10 plus years of experience and over 150 weddings and elopements captured to date. Hey, Rachel, thanks for joining.

Rachel L’Antigua: Thanks for having me.

Jackie: Jessica, for the people not familiar with Guestie, how about we start with a quick intro of the tool?

Jessica: Sure. We all know that it’s a lot more fun to party together as friends than strangers. Guestie is here to help you do just that by introducing all of your guests in advance. Think of it as your digital party starter. It’s a virtual way to break the ice in advance of all of your different sides and social circles coming together.

Jackie: Awesome. Thanks, Jess. For everyone listening, you can sign up for Guestie at OurWeddingParty.com. You can upload your guest list and get your party started right now. But wait till after the webinar, because you’re gonna want to hear all this. Now let’s jump into talking about the wedding planning process.

The wedding planning process can be really overwhelming at times, we all know this. But it also sets the stage for your celebration and what it will be like. No pressure, right? Let’s talk about the ways to plan in the fun and do it in a way that makes it really personal and enjoyable for the two of you. Let’s get started with a question for you, Landis. What’s your advice for adding more fun and way less stress to the planning process?

Landis: I think that comes up a lot, especially for the people who reach out to me. I work with a lot of folks who feel overwhelmed, or stressed out, or totally daunted by the process. The first thing that I tell people is that this is a big process. You don’t have to love or have fun doing all of it, to have fun doing some of it. I like to encourage people to see all of the different parts of it for what they are. A lot of things feel a little bit overwhelming. That doesn’t mean that you can’t have a lot of fun doing some of those things.

Maybe it’s exciting to go tasting delicious food. It’s exciting to pick out a playlist with your partner that’s really meaningful to you. Maybe it’s fun to go to a venue visit and make a trip out of it. Whatever is special to you just kind of lean into those things. The rest, you can kind of handle like they’re executive tasks that you would have to get through at work. Whether that’s making a to-do list, scheduling time for it, or just treating yourself after you accomplish something. I think breaking it up into parts is really kind of the first step. That’s what I look at first with couples.

Jackie: Awesome advice. Jessica, what do you think couples should prioritize during the planning process.

Jessica: Speaking from my experience, there might be one of you who’s doing the majority of the planning. Try to make sure you really spend some time thinking about the parts that you really enjoy. Particularly if one of you is doing less of the planning. Which is totally fine and understandable. Find out though, with that partner really cares about. For example, my now husband was adamant that we do our own choreographed first dance as a couple. He really wanted to help with choreographing it. And he loves to dance. And well, I was terrified about this.

At first, I really wanted to say no, but this was his piece to kind of own and, and contribute. So I wanted to make sure he had that opportunity. And it ultimately turned out really fun for us. Thankfully, I didn’t forget it right before we were going to go on. It turned into a really fun memory for both of us. While I might have felt a little awkward doing it, I think it worked out for the best. And I think our attendees loved it, too.

Jackie: We’re going to need to see that footage.

Jessica: Okay, I might be able to share.

Jackie: Rachel, next question for you. As a photographer, what do you like a couple to tell you before the wedding day?

Rachel: Yeah, absolutely. Of course I’m going to get to know their schedule. I’m going to find out what photos are the most important to them and that sort of thing. If they can tell me what their hopes are for the day in terms of their guests experience and their experience. What they’re most looking forward to, that really helps me. To be able to then capture the essence of their day as their photographer. Not every wedding day is the same. Every couple is different.

Say somebody really wants me to focus on candid shots of their day. That’s the most important thing to them. Somebody else really wants more intimate moments captured with a lot of family focus and they want a lot more family photos, that sort of thing, maybe their children are involved in a wedding, or their nieces or nephews or something like that. The most important thing to know is the essence of their day, like what the vibes are that they’re looking for.

Good insight. Susan, tell me about the memorable moments for the big day. Do you have any standout moments from recent weddings that you’ve planned that really captured the mood and spirit of the couple?

Susan: Every wedding there are those moments, 100%. Everyone The concept that I like to convey is that there is no right or wrong. They have to do what it is that they feel best captures what they want. For example, when we had a window of time in the summer of 2020 to have mini-mony and micro-receptions. We had a banquet table, we could only have 30 people gather. But it was a very formal, very haute cuisine, perfect type of French banquet that the bride and groom wanted. That was their thing. What I took away and I’m still talking about it obviously, was the joy.

Every wedding is joyful. But for that window of time, where we didn’t know when we could get together and make the most of it. That was the most genuine joy I’ve ever seen. In all of my years of doing this. Another time, a young lady came to a meeting with me when we signed the contract. She had this ginormous huge box. And so we became official and I said what’s in the box? She said, “My fiancé proposed to me dressed as the Easter Bunny in my school classroom. That’s my favorite holiday.” So I want you to work this into our day and not tell me or him what we’re going to do. Okay, it lived in my basement for 11 months.

We had a dollar dance, that’s kind of a custom here in PA. People pay X amount of money to dance with the bride and groom. We made it into a not-for-profit gig to support a not-for-profit that she was involved with. And my partner in crime, my husband, I bribed him with a bunch of martinis, He wore the rabbit suit. And the DJ played ‘At the Hop.’ He came out, one and done, that has never happened before nor again. You can take special moments and just go for them. Just have a fun time.

Jackie: Oh, that’s adorable. And I think adds to the list of footage we’re going to need to see.

Susan: I don’t know that we have footage, but it might we somewhere on my Insta feed.

Jackie: No way. Oh, my gosh. I think that’s the first time I’ve ever heard of the Easter Bunny being incorporated into a wedding reception.

Susan: Right? Everyone’s got their story.

Jackie: Jessica, back to you. Tell me about Guestie and how does a tool like that build anticipation and great wedding

Jessica: Speaking from my experience, with planning our wedding, we were really excited to see everyone who’s going to be attending and from our different sides and in our different circles of friends. But they didn’t really know each other. That’s essentially how Guestie came to be, to introduce everyone in advance like I was sharing earlier. So about two, three weeks before our wedding date arrived, we sent out an email to all of our attendees, with a subject line something like, “We can’t wait to see you all! Curious to see who will be there?”

It was the link to our Guestie event. And guests could then browse our guest gallery and get to know a little bit about everyone who is attending see their picture and see how they were connected to us to our different sides and friend groups and what have you. And what we really found is that sending that out in advanced and kind of breaking the ice really helped us set a tone with our guests for what they could expect, and how that it would be a fun and relaxed weekend, celebrating together and ultimately just really helped us build that fun anticipation ahead of everyone coming together.

Jackie: Awesome. I love that. You have a story about your wedding rehearsal being such a social event. That’s something that typically isn’t such a memorable event, but really turned out to be fantastic because everyone already knew each other.

Jessica: Exactly. A couple of my dearest friends surprised us by getting on stage and like reciting a fun poem and stories about me, kind of roasting me a little bit. And all of our guests knew who they were, they didn’t need any introductions. And now they’re legends.

Jackie: Rachel, question for you. What are the elements that really photograph well during a wedding? And also on the flip side, and I’m really curious to hear your answer on this, what maybe doesn’t show up so well, that we may put too heavy an emphasis on sometimes.

Rachel: Yeah, absolutely. I can say this from doing so many weddings in my career is just the authentic moments. Like there’s nothing like being able to just capture that hug between two guests, or the grandfather’s smile or tears, or maybe he even pulls out his camera and he’s taking photos of the bride. Just things like that, just really special moments. There’s just nothing that photographs quite like an authentic moment.

Those are for sure, my absolute favorites to see. And there’s so many of them every wedding so it’s just being on the lookout for those. As far as something that probably doesn’t photograph as well as people maybe think that it does. That would probably be for me, in my opinion, like details photos. I’m not talking about the reception or that sort of thing. But just kind of like the details beforehand. They can look really great. But they can also just kind of get lost because there’s so many fun authentic moments throughout the day as well. If that makes sense.

Jackie: That makes total sense. We can get caught up in those little details. Like our cufflinks or like the heel of our shoe or something. They feel so important that you want to capture them so much in the moment. But then looking back, they kind of fall flat compared to the the more emotive original photos, right?

Rachel: I would say with my most of my clients usually end up ordering a book from me, like a hardcover album. And the photos that they choose are always the ones with their guests and their family and very rarely do they even choose details photos. I actually remember from Jessica’s wedding, who’s here, obviously, as the host, but her husband didn’t want me to take photos of the dress because he thought it was kind of creepy to have the dress hanging by itself. And I actually love that I was like, ‘Yeah, nobody ever puts their dress photo in their album, usually anyways,’ so it makes sense.

Jackie: Susan anything to add?

Susan: Well, the details have to mean something, right? You know, if you’re going to capture a detail, maybe you have the grandmother’s hand handing a piece of jewelry to the bride? Or maybe you have a handkerchief that the bride gives her dad. If it’s a cool detail, let it relate to the story

Jackie: Susan, can you talk about the elements of the couple’s experience that often get overlooked, but really do end up making a big difference?

Susan: When when we first start working together, I asked them, ‘Your wedding has concluded, you’re on a beach somewhere, or you’re on a mountaintop, you’re on your honeymoon. And you’re sipping a lovely beverage, and you’re looking back on your wedding day? What is it right now that you think you most want to remember. And that gets them thinking about all the little nitty gritty, which we clearly have to have to make the big picture happen, but that really doesn’t matter. What it is that you want to take away from your wedding day that makes it the memory you want it to be.

Especially since COVID, I think I was doing it instinctively, but especially addressing since COVID, manage expectations, because you’ve got to get those expectations real and out in front. If a couple, pre-COVID was wanting to have an outside ceremony, the very first thing we talk about is well, “what if?” Let’s go to plan B, and let’s talk about how can we make plan B awesome. In case we have to go there, that way we eliminate being disappointed. So I think that they have to bring their story to the front and they have to bring their personalities, family traditions, family interactions, all of that just kind of builds and then becomes their day. It’s not one singular thing.

Jackie: I love that. And Landis I’ve heard you speak about managing expectations and I was wondering if you could add a little to that. In that planning process, when we have so many expectations probably carried over from all of our life before that. How can we manage those more effectively, so that we’re enjoying more and not feeling so pressured?

Landis: I think that if you’re working with a great planner, and somebody who’s having these conversations with you early on, like Susan was saying, that’s going to help a lot. Not everybody that I am working with is always working with a planner who’s having those conversations early on. So for somebody who might not be, you might be having those disappointments, one after another, having those expectations not met. One coming right after the other and, and that can be hard.

If you can work with somebody who can help navigate these things, and set those things from the beginning when you’re less invested. I think that’s really helpful. You can only do so much expectation setting from the beginning. Oftentimes I am working with people who are in the midst of experiencing disappointment coming from an unmet expectation. I’m kind of working on the back-end, where the first thing is acknowledging that there was an expectation to begin with. Because some of these things, we don’t even realize. We don’t even realize that we held this expectations, we held this hope, we just feel the feeling of being disappointed.

I’m often meeting people where we’re just taking a minute to acknowledge that we feel disappointed. I think sometimes when we don’t acknowledge that and try to sweep it under the rug, it kind of just burns a hole and comes up later, and we get snippy, or even resentful, or things like that. So just acknowledging that this isn’t what I wanted this to look like. And that’s something that’s evergreen, it’s something that we’ve been talking about since way before COVID. But with COVID, it’s happening a lot more.

Weddings don’t look like they did pre-COVID. And they don’t necessarily look like what you wanted them to look like now in the pandemic versus a year ago versus 18 months ago. So people’s expectations are constantly having to evolve and adjust. There’s a lot of disappointment. So I do encourage people to really acknowledged that feeling, because I think what happens is, there’s a lot of messaging that this has to be happy, or else you’re doing it wrong. And though I’m all for making this the most enjoyable, wonderful, meaningful experience. I think that sometimes, if we communicate too much, that if you’re disappointed about something, you’re doing it wrong, then we have bigger consequences. So I’m big into acknowledging all the real feelings that can come with this.

Jackie: And a follow up question to that point, not only is it managing your own expectations, but sometimes, a lot of times actually, there’s family expectations, too. That come along with wedding planning, do you have any advice for handling maybe that over-involved family that we know happens a lot?

Landis: Totally, I like knew the question even before you asked it. That’s one of our top issues like only second to COVID and that is family involvement and navigating that. As early on as possible we work to really identify your values in this process, much like Susan was saying, like, what do you want to be reminiscing about when you’re sitting on top of that mountain top on your honeymoon? And similar to that question is what are your values, what’s important to you? There are some couples who for them, family is huge, family is a big deal. And weddings are a family event, they’re a family affair, they’re culturally relevant.

It is hard to just take the perspective across the board that this is about the couple, and it should always be about you. So I think that the biggest thing is really unpacking your values from the beginning. And if this is a family affair for you, as well as your family, or if you’re somewhere in between, let’s, let’s get a handle on that, because that will help guide how you make these decisions, how you have these conversations, how you set boundaries. And if the family value is something that you really share too, it’s just, you’re pushing up against a lot of feedback that you weren’t anticipating, we would work with that differently than if it’s really not that important to you.

Getting clear on your values will help shape how you navigate when you’re fielding all of these expectations. Even in the couples that anticipate there will be a lot, it’s always more than you anticipate, when you think that there’s going to be nothing and you’re like, ‘Oh, I didn’t know that you cared about that. Aunt Fran.’ Or whether it’s the people who are going in like, ‘I’ve got a big family, everyone’s going to have an opinion,’ there’s still more. So just getting in touch with what this all means to you, what it means for you and your partner. And then that can help guide how you handle it.

Jackie: Did you have something to add here, Susan?

Susan: We’re very much on the same page Landis. When we have parents that are seeming to be overbearing, what I try to do is share with the couple, this is a big event for them too. This is something they’ve looked forward to since you were born many times. So let’s acknowledge the fact that they are important in this, but give them a function that will make them feel noticed and heard and appreciated, that circumvents the main show. In other words, let them do the gift bags or let them do the gifts for the vendors or whatever.

An important part of it with respect to the couple is making the decision basically, on the integral parts of the day. Sometimes diverting that keeps everyone happy. Keeps the couple feeling like they’re, I hate to use the big C word control. But it gives them a sense that they’re not being overrun and overwhelmed.

Jackie: Good insight, ladies. Rachel, question for you from the weddings you’ve photographed, can you talk about why the guest experience matters and why that great energy really fuels the celebration?

Rachel: Absolutely. To incorporate Guestie and what Jessica has developed with that is I love the idea of guests being able to know each other before the wedding. That’s one of the reasons why one of my favorite things to photograph is actually the rehearsal dinner, because people are meeting. They’re getting to know each other, they’re hearing speeches, they’re congratulating each other on those speeches, they’re thinking they’re funny, they’re getting to know each other better. And then on the wedding day, it’s so much more fun when the guests actually know each other and are partying together and enjoying themselves, that sort of thing.

But as a photographer to kind of tie that in as well. it’s so special when clients do different little things for their guests that make them feel special and incorporated in the day. Just because if you are having a big wedding, it makes sense that you would want to make your guests feel super special, and a part of everything that’s going on. So whether that’s like little gift bags or special things with their name on it, or the state that they’re from certain things like that are great conversation starters, and also just a great way for the guests to enjoy themselves. And then of course that transcribes into photos because you just have so many smiling people there. everyone’s enjoying themselves. So many hugs, fun, dancing photos, all that kind of stuff.

Ready to learn more? Click here to read the second half of our webinar where we dig into ways to maximize the joy of your wedding day.

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