Couple Money

Best Wedding Planning Tips from an Insider!

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Wedding planner Megan Gillikin as plenty of insider tips to help you plan a fantastic wedding (and still stick to your budget)! 

Best Insider Tips on Planning Your Wedding

Even though it’s about 13 years ago, I remember being stressed at times when planning our wedding.

Just like we heard at the top of the show, as soon as you announce your engagement it can feel like you’re being swarmed with questions about the big day.

But as much as your loved ones mean well, it can be easy to forget how personal this is.

For some, it's something they planned and dreamed for years while others are looking for a very laid back and casual affair.

It's a celebration and a promise that you to make to each other in front of your loved ones depending on the wedding you have.

There can be plenty of moving parts which can be overwhelming and stressful.

The two of you need to sit down and start talking about which things you’d like to have and which things are must-haves

You also may have family members who want to help out.

You have venues, vendors, and maybe some out of town guests to make arrnagements for.

Oh and of course paying for it.

Which is why I'm happy Megan Gillikin is on the podcast today.

She's the owner and lead consultant for A Southern Soiree Wedding and Event Planning so she has plenty of insider tips to help you have a fantastic wedding!

In this episode we get into:

We have the episode below so you can download along with an edited transcript if you prefer to read.

Hope you enjoy!

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If you want to hear from another bride who had a beautiful wedding on a small budget, listen to my interview with Jessi Fearon.

She and her husband Pat managed a sweet and special wedding for $500!

Resources to Plan Your Wedding

If you’re getting married, please check out these resources so you can plan out your special day without going into debt.

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Meet Megan Gillikin 

Megan is the owner and lead consultant for A Southern Soiree Wedding and Event Planning. I also do wedding and hospitality business consulting.

She's also the host of the fantastic and highly informative podcast Weddings for Real.

Establish Your Big Must-Haves for Your Wedding

Elle Martinez: I think while every couple is different we can probably agree like every couple wants us to be a memorable and meaningful day right at their wedding.

And it's hard because I think sometimes for couples this is the first time they're talking about their dreams and then with weddings, you kind of have both sides you have what they want and then the realities, of course, you have a budget and you have a schedule.

As a wedding planner, I'd love to get your take on this. When couples are trying to plan this special day where do you think they should start. I mean should they immediately go to a wedding planner and hunt for a wedding planner or are there certain things they should work out before they see an expert like you.

Megan Gillikin: Yeah that's a great question. So not all couples are going to hire a planner and I think that is okay. I think at a base you should definitely be looking to hire a month of coordinator event management coordinator that can execute your vision for the day so that you in your friends and family are not having to work on your wedding day. But I actually think that the decision to hire a plan nurse should come after a sit down with just the couple where they talk about what's most important to each of them and what the vision looks like for the day.

This is something that sometimes I see missed – when clients get to me and we start talking and I ask a question to every couple that comes into my office I say when you think of this day, of course, you guys are so excited that you're going to be married and you're going to be partners in life moving forward. But outside of that, this is a huge investment that you're spending on one day.

What is important to you? What's the most important thing and then what is actually maybe the least important thing?

I give a disclaimer that it's OK to have different answers you don't have to come in and both of you are like yes we want a great band or you know we really want to focus on the flowers.

I think it's good to talk about listing out those two to three things for each person that are most important and then finding no way that helps you establish what your budget is going to look like and how you're going to allocate those funds.

For example, when I got married I knew that the food was really important to me I wanted to serve my guests really really great food.

I wanted when they walked into the room I wanted them to feel warm and welcoming it to be a really great experience for them so that kind of went into the entertainment that we had as well.

My husband Jason I mean I guess he was a typical guy because he was like Is this just whatever you want. But he wanted a [really great] bar and having great drinks to serve to guests.

Then we both identified certain things that maybe were not as important to us and in our case, one of the things that was not super important was the paper products. So like the stationery or invitations programs things like that.

We knew we wanted it but it was not going to be a high ticket item for us. So having those conversations identifying those top things I think will lead to. More peace as you get further into the planning process. And if you're involving other family members you want to start out this relationship on a united front where you guys are on the same page as much as possible that may include some compromise maybe you say you know here are my three things 1 2 and 3 ranked most important to least important and here are yours. OK well, let's see if we can definitely put some focus into your number one and number two and my number one and number two. But maybe the three if those aren't the same as that's something that is a middle level of importance for us. So I think that's step one is establishing those top items.

Give and Take with Wedding Planning

Elle Martinez: I love that and I think this is great because it really does kind of serve the blueprint because going forward unless you're one of those rare couples where you see like completely eye to eye on everything you do have you know of course like the shared expenses inns and so forth but naturally you know we each have personal interests and hobbies and I think the wedding day is a I don't want to call it a testing ground but this is a great opportunity to get into a rhythm conversation if you haven't already about what matters to me and why and being able to listen to the other person because I think yeah right. If you if you're interested in why it's important. Usually, it's easier to find a compromise or you know try to fit that in yet.

Megan Gillikin: Exactly like if you want a really big wedding and your partner wants a really small wedding or you know you always envisioned that you would get married outside but your partner sweats a lot. And the idea of being out Mohit is the worst thing ever to have like these are conversations that are just the beginning of a lot of conversations you're going to have in a marriage that you know are give and take.

Figuring Out Your Wedding Budget

Elle Martinez: And so you've seen couples they come to you that they've had you know some ideal that some of what they want to do. Have you seen any areas where couples kind of in and out like they haven't ironed out with the wedding that maybe they should before they move forward with planning the wedding?

Megan Gillikin: Yes. So sometimes I see that a couple gets engaged and unfortunately I feel like in society the instant reaction from all of your friends and family are to attack you with questions over have you guys set a date have you picked a location like what are all the details. And so there's a lot of pressure externally on these two people that have just decided OK we're going to spend the rest of our lives together. And now everyone and their mother wants to know when and where and what are all the details so I think you know it kind of goes back to you need to look at that other person and say Hey I'm so excited we're gonna do this together but let's take a pause. Let's let's come out drown out some of the noise around us and remember that you know this is about us. This is not about your mom. This is not about your sister. This is not about you know who you're going to have as your bridesmaid standing next to you. Let's just focus on us and have these conversations over what our vision is and you know do we have a number what's your number that if we spent X amount you would feel uncomfortable to you.

Like what's a number that does feel right to you? And let's do some research you know in our market. What is an average wedding cost for the average number I guess. So one hundred and fifty people is kind of your benchmark of the average guest count that we see these days. But what does that look like in researching and Googling what a normal couple is spending and does that fall in line with what we want and if not what can we do about it. Do we decide that maybe we want to do something? Destination and come back and have a party to sell a break. When we come back or do we say you know what we really want an amazing band and we really want beautiful flowers and we really want great food but we cannot afford that four hundred and fifty people so let's pick 50 people. Let's pick our are really like most cared about and loved people. And let's keep it small. We don't have to invite you know your dad's co-workers or you know my second cousins like this is about us. It's not about pleasing other people. And those are the conversations that unfortunately I think are not had enough and they end up happening in my office.

Elle Martinez: So you're almost like a therapist or a referee.

Megan Gillikin: I joke that 40 percent of my job is being a therapist.

What to Do When Parents Want to Help Pay for Your Wedding

Elle Martinez: You see that side that maybe you know people don't put out there when they're planning a wedding because I remember I mean it's Years ago but when you were saying that was nodding my head about people asking about the venue the food all these details and we're like we just announced her engagement. We're still figuring out there's a lot of pressure but something I remember from our wedding is we created a basic budget.

He was just out of college and I was wrapping up so our budget was smaller but then we had family volunteer to contribute for the wedding. And that's kind of like another tangled situation or could be tangled situation. You know.

I mean you're grateful if you want to help and that could get you closer to maybe what you envisioned.

But do you have any advice for couples maybe they want to establish boundaries to find that balance if family is like giving as a gift? Finances with the wedding or any tips on making it less stressful or tense situation?

Megan Gillikin: Yeah I have seen this scenario more times than I want to admit where there is a power struggle between the couple and other family members that might be contributing financially. And it makes me really sad because I've seen you know really I think good relationships turn tense and stressful and lead to feeling a lot of anxiety about every decision that is made which is not what I would wish upon anyone when it comes to planning a wedding. So I think it goes back to step one of the processes before you start talking to parents and you know a mom is saying Okay well your dad and I are willing to put in twenty thousand or whatever that number is and the groom's parents say you know we're willing to put in this amount before any of those conversations are had that conversation between the two of you is the most important one and that one involves like OK well let's let's take a second and talk about family dynamics. You know my mom can and I'm not speaking specifically about my mom but I'm using this as a reference. If I were to say to Jason my husband when we were planning a wedding hey you know my mom is willing to contribute a certain amount but let me just put this out there to you that I feel that that's going to come with some strings attached that she's going to want to have a say in these certain areas or her contributing money is going to mean that we have to invite these 40 people that you aren't going to know that are going to mean nothing to you but we're gonna have to suck that up because she's contributing financially. So I think having a united front as a couple and talking through those different scenarios like OK if my parents put in this amount what does this do for the wedding of our dreams that we want to have and are the potential sacrifices that come with this. You know financial contribution is it is that worth it to us. And then I think you take that conversation that you've had as a couple and when you're ready and it's time you have those conversations with these family members. And I would recommend that it goes something like this. So I would say something like You know mom and dad Jason and I are really excited about having you all involved in planning the wedding with us. We've identified that to us. We feel comfortable being in this range for the budget on our own. And these are the things that are really important to us x y and z. We'd love to know more about you know how involved you want to be in the planning process and how you see that going. And is there something that would be most important to you so that your understanding. What you're getting into with involving parents that are financially funding the wedding and I speak from experience with a wedding that I'm doing right now where there is intense power struggle between the couple and the bride's parents. And it's gotten to the point where the parents are calling me. The couple is calling me there's e-mails separately there's you know there's. We're just not on the same page at all. And I feel that it's it's a really tough situation to be in on either side because I can honestly see both sides. I see that you know it's the couples day. They're getting married. It's about them and the rest of their lives together but if the parents are the ones that are you know funding most of the event then they do kind of get a say in how that money is spent. I just wish that these conversations might have been had more on the front and then in the middle of the planning as decisions are being made.

Elle Martinez: it's funny how it can snowball once you start the process but I love how you presented that because I feel like that's a diplomatic way to establish boundaries and also expectations. I think whether you know just if it was the bride and groom funding it you have two different expectations lines. And now when you bring anybody else and there's an you know that's another layer of complication and doing it sooner. Definitely you know makes it less stressful.

How a Wedding Planner Can Make Your Special Day Less Stressful

Megan Gillikin: Yeah and that goes back to you know when I said you're getting peppered with questions right after the engagement something that I see happen commonly as well is that you want that date as a couple you're like OK we got it we got to figure out the date so let's start looking at locations and you pick a venue and you have a date and then you don't necessarily realize the full scope of all of the other financial pieces that are going to go into it. So you know you may have picked a venue that sucks up 60 percent of your budget is your dream beautiful venue but now you're going to have to scrimp and save and cut corners with other areas of the wedding that you didn't realize at the time. And it can create some resentment for sure. So that is where I would say if you are considering hiring a planner I always recommend that you reach out to a planner prior to booking a venue because from my experience I've worked at all of the different venues here in the Triangle. I know the pros and cons. I know the average cost of the weddings that take place at each of those venues. I know the ones that I would recommend time and time again and I know the ones that have created difficult situations for past couples and so leaning on the expertise of a planner that knows that would be invaluable in my mind. Before you sign the contract because once you sign the contract there's nothing I can do.

Elle Martinez: And I know we were like I mentioned on a tighter budget when we got married but we had someone to help coordinate and it does make a difference. You know someone who enjoys negotiating also like it's for us it was weird he had her hands full and naturally my husband and I just are not great with negotiating. I've gotten better now have my own business that's like life but having someone in your corner. Yeah. Take care that it's just it's invaluable and that's a great point before you signed the contract. You know talk it over you can usually get a better deal eat or if it is the same price maybe get something added in there. Definitely makes a difference.

Wedding Details You Want to Keep in Mind

Elle Martinez: So I know we talked about you know the wedding day. This is hopefully one for the ages. You know it's going to last forever in your memory but it's a day nonetheless and you've been on both sides personally professionally.

Do you have any advice for couples or sitting down to where you think they should definitely kind of splurge or invest more their money towards considering you know they want to look back on this with their wedding expenses or a place where maybe you might not want to put all that money right there?

Megan Gillikin: Yes. Yes. So, of course, some of this is based on personal preference but there are two areas where I feel super strongly that you should hire professional and you should not cut corners.

One is your photography. And the other is actually hiring a videographer. So you're going to. You mentioned that this is one day. So it's one day and you wake up the next day and it's over the food is gone the flowers will die the marriage hopefully will last. But the only thing that you have to reflect back on these memories are the photography and the videographer. And just about I mean I don't know the statistic on this but I assume that is somewhere in the high 90s that 90 plus percent of people hire a photographer for their wedding. That's one of those must-have vendors. I would recommend that you do your research and you make sure that you're hiring someone that has experience in weddings because photographing corporate headshots or family photos or you know just nature is a very different beast than photographing a wedding. A wedding is very fast paced. Things move quickly. You do that first kiss once. You're not going to go back and recreate that moment. So if someone is not comfortable in that environment then you run the risk of a lot of things being missed on the day of. That would be my experience and recommendations with photography. Now videographer. I on my podcast I talk about this probably way way too much but I think that videography is one of those things that sadly gets cut from the budget. And I would recommend 100 times over that you invest in a videographer over you know I would say get a deejay instead of a band or cut back on your flowers or cut back on your guest list because I think videographers is a legacy component as well. So nine years married today for my husband and I and we had a family friend capture the moments of our day videographer wasn't what it what it is now and I'm I'll say this I'm glad that we have it because we can we can watch it and our girls love to see me walk down the aisle and all those things but it was not a professional so the sound quality is terrible. During our vows he hadn't walked the video so it rolls up towards the top of the church and you just look at the ceiling for a good 15 minutes or so. And I think that I say this to my couples too. I'll cut the short because I could go on and on but the day goes by so quickly. It's such a blur and it's hard to soak in all those moments and there's there's something to be said about having a great photographer but there's something even more so to be able to listen to your dad's toast when he gets up and talks about you or hear the vows that you said to each other and you know the crack in your voice or watch your first dance and see that you know tiara that the groom sheds all of those moments. To me watching them happen outside of a photo I think is is priceless. And I've had experiences over my years in the business where a mom was sick and wasn't able to make it to the wedding and thank goodness you know they had the videographer and I mean there's there's lots of stories but I could go. I feel obviously I feel passionate about it. But videographer is an area I would say Don't Don't cut. And then I talked about this a little bit before but I would say also don't feel that you have to do things just because everyone else is doing them so don't feel like you have to have a bridal party. If if if you want to just make it just about the two of you. More power to you. You're not having to spend money on bridesmaids bouquets or grooms and beauty mirrors or gifts for your bridal party and if you have a 10 Bridesmaids I mean that stuff adds up pretty quickly. And remember that the stay is about the two of you it's not about those five to 10 people that you're planning to have stand up next to you and you can still have them be a part of the day. And then consider you're reducing your guest count when you're when you're making that guest count and you've got all those lists of names there. Ask yourself this is someone truly that 10 years from now 15 years from now I will be glad that I had them at the wedding and if the answer is No. And maybe cut them from the list because the food and beverage is not the only financial piece that goes into every single guest that you invite. So I talk about this when I talk their budget with my couples. But when you think about it you're like OK if we have one hundred and fifty people that means we need to have you know beverages and food for one hundred and fifty but you are also ordering invitations for you know that number of guests you're having to have that many tables chairs linens if that's not included with your venue. Sometimes you have to rent like forks knives spoons glassware all of that. If you're building an event from the ground up cake servings flowers for each of the tables. So there's much more that goes into it than just that one piece. Now my last devices that having a wedding in your backyard is not always cheaper than having it at a venue. That's a common misconception that we don't have to pay the venue fee. We'll just have it in my grandparents on my grandparents land. But then you start thinking like oh I guess we have to bring in power. And I guess we have to bring in restrooms and I guess we have to have a backup plan for rain and you know we're having to rent everything. So yeah that's that's something to think about too.

Elle Martinez: Definitely. I mean and then also just let's just say the price is the same as logistics because with the venue I know you've mentioned sometimes they'll come with all these things prepared. And that's one contact. But if you're doing it yourself and you think you're trying to save money by having it. Oh I don't have to pay the venue but now you have like five or six or even more people you have to coordinate with. That's just more of a headache with what help for sure. So less work especially on your special day you. You want to just focus on that being your day. Yeah. You guys have a fantastic time.

Thank you so much Meghan you gave me so many wonderful tips!

Key Takeaways on Planning Your Wedding

Before we close up I want to focus on some key takeaways I got from speaking with Megan:

If you’d like to chat more about planning your wedding or you want to swap some stories about your big day, please join us in our private and free FB group – Thriving Families.

Hope to see you there!

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Music Credit

Like the music in this episode? Our theme song is by Gentle Regime. Additional music by Lee Rosevere.

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