I’ve always been a big fan of Tara Guérard, the owner/creative director of the event planning company, Soirée. She’s was the woman behind Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds’s wedding at Boone Hall plantation, and her work has a sophisticated southern sensibility that appeals to me as a born-and-bred Charlestonian, now-New Yorker. She lives there, but also has an office in New York and flies back and forth between the two cities frequently. (I once ran into her in the CHS airport in the midst of making her commute.) In addition to planning about 10 big weddings a year, she’s also recently expanded her brand to include furniture for Frank and Lane and custom invitation suites through the Lettered Olive. With two books (Southern Weddings: New Looks from the Old South and Weddings by Tara Guérard) and years of experience under her belt, she’s the perfect person for us to pose our favorite age old question to: What are the biggest mistakes people often make right after getting engaged? Here, she tells it like it is, so you don’t end up losing your cool on your wedding day a la Kate Hudson and Anne Hathaway in Bride Wars . . .
(1) Get going on your guest list ASAP. This should literally be step one of the planning process. I know it sounds crazy, but your numbers are of utmost importance. They will establish the scale of the event, which drives the budget and dictates your venue options for the ceremony and the reception.
(2) Don’t fall in love with a venue before you know your budget. Also, make sure you understand the limitations of the space. Do you need flooring, tenting, electricity, or bathrooms? All of that will greatly impact your budget.
(3) Location, location, location—and timing is everything. Be sure to take into account where you’re getting married and the season in which the event is taking place. A long-sleeved lace dress with a ball gown skirt doesn’t really work on the beach in August as much as you might want it to.
(4) Don’t forget to factor in distances. Transportation between the ceremony and reception venue is often overlooked, and no guest enjoys walking for blocks in high heels. This often forgotten expense can also eat up a lot of your budget so make sure you think about this when choosing your ceremony site and reception venue.
(5) A first look can be your friend. We love having our couples do them for several reasons. First off, it gives you time to see each other privately, and then time to share great moments—just the two of you—and then even more time for bride and groom portraits, and you don’t feel like you are missing the party doing these during cocktail hour! It is also a great stress reliever and allows you to get that jittery feeling a little under control. Walking down the aisle is such an incredible experience in and of itself that it doesn’t really matter if you’ve actually already seen each other beforehand. So I vote yes for first looks!
(6) Don’t forget your planner. Obviously, I’m a bit biased (wink! wink!)—but hiring a planner too late in the game can make life difficult for everyone. Start with someone you like and trust early on if you can—they will make your life so much easier and handle all of the details that you don’t have time to do.