How to plan wedding day that suits a couple’s vision, priorities and budget

By Skylar Dubelko

Genevieve Nisly Photography

Impending nuptials can rack the soon-to-be-wed with major decisions, but planning the main event shouldn’t be agony.

To help combat big-day jitters, event designers Heather Thomas of HeatherLily in Cleveland and Pieter Bouterse of Pieter Bouterse Studio in Warrensville Heights offer advice for approaching the ceremony and celebration.

“It is really important for a bride to understand and to deduce her own personal style, to not be led by media, family, parents, friends or any other peer pressures, but to just simply express what makes them feel glorious on one of the most important days of their life,” Bouterse says. 

A couple can honor their budget without compromising on style. The right planner, Bouterse explains, will “create an environment on the day, and weeks and months leading up to it, that is absolutely joyous and devoid of any stress imposed by making turns where one just simply should not go.”

When a bride enters Pieter Bouterse Studio, Bouterse’s team first has her describe what she wants to express style-wise on her wedding day. The next step is figuring out how to bring her imagination to life while adhering to a budget.

“There are a lot of ways that you can get around to a compromise, if you will, that re-imagines their vision into a style that becomes succinctly their own,” Bouterse says. 

Brides often run into issues when they become fixated on recreating images they’ve seen online, which can be attributed, to some extent, to the power influencers have over millennials and Gen Zers.

Moreover, he says couples “end up compromising each and every step of the way in order to satisfy the illusion that (they) can attain that style of grandeur.”  “It is way more important to do whatever you do, however small it is, very well and execute things to perfection, rather than to take on a project that is way larger than your wallet will afford,” Bouterse says.

Thomas recommends prioritizing with a “splurge versus save mentality” in each vendor category, thus establishing where each ranks in terms of spending. She also urges couples not to be nervous about sharing their budget.

She often asks couples, on a scale of one to 10, how important their budget is.  

“If a client writes down a seven,”  Thomas explains, “it’s the professional’s job to let the client know that some of their ideas are going to exceed their budget, then present different options if the budget isn’t flexible or non–negotiable.”

New Image Photography

Some small details make a big difference, while other things that might seem like a big deal can often be minimized. Certain vendor categories naturally pair up with each other, and identifying those can simplify the decision-making process. For example, if photography is a main priority, budgeting for floral, decor and lighting is a necessity. If entertainment is the priority, their venue should have ample space for a band or deejay; and if food is the focus, they should take a look at their guest count.

“It’s truly amazing how 50 less seats on a guest list can add to the overall experience of the day,”  Thomas notes.

To an extent, however, every area is important when creating a truly unforgettable experience for the couple and their guests.

“You want to make sure that all the areas are balanced and not tipping the scales,” Thomas says. “For example, if you intend to have three bridal dress changes with hair and makeup artists on call all evening, but you’re only serving cheese and crackers at the cocktail hour, your guests are going to make that connection of the imbalance.”

Planning a wedding in Northeast Ohio’s unpredictable climate also presents its own set of challenges, and according to Bouterse, there’s no foolproof approach when it comes to determining whether one’s wedding should be indoors or outdoors.

If a couple can afford it, “having a contingency plan is the key success,” Bouterse says. A backup tent, gazebo or canopy can offer repose in the face of unruly weather.

“Ultimately, the vibe of what the bride and the groom wants to impress on their friends is really the style that the wedding then should be,” Bouterse adds. “But you have to have a contingency plan that covers the comfort of those that you invite to your wedding.”

Pieter Bouterse

To avoid wedding roadblocks, Thomas encourages couples to hire seasoned professionals with impeccable reputations, especially if it’s the first wedding for one or both families.

“This isn’t the time to hire a green vendor, or amateur in training with little experience just because they’re the least expensive,” she says. When someone quotes a low figure for their service, couples should be aware they may be paying for that on the job training, which can be very costly at the end of the day.

“It’s not just about money and the bottom line when it comes to weddings,”  Thomas says. “It’s about time and decreasing your chances of aggravations by ensuring that you’ve hired the right vendor –
now that’s priceless.”  

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