We are so excited to be welcoming the new year with a new episode of the Wedding Secrets Unveiled! Podcast. This week, we’re chatting with Tracy Hill, from Crystal Lake Golf Club – a wedding venue here in Mapleville, Rhode Island. Tracy is the event coordinator for Crystal Lake and we connected after our episode with Scott Connery (see that here!) to help our couples be more prepared for their vendor planning meetings. So, today we’re sharing all of the secrets about preparing for your wedding detail appointments with your vendors! f you’re feeling overwhelmed or unprepared for your big day, especially when it comes to how to prepare for your vendors appointments, this episode is for you!
I’ve worked for the past 18 years for a golf course called Crystal Lake Golf Club in Mapleville, Rhode Island, which is northern Rhode Island, right on the border of Massachusetts and Connecticut. We are a country club that has an 18 hole golf course and our beautiful function room is set right on the shores of Crystal Lake. We have a gorgeous lakeside gazebo for ceremonies and offer unique antique cars for our couples to use. It’s one of the things that sets us apart. We probably do about 65 to 70 weddings a year. Crystal Lake Golf Club is definitely a mom and pop business and I absolutely love working there. I literally sit across from Cindy and Kevin’s office is off the main office.
So, when we started talking about this episode, you really stressed how important it was to meet and prepare with your vendors for your wedding. Why is that so important?
I think what resonated with me from Scott’s podcast was that when you hire good vendors, you have a wonderful final product. But, you also have to be prepared to meet with your vendors. A good vendor is someone who is willing to spend some time with you and get to know you before the big day. I’m a vendor who likes to meet with my couples so I can see what their vision is. And then on the wedding day, it’s easy. You come, you get your picture taken, you enjoy your family, you eat, you drink, you have fun, and I’m going to take care of all the behind the scenes stuff. I want to know you so well that in the end, if there’s a question or a problem that comes up, I can say I know what my couple wants and needs.
And frankly, this year has been one where I find not all couples are prepared for those meetings. They don’t have everything or need to come back – and while that’s fine, I want to be flexible, it doesn’t always mean I can be with them the same way. So I think that’s the one point that I wanted to get across today: if the vendors are good vendors, and they’re taking the time to meet face to face with you or talk to you over the phone, that’s something you really need as a couple.
Can you take us through the process of how to prepare for these meetings with your vendors as a couple?
For myself, I do a 6-month, 3-month and 1 week meeting for my couples… but I think that these steps can apply to any planner or event coordinator. For the six month meeting, I recommend that you need to have a good idea on the number of guests you’re going to have coming. And it’s okay if you haven’t sent invites out yet by that first meeting, but just a general number is helpful. I always ask about the menu, too. Again: just a general idea for that first meeting is more than fine! By six months out, I always hope my couples have all of their vendors booked, too. Plan to bring your vendor’s contact information with you. I like to reach out to all of the team and make sure everyone is up to speed on what our policies are and what weddings are like at Crystal Lake! Finally, don’t forget any questions you have for your planner or venue coordinator.
At the three month meeting, I finish completing a wedding worksheet with my couples. This outlines all of the ceremony information (the lineup, the orders, etc.). And then at the final meeting, it’s really just a final check in and making sure we know what’s going on! Please don’t walk in and change everything. At seven days before your wedding, things become much harder to change around! Minor details are totally fine to adjust here, but don’t try to make big changes unless it’s absolutely necessary here.
When couples book a wedding two years out, I always remind them I’m only an email away. But, as things get closer, there’s nothing quite like having those face-to-face meetings (or at least online in these COVID times!). I think it makes a big difference.
Absolutely! Let’s dive into the pros and cons of planning far in advance for couples. What tips do you have for couples who want to get everything done super early for their wedding day?
What I would say to those planners is: don’t come into that first meeting with everything so set in stone, that you can’t open your eyes to see other little details that you may have missed. Come to your first meetings with open eyes and trust your vendors to do their thing. Oftentimes, we need to organize things for our own systems and teams. Please remember that we aren’t trying to change what you’ve done, but we’re asking specific questions for our team’s needs.
Should couples hold all of their questions until their meetings or contact their vendors throughout the process? And what would you say to someone if their vendor hasn’t responded back?
I’m all about communicating through the entire process. This is what builds trust with the people that you’ve hired – you should feel comfortable enough to shoot over a quick question!
As far as slower response times, I just like to encourage my couples to make sure they’ve reached out, completed their necessary documents for that vendor, and then to check the calendar. Depending on the time of year, it’s likely that they aren’t being ignored. It’s probably just a busy time in the industry! It’s also not uncommon to not see wedding vendors have great response times in the latter half of the week because they’re working their weddings. But I know that it can make couples nervous… so just try to be patient and trust that you picked great vendors. They’ll take care of you! Don’t be afraid to ask their communication preferences and processes upfront. Write it down or mark that email so you know what to expect from the start. Every vendor is different. You have to just figure out what they need and stick to it.
Now, your daughter just got married!! Do you have any takeaways as the mother of the bride you can share with our couples?
Of course! I honestly thought planning my own daughter’s wedding would be a breeze. I’ve planned hundreds of weddings. But, it was definitely eye-opening for me. I think one of the most important things I was reminded of is that you should be interviewing vendors before you hire them. Ask about their communication styles and what to expect from them. Find out if you’ll have meetings together (or not). For some brides and grooms, having those details really laid out is SO important. And for others, less is more. Make sure you’re a good fit.
It was also a great reminder to trust your vendors. Personally, I get couples who want a floor plan a month after they’ve booked the venue. But it’s not realistic. They’ll just keep changing it. So I tell them that and let them know we’ll have it at their six month meeting. Trust that your vendors know what they’re doing.
We are so happy that you wanted to talk about this, because we cannot stress enough how important that our couples meet the expectations that we set for them so we can meet THEIR expectations.
One more question: do you think it’s important to always follow the preferred vendor list?
I see posts all the time about people wanting to know who others recommend for a wedding day and I always want to reply back saying to go ask your venue! When your vendors recommend other vendors, you know that you’re in the right spot because they’ve worked with those people before. They trust the quality of the work and the vendor on their preferred list. Preferred vendor lists aren’t about kickbacks or benefits. It’s about finding quality vendors we trust to share with our couples.
What are some key points that couples should be asking their vendors to make sure that they are preparing for their details appointment and make sure that they are giving their vendors what they need?
Ask your vendors and coordinators what the planning process is like with them. Find out what they’ll have for you to complete, how they communicate, and what their customer service is like.
Be prepared for what your vendors need from you. Fill out those worksheets, show up prepared for those meetings, and be prepared to communicate together.
Trust the process. You hired your vendors for a reason, so believe in them. And if you’ve asked your questions, and completed what they need from you: your wedding day will be just perfect.
Links Mentioned in the Episode
Contact Tracy: 401-567-4500, ext. 14
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