How do you take away the stress of planning a wedding? With a Wedding Planner! I had a chat with Anthea Thomas of Athena Weddings to find out the whys and hows of Wedding Planners.
Anthea is a Londoner by birth but finds that her heart is well and truly Northern after she moved up here aged 20. A short stint back down south confirmed this and the move to the North West was made permanent by the time Anthea hit 23.
Having worked in many areas of marketing, Anthea is used to project managing for individuals and large companies alike. Her work life has ranged from organising international photoshoots for a school uniform company; legal publishing; a training provider for 18-24year olds; as well as taking on a half a billion-pound project for an environmental charity – a cause close to Anthea’s heart.
Ten years ago, she trained as a Wedding Planner and used these skills to enhance her marketing and project managing.
However, in 2016, Anthea became self-employed, so she could spend more time with her daughter. This was a steep learning curve moving from being employed to becoming your own boss, but within two months Anthea had her first client.
It may sound strange, but Anthea absolutely adores the planning, the organising and the chasing-up that is required to make any event run smoothly, especially a wedding. I know this as her whole demeanour lights up when she talks about it. So over coffee, I took advantage of our friendship to find out: How do you take the stress away when planning a wedding?
How did you become a wedding planner?
I found that over the last couple of years, more and more people have been asking for me to plan weddings rather than corporate events. I am a hopeless romantic as well as loving the feeling of creating a lasting memory for someone. Being a Wedding Planner I can do that. I can make your wedding day The Most Amazing Day for you, the couple.
What do you find are the most common mistakes couples tend to make when planning their wedding day?
Not getting Wedding Insurance!
But also trying to please everyone which can result in forgetting and/or ignoring the Wedding Budget.
And not taking time out of planning to just be in love. [Ever the practical romantic.]
Why should a couple have a planner? What are the advantages? Isn’t it only for the wealthy?
Definitely not just for the wealthy. I have a range of packages to suit a variety of budgets.
Basically, a Wedding Planner takes away the stress. You as a couple are no longer accountable for organising everything. I am – the Planner. I give you a fresh set of eyes, an objective ear, and a firm but friendly face to redirect that pushy relative.
On top of all that, I have a whole network of wedding suppliers that I know will do an outstanding job.
And a Wedding Planner can be just for the day itself. This leaves the couple to enjoy the day and not split themselves into event organiser, problem solver, and newly-wed.
How long does the average wedding take to plan? Can a Wedding Planner make this shorter?
Usually, you are looking at 6-12 months and this goes in peaks and troughs. Quite hectic at the start as you try to secure venues and specific suppliers. Followed by a lull, until about 8 weeks before the big day when it gets frantic and the last 2 weeks can be a bit of a blur.
A Wedding Planner takes away the frantic and refocuses the blur.
I have been able to make a wedding happen in a few weeks due to a member of the Bridal Party finding out that a close family member was seriously ill. It was a race against time. But because of my amazing network of very reliable and generous contacts – the wedding was able to go ahead with all family members in attendance.
How do you approach getting to know a couple and understanding their needs?
I meet a couple several times in a venue they feel comfortable. I get them to tell me about their lives – not just their wedding. What do they like to do together? What are they like as individuals? How are they as a couple? From this, I can gauge how they are feeling about the wedding.
Usually, around our third meeting, we make a Vision Board. We each bring images, colour swatches, fabrics, poems, song lyrics, anything that has aspects of their wedding in order to create the idea of their dream wedding. And then we begin to match reality to the dream.
How important is the connection between a Wedding Planner and the couple?
VITAL! We become friends. Both members of the couple have to like me, and I have to like them as, over the planning time, they need to trust me and be confident that I will make their day the best.
What happens when a couple don’t agree on key aspects?
In this situation, I would speak to the couple individually to try and find out the root cause. This way I can work on finding alternatives to create a happy medium that I can present to the couple at our next joint meeting.
How do you help a stressed-out bride/groom?
Hopefully, there will be no stress as they have me doing the planning, but it can be an overwhelming time. I remind them both WHY they are doing all this and to focus on that. Spend some fun time together. Go out for a meal. In fact, if you book me for your 2020 wedding, you will get a free meal for two to help you relax.
How many couples have you found to be nervous of the ceremony because they will be the centre of attention?
Most. I tell them to keep their eyes on their partner as they enter the venue, and I work on breathing techniques if the nerves get really bad.
How do you work with overbearing parents or relatives?
This is one of the best things about having a Wedding Planner because the couple doesn’t have to deal with this. They can tell parents and other relatives to talk to me.
I like to meet the parents and remind them that this day is about the couple; that their child has found a partner that makes them happy.
I also listen to their concerns and try to include them in the planning but at a distance.
What’s the most outrageous or strange or inappropriate request you’ve had to deal with?
There have been so many. I think being asked to keep certain guests away from each other and away from specific areas of the venue. Essentially, a bedroom monitor.
However, that’s not really within my remit. I am there to focus on the couple and make sure they are relaxed and happy.
Are there any current trends you would like to see the back of or really enjoy or any that you miss?
No more blossom trees! I have seen so many and there are lots of beautiful alternatives.
I really want couples to use more fresh flowers. They not only add colour to your venue but fragrance which enhances the whole ambience.
What’s the most common poem, reading, or music you have come across?
Ed Sheeran songs especially Perfect and Kiss Me.
Oh, and the most common reading I hear is from 1 Corinthians: 13:
What do you think is the most important aspect of the day?
Declaring your love and loyalty to each other. And sharing personal vows adds a nice touch.
How long is the perfect ceremony length?
20 minutes, otherwise people start to get bored and fidgety.
Do you organise many Wedding Ceremonies with Celebrants?
No, not many and I would like to, but I think people are not aware that you can have a celebrant.
How important do you think it would be choosing the right celebrant?
Like a planner or a venue: VITAL!
A couple want to think, “Wow! This person is going to make it really special for us.”
Should a celebrant be ‘larger-than-life’ or simply someone who facilitates the happy couple?
This really depends on the couple and only they can decide.
And finally, what three tips would you offer a couple who are at the beginning of their planning journey?