Imoni Events is a Scottsdale, Arizona-based award-winning boutique planning company that services a limited amount of weddings each year. With national recognition, accolades and awards, Imoni Events leads the way when it comes to providing truly luxurious events to clients in the social and corporate realms.With over fifteen years of experience, we specialize in events requiring a master level knowledge of seamless logistics and refined design. Our team is highly trained and specialized in full planning, event design or day of event management for both destination and local weddings.
The idea of planning a wedding can be rather overwhelming in the beginning stages. With all the imagery from Instagram, Pinterest and blogs coupled with the many opinions from family and friends, it is hard to know where to start.
After fifteen years of meeting with couples who just got engaged, we have narrowed down your “First Five” items to tackle in order to ensure you have the best planning experience right off the bat!
1. Establish A Working Guest List
Guest list is key to all major decisions that follow. It is almost impossible to know where you want to host the wedding, and how much it is going to cost, without a working guest number.
Collecting the guests’ addresses is a beast all its own, but starting to create a document (preferably spreadsheet versions like Excel, Google Sheets or Numbers) can help in narrowing down the list before you start reaching out for addresses.
Once that list is narrowed to a place you feel comfortable, we always suggest a few follow-up tasks to get you the best working number for the rest of the process:
- Go through your list and notate the people you know for sure are going to come. This includes your immediate family, wedding party (even if you have not asked them yet), and anyone else you know for sure will come.
- Group your guests into two groups: locals and those that will need to travel for the event. Apply working percentages to each category. These percentages might vary, but we find that 65-70% works for destination focused events and 85-90% for local attendees.
- You will know your guests better than us, so also consider things like financial abilities, if they have kids in school, if the wedding is around a holiday where people already travel a lot, etc. before assessing those that are 100% coming.
At this point, you will have a pretty decent account of who will come to your event. We have been giving this advice to clients for years and unless something super crazy happens, mostly weather-reacted, we are typically within ten of our estimated number. It’s great!
2. Create A Reasonable Budget
I know. We said that dreaded “B word”. But we promise you that getting this step out of the way in the beginning will save a TON of heartache in the end.
Understanding how much a wedding costs, especially since it is most likely the first and only time you will throw such an affair, can be difficult and confusing. Many websites and blogs can give conflicting information on this. A lot of them highly under estimate how much people really spend for all those Pinterest finds they are drooling over.
Our experience is that our clients spend more than the average couple, so looking online for these resources can be quite tricky. If you work with a professional planner, they should have a pretty good budget worksheet they can show you and a pretty good number of where your items will land (based on a few conversations).
If you are not hiring a planner or just need to have an idea in numbers before you hire your dream planning team, we suggest a few things.
Pro Tip When Budgeting: Consider Your Guest Count
One, consider your guest count. Some resources out there will give price ranges for their particular area of the wedding and therefore you can do the multiplication in order to get a fair price for that area.
For example, if you find an invitation designer or caterer that you love, they could give you a price range per paste or per invitation suite. Multiply that by your guest count and you have two areas checked off. Same is true for things like cake, linens, specialty rentals, bar, and favors.
Pro Tip When Budgeting: Consider Flat Fees
In addition to the vendors that are guest count related, you will also have items that are flat rates. These sometimes include hours that go along with these services. So, determining these can be hard.
We hire photographers for $5,000 and we hire them for $35,000. So, we typically suggest a quick trick to get a better understanding of an overall number:
If you have looked at venues or food and beverage costs, this can be quite easy. Assume those costs, all in, are about 30% of your overall budget. That means you will most likely spend about 3x your catering/venue bill (plus a little more) on the entire wedding.
You should also note that if you know you love decor or know you want a good band, figure your food costs at 25% instead to give yourself extra funds.
We find that brides often heavily underestimate the overall budget. So, they decide they can afford the venue and then get stuck without much money for anything else. Hire a great planner to help avoid this situation!
3. Choose Your Venue
Finding the perfect place and date is such an exciting experience. Since you have now determined your guest list and budget, you can look at venues with a focused eye and really settle on something you know will work for your overall vision.
Pro Tip: Schedule An Appointment To Tour Each Venue
The first step in doing this is to contact them via email or phone. You will definitely want an appointment before you travel to view all your possible venues.
Appointments will give the catering manager time to go through all the spaces, the menus, the additional costs, and any extra limitation that the venue requires. These items vary per venue and can be hard to compare if you are looking at resorts and stand-alone places, so keep good notes to refer to afterwards.
The other advantage to setting up an appointment prior is finding out if they have availability. We have some clients who love a place, and will pay the price (no matter what it is!) but they have to have a spring wedding and the venue doesn’t have any free Saturdays until summer, so this automatically directs us somewhere else.
Once you have completed the venue tours, your gut will typically tell you where to go. We always tell our clients to trust their gut, but if you need facts, refer to your notes. They will guide you!
4. Start a“Secret” Pinterest Board
We know some of our vendor friends might gasp that we are even saying this, but in our opinion, Pinterest is such a great communication tool. Yes, it is there to give you all the inspiration and advice your little heart could want, but ultimately it will help narrow down your ideas and communicate what you actually like and dislike.
For example, if we have a client say they want a blush wedding, we have them show us what blush is to them. Our version can be more pink than they are thinking. Or the florist might think of it as more champagne. Either way, we believe a picture is worth a thousand words.
The same goes for general terminology like classic, shabby chic, or rustic. These types of words or phrases are thrown around so often that examples are definitely pillar to the success of communicating your version of them.
Plus, if you start your board during your venue search, you all also be able to see which place will accommodate your design most effectively.
Pro Tip: Annotate Your Pins With What You Like/Dislike About The Image
One thing to note here is we always suggest that clients notate the picture when they pin it. If you go through and just start pinning things, you often you forget what it is you liked about it later (when communicating to someone based off the board), so make notes of what you like or dislike to keep your thoughts in one place.
5. Take A Breath!
Start doing yoga! Get a massage! We could have five titles for this last one because after doing numbers 1-4 you are pretty much ready to start booking all your vendor partners. Yikes!
This is when the rubber hits the road like they say. Contracts get signed and deposits get made and there is no turning back. This process is long and can be very time consuming with the sheer details you will need to learn. It also requires a lot of back and forth with every single person so buckle up for the, what can be amazing, ride.
And make sure you do this often. Oxygen to the brain is good for your endorphins!
Of course, if you were to ask our clients, their list can look a little different. Most of them hired us step one, which makes the rest WAY easier. Some do the venue first, and then they realized that one item put them over the edge and they enlisted help.
We obviously are huge promoters of wedding planners.
Our clients also recognize that we are in this “wedding world” every day and our abilities to know what is capable for their events is far greater than Pinterest or Instagram.
About 80% of our work is for destination clients, so wedding planners are key to making this process seamless and enjoyable. Along with the other 20%, they all value help in properly managing the money it takes to plan an amazing wedding weekend.
Plus, our learning curve is way lower and their time is limited and valuable, so enlisting help is always going to be our number one!
If you are interested in booking Imoni Events for your wedding, please contact us here! We look forward to assisting you!