About Melody Dareing

Melody Dareing is a career newsperson with background in newspaper, radio and television. She and husband, Chef Mike Dareing, started a catering business in 2002 where she learned to translate her live event skills into event planning. She now plans and coordinates all events for Dareing Events Catering Inc. as well as manages marketing and publicity.

When to Choose a Destination Wedding

You may dream of getting married on a beach in a beautiful locale or in an Italian villa, but is a destination wedding really for you?

There are destination weddings to fit every style and category. From cruise ships to beach homes to exotic foreign getaways, many property owners and hotels push for couple to enjoy their services. There are advantages and disadvantages to choosing this option.


Destination weddings are typically all inclusive. Most have an event coordinator on staff to handle every detail. That can make things simpler, as long as you are comfortable with all the vendors the destination uses.

It is beautiful and romantic. Destination weddings are unique and provide a gorgeous backdrop that will leave you with memories.

You can reduce your guest list. If you are looking to politely eliminate the socially-mandated guests, like your mother’s boss, a destination wedding is a good way to do that. Plus, the guests who can’t come will still send a gift.

The costs could be lower than a traditional wedding. For most couples, a destination wedding is typically more intimate and a large, fancy reception is replace with a family dinner and dancing. There is usually reduced costs in other ways also, such in floral and other items that are typical for a large wedding. That could greatly reduce your budget, depending on the destination.

We had a potential client a few years ago who was looking to have her daughter’s wedding on the family farm. The family was prominent and had a good bit of money, so they were looking at 300 guests. By the time all the elements, including valet parking, was put together, the tab would have been $78,000. The family opted to host the wedding for 30 people on St. Simons Island.

You can combine the wedding with the honeymoon. You are already in your dream spot, so extending it into the honeymoon is easy and convenient.


Your family could be disappointed because many will not be able to attend. For some, a wedding is an important family function and many may not be able to afford it. Older relatives, like grandparents, may be prohibited from traveling because of their health.

You may not get the wedding party you want. Some of your friends, whom you love, may opt out of being in the wedding because they can’t afford the travel expense. Being in a wedding typically costs some money and adding the extra expense may be too much for even your closest friends.

Planning from afar can be nerve wrecking. Dealing with an event coordinator you have never met by phone and trusting vendors you can’t meet with regularly can frazzle your nerves.

You have no real control. The event coordinator uses all their vendors, so you have no real choice.

The personality suited for a destination wedding is a couple who are typically laid back, have no need for control and have little family input. They want a small intimate wedding with just a few friends and family. They care more about the romance and simplicity of a wedding than the pomp and circumstance.

Diamonds 101

Time to get down to business. Most first-time grooms don’t understand enough about diamonds and rings to make a good selection. That’s understandable…they’ve never done this before and typically this isn’t a father-son sharing moment.

There are four basic components that make up a diamond: carat, cut, color, and clarity.

Carat is the size of the stone. The cut is the shape of the stone. Clarity relates to the number of imperfections in the stone.

While size can be important, clarity is more important because clarity is the primary thing that affects brightness and determines value. A large diamond with a lot of imperfections won’t shine as brightly and it could have a lower assessed value than a smaller diamond with only one imperfection.

You determine clarity by looking at the diamond through a special magnifier, which are available at all jewelers. When you look at the diamond, imperfections will show as a dark spot or a string like flaw within the diamond. They are not hard to spot, even for the novice.

Color is self-explanatory. You want a diamond to be white. A stone that is more yellow or dusty white is less valuable.

The cut can be complicated because there are so many these days. Grooms should remember that complicated cuts cost more. That’s because a diamond cutter must start with a bigger stone and because every cut could create a flaw so it requires the best workman to keep the value of the diamond.

The more cuts there are, the more the diamond will catch the light and shine brilliantly.

Typically, the round stone has the least cuts. Stone shapes that have more cuts are marques diamonds and specialty cuts like heart-shaped.

Grooms need to also learn about styles of rings. There are three general styles: classic, vintage and modern.

Classic is a style that will stand the test of time. Generally, it’s a standard cut stone in a fairly simple setting and band. There are variations within the classic style including diamond bands and multiple diamonds in the engagement ring. Jessica Simpson and, surprisingly, Fergie, have classic style rings.

Vintage is usually a ring that is from an estate or heirloom and dates back before 1950, although some of the newer styles hail back to that era in style. Generally, it includes multiple smaller stones, perhaps a non-diamond stone like a sapphire, and lots of impact. Princess Diana, and now Prince William’s bride, Kate, has such a ring.

Modern rings are simple, clean cuts but are wonderful in their understatement and unusual design. They focus more on the band and often use twisted gold or silver in the band. They are more likely to make a personal statement or hold some secret meaning than any other ring. Think Jennifer Anniston and Carrie Underwood. Both have contemporary rings.

There are four big trends in rings right now and it’s a good bet most brides are into at least one. They are: pave stones, which are very small diamond groups in the ring set so tightly that you can’t see metal, vintage ring styles – like the halo ring which has diamonds encircling the center stone, colored stones in the set either as a center stone or somewhere in the band, and stacked rings which are several bands put together to create a tower on her finger with the center stone in the middle.

Whatever your decision, make sure you buy from a reputable jeweler and make sure it matches your girlfriend’s personality. After all, she must love it for the rest of her life because she will love you for the rest of your life.





Picking out an engagement ring

I think we need to take a moment and backtrack a bit from wedding planning to talk about the proposal. Naturally, the ring is a major part in that so it is worthy of discussion.

Many grooms-to-be begin this journey clueless of how to buy a ring. After all, many have never done it before and, hopefully, will never do it again. And this is one area where fathers don’t seem to be able to pass on their knowledge.

There was a television news story last year talking about the fact that many modern brides want – no expect – huge diamond engagement rings. The young men featured in the story were perplexed and discouraged because they didn’t have the money for that type of ring.

I indeed felt sorry for them and wanted to scream at the television that they should run very quickly away from that girl.

It is sad that girls today do, in fact, insist on a celebrity diamond ring. The reason for this is simple: they want to show it to their friends and make them jealous. It’s a way to tell everyone they are better than you and, I think, is a sign of insecurity and immaturity.

With that said, a man should strive to get the love of their life a ring that will make her happy. They should put some thought into it and, yes, sacrifice a bit of hard-earned cash.

The idea is that a man is thoughtful enough to give a token of love that matches his bride. Women want a man who knows what they want without them needing to tell them.

Practically, such traditions have always proven to the woman the intended groom could afford a secure life for her. A bit old-fashioned, true, but somehow it is built into our psyche.

The first known recorded engagement jewelry is in Genesis 24. In the story, a servant of Abraham swore to him that he would find a proper bride for Abraham’s son, Isaac. The man traveled back to Abraham’s home country and found Rebekah. He gave her a nose ring and two bracelets, all gold, and asked about her parents.

Naturally, her father was impressed and gave permission for her to marry Isaac. She left her family the next day to travel back with the man to her groom.

The moral of the story is the ring is important if you want a “yes.”

The most important aspect of the ring is to get one that matching the woman’s personality. This is where one must pay close attention because it is crucial, regardless of the size of the diamond. The one thing women want most is to think their guy understands them.

When Chef Mike and I were talking marriage, I had a set idea of the ring I wanted. It wasn’t a certain size or a special designer, but was a certain style. A unique style. Something I hadn’t really seen before.

As we were looking in jewelry stores, I tried to point out some rings I thought were close and described what I liked and what I didn’t like. Mike kept going to one particular style I had absolutely no interest in. It looked like his mother, not me.

After a few days of this, I asked if he had already gotten the ring and if it was that style. He said not really, but after some interrogating I discovered the conspiracy plan.

Mike’s mother had upgraded ring sets over the years and so she had a two or three older sets she no longer wore. His dad had suggested that Mike give me one of those sets, saving money, grief and time.

I was appalled.

My reaction was so volatile that I wasn’t sure if Mike would still want to marry me. However, he felt ashamed after I explained my feelings and apologized.

My thoughts were that to give me one of his mother’s old sets was like giving me  hand-me-down clothes. There was no sentimental attachment to those rings. They were discarded for better ones. The thought that Mike shouldn’t spend any money, time, or thought into picking out my engagement ring made me feel like his family – and ultimately him – thought I wasn’t worthy of the effort. I had waited a long time for marriage and felt I was certainly worthy of more effort than that.

Plus, the style was totally not me and wearing one of those rings would be like wearing his mother’s shoes when I’m a size five and she’s a nine. It just wouldn’t fit.

Mike ended up buying me a ring through a jewelry wholesaler connection. He designed it himself and – bonus – only paid about half of the retail value. Being a frugal person, that made me very happy.

Here are some things to keep in mind when buying a ring:

  • Don’t go into debt over it. You should be able to pay for it in cash. If you need to wait to save for it then wait. Don’t put it on credit.
  • The younger the couple the smaller the ring. You are just getting started in life and need to put some money toward your life together, like a house or furniture. Don’t expect to have everything at 22 that most people get at 40.
  • Consequently, the older the bride the bigger the ring. Older couples have careers, have investments, and savings. An older bride will expect a larger ring because she knows you can afford it. They also feel they deserve it because they have waited a long time. If you chintz, she will feel like you don’t value her.
  • Understand your bride’s personality. Look at her hobbies and that will give you a clue into the style she would want. Her clothes are also an indicator. You are marrying her, you should know her well. You can also get one of her relatives, like a cousin or brother, to help pick out a ring


Picking a paid venue

This event was at the Foundry at Puritan Mill in Atlanta. The building has an artsy warehouse feel, which some may see at unfinished, but was lovely with decor.

The third option for a ceremony and reception is renting a paid venue. Within that category, there are a multitude of choices.

Obviously, the first choice is to pick a venue geared specifically to weddings. The advantages of this is convenience and the ease of making choices because, typically, everything is included. Some may not want the stress of meeting with different florists, caterers, rental companies etc.

The disadvantages is that a wedding facility limits your choices and, typically, costs more. Sometimes, you can get a package deal with some discounts, but remember you are dealing with a preferred vendor monopoly at a wedding facility so the package is a “take it all or leave it all” option. There is very little negotiating because most owners feel if you want the place bad enough, you’ll pay it.

If you are serious about this option, make sure you like the food and the menu, make sure you like their floral choices and the wedding coordinator. Contracts with such facilities are very difficult to get out of and most require at least half down.

Some facilities will let you go off the preferred caterer, florist or other preferred professional list if you pay an additional fee. Usually that is $500. This ensures the venue owner they make their profit off such a service even though you are bringing in someone else. While most don’t see the need to spend extra money to hire someone outside the realms of the venue, there are times when it can become necessary.

An example: A few years ago, I got a call from a very upset couple. They had put down a deposit at a country club facility for their summer wedding. The facility had it set up for one particular company to do all its catering. They didn’t like this man in charge of catering. The caterer wanted them to have an expensive event (so he would make a lot of money) and they wanted something simpler that would fit into their budget and their tastes. The caterer began to treat them rudely, not returning phone calls and such.

The facility had the buyout option so the couple brought us in. For the couple, the extra money was worth not having to deal with the preferred caterer. As it turned out, we provided them with the exact menu they wanted and our prices were so much lower than the original caterer that it more than made up the additional $500 they had to spend to get out of the deal.

Another paid venue option is having your wedding at a hotel. This is very popular in northern areas like New York because their hotels are spectacular. Again, if you do this, you will be required to use the hotel catering but some will allow you to bring in other vendors like florists. This will likely also be more expensive.

I like to urge couples to look at other facilities that allow you to choose your vendors. Options include city community centers, state parks, libraries, theaters, museums, art galleries, gardens, subdivision club houses, or gated community buildings. These come in a spectrum of costs, so many are good options for those on a budget.

Community centers and state parks are going to be the most affordable. Many communities have, in recent years, built new upscale centers that offer full commercial kitchens and beautiful lobbies. State parks have shelters (I’m talking about a building not a pavilion), which can be lovely.

This was a wedding at one of the shelters at Red Top Mountain State Park. The shelter holds up to 250 people and was $250 for this wedding.

One of our favorite venues is Red Top Mountain near Acworth. One shelter is renovated and is on the lake. The other would hold more people but isn’t renovated. Both have good fireplaces which provide for a good atmosphere for a winter or early spring event.

Depending on your location, some of these type of buildings may need some extra decor to spruce it up. Others may be new. It varies so you will  have to physically look at each building. Most cost between $250 to $1,000.

Libraries typically have private rooms they are willing to rent to small groups. Some have a historical room which is interesting as a backdrop, but they may be cautious about food and drink in there.

Theaters are typically owned by a community volunteer group, so they are always looking for ways to make money when there is not a production. Some have beautiful lobby or guest reception areas, which would be ideal for a reception. Others have only a stage, but even that could be put into use for a ceremony or a reception. This would be ideal for a couple who are into theater or the arts.

Art galleries, museums, and gardens are in the same financial boat as theaters. Most aren’t profitable on their own, so they rent out. There might be some stipulations on food and drink set up areas because of the displays, but otherwise they are easy to work with.

This wedding was at the Roselawn Museum in Cartersville. It is a beautiful 19th century estate home, but filled with expensive antiques that guests and wedding workers must be careful around.

Rents on these type of facilities range from $200 to $2,000 depending on the space. A small community venue would be less than something like the High Museum or Fox Theater in Atlanta. Also, when you go for larger venues in places like Atlanta or New York, be aware they have their own food services and will require you to use those services.

Finally, you have community club houses, country clubs, and gated facility venues. The only disadvantage for these venues is you have to be sponsored by a member. Prices for most of these venues start at $500 and can go up to $3,000.

Community club houses and some gated facility venues, like Big Canoe in Jasper, Ga., allow outside vendors. County clubs require you use their services, but they do work with you on the menu and the price a little better than a wedding facility.

This was a rehearsal dinner at the Big Canoe clubhouse. Gorgeous facility that allows outside vendors, but expensive.

I encourage couples to think outside the box to find a venue they can afford. One of our brides was quite creative. During the extreme downfall of the housing market, she worked out a deal with a realtor to pay a small rent for a day’s use of a gorgeous million-dollar house that wasn’t selling.

See the home she rented

Since there was no furniture in the house, we could easily bring in tables and chairs for a reception. The ceremony was held outside. It had a wonderful kitchen as well, which was awesome for us.

So keep looking until you find the perfect spot!

Melody Dareing Events Coordinator

Dareing Events Catering Inc.

Having a home wedding

A home wedding is lovely, but weather becomes an important issue.

This wedding was a brunch wedding at a home in Kingston Ga.

A second option people choose for a wedding venue is a convenient one…their own home or the home of a parent or relative. While this certainly relieves the stress of competition with other couples for a venue, it can produce its own unique challenges.

Most people want to have a home wedding for one of three reasons 1) sentimentality and 2) cost reduction and 3) space.

Sentimental reasons are perfectly understandable. The thing to realize, though, is that feeling doesn’t mean the space will be conducive for events. Some homes are beautiful until you get 200 people in them. Then it becomes a challenge to move, serve food etc. Some questions to ask are: Is it the time of year where you can spread the party outside? What happens if it rains? Are there several bathrooms? Is the kitchen a workable area for caterers or others to set up food trays? Can it be blocked off from guests? Can some furniture be moved out of rooms to allow for more space?

Once you can answer these questions, you can sensibly start planning your wedding at home.

The second reason, cost, really isn’t a valid reason for a home wedding. Typically, home weddings end up costing more than one at a venue. Surprising, but true. The reason is because there are many details associated with a home wedding most brides don’t think of when they make that decision.

I think of the movie “Father of the Bride” when I think about home weddings. When the idea is first mentioned, Steve Martin envisions a picnic barbecue…easy..affordable. It ends up with walls being busted out, swans in the tub and people practically bursting out of the house.

Most home weddings require a tent for added party space or for weather. Tents for a typical wedding of 100 generally run around $6,000 with a lighting package. Adding sides can cost up to $1,000 more.

A home wedding also requires a lot of upkeep maintenance prior to the event. That means updating the electrical to allow for extra lighting, a band, ceremony microphones. You may need more outside lighting, particularly around walkways so people can see to come and go. You will have to smooth out paths, perhaps put in stones or bricks so ladies don’t sink in dirt or grass to get to the ceremony or reception area. Most of those having a home wedding paint their house to freshen it up for guests. You may have to clear out a garage, repaint it, fix any problems to put a reception, or part of a reception in there. Grass upkeep is essential, which may require about six months of a lawn crew maintaining it. The homeowner probably would also want to update garden areas so any flowers blooming at the time of the wedding provide for a beautiful backdrop for pictures.

Many of these things require professionals. Some, as in the case of electricity upgrades, would also require city permits as well as a licensed electrician. Any significant build-ons, like a garage or a poolhouse, would also require city permitting.

Space could be a great reason to have a wedding at home, depending on the space required.

I had a co-worker who had their reception at his father’s farm. The tent was put out in a field. It was lovely. The reason for this move: they figured they would have plenty of parking for their 200-plus guests.

Again, this can present other challenges. In the case of a field, electrical is a huge challenge. Plumbing and bathrooms is another challenge. This couple resolved both, but since I was a guest and it was before we started our business, I didn’t ask how.

One difficulty with any home wedding is parking. Most neighborhoods are not created to accommodate large parties. Sadly, that is one dilemma most people planning a home wedding forget about. However, it can be remedied.

First, you need to talk to neighbors about their feelings of parking in front of their homes. You need to do this in the initial planning stages so you have time to look into other options if some are not open to it.

Second, look for vacant lots or cul-de-sacs without any homes. Could they be used? Perhaps, if you contact the property owner.

Third, you probably would have to get a city permit. Most cities have special event permits for these type of things. Most have a limit on how many times a year a property can be used for these type of events, but for most, that wouldn’t be a problem. Also, cluing the city in will offset any problems in case someone in a nearby area calls in a complaint the day of your wedding. Believe me, that does happen.

Be sure to include parking instructions with your invitations.

One of the best things you can do, in my opinion, depending on the property, is to hire a valet service. This ensures that cars are parked only in designated areas. Even if it’s in a field, hire some professional parking attendants to guide people. Otherwise, some will be blocked in when they want to leave.

Hiring licensed and insured professionals for parking will allow alleviate any insurance problems should a car be dinged or somehow damaged while parking for an event. You don’t want your cousins to be responsible for such things.

Melody Dareing

Event Coordinator, Dareing Events Catering






Picking a venue

This is the time the real work starts. Whether you have a wedding coordinator or not, you have got to pick a venue for the ceremony and reception! In some cases, that would be two venues.

This process can be simplified by breaking it down to three choices: 1)a place of worship 2)a family home or 3)a paid facility. Once you decide on one of those three, you can look at your options.

Typically, those who choose a place of worship are generally religious and have a church home. That is wonderful for them because most churches offer their facility free to church members. However, some of the larger facilities may only offer the sanctuary with a fellowship hall available for rent. Still, the price is usually quite affordable.

Non-church members may have a more difficult time getting to use religious facilities. While some may offer their facility to rent to non-members (usually a higher price than for members), most require a personal connection with the bride and groom before allowing them to use the facility. So, if planning to use a religious building, it is best to use one where family members are still connected. Even then, it could be difficult because most allow church members the first option for ceremonies, which means you would have to pick a day not favored by members.

The dilemma with a religious facility comes in two areas 1) many stay booked up way ahead of time so you may not get your date and 2) couples are generally required to attend a premarital session or a series of counseling sessions with a clergy before approving the request.  Also, some churches will not approve a request if the couple is not living up to church doctrine. In other words, if one member isn’t of that faith, if they are living together, if one is divorced, if there is a child out of wedlock, or if the couple is interracial. There are a couple of denominations which allow a gay marriage ceremony, but most mainline faiths—particularly in the South—do not.

A situation happened in our family which illustrates how these issues can crop up and cause big problems. One of our relatives was marrying in a traditional church. He hadn’t gone there for some years but his family had strong ties and it would have been a sweet long-standing tradition to marry there. He had fond memories there so it seemed right.

He and his fiance went for their counseling sessions and everything was going well until another relative pointed out to the minister that the young couple had been living together. The minister withdrew as officiate and said they could no longer marry at the church.

They ended up going to a lovely church in another denomination, but they had to make the switch rather late in the planning so the ordeal caused a great deal of stress for them as well as bad feelings among family members toward the outspoken relative.

Rules and pre-approval criteria are fine with most couples who are regular church members because they have no discord with such teachings. They were brought up with those teachings and understand them. It isn’t the same with those not participating regularly in a faith. They simply want to use the church and don’t understand why it is so important to really believe the tenements of the faith to use a building for a day.

The best thing is to ask up front about such things. Every clergy is different and many churches are independent with the local church board or clergy making the final decision based on the situation.

Some churches try to alleviate the unpleasant awkwardness of these requirements with some conditions which would help the couple gain approval. Conditions could include the potential spouse being confirmed in that faith, or perhaps ending a co-habitation arrangement until the wedding, or getting the child baptized. These are all things to consider because fulfilling such conditions, along with counseling, would take several months at best.

Those considering a wedding at a religious facility may have to also consider hosting the reception at a different venue. Perhaps the fellowship hall is in use with other functions, or perhaps you may want to include wedding traditions not appropriate for use in religious buildings. For instance, Baptist churches wouldn’t appreciate a champagne  toast or dancing while a Catholic church or Jewish synagogue wouldn’t have a problem with those things.

The key point is to understand what the church traditions and rules are before seeking out a religious facility for your wedding. Don’t assume that church leaders would approve all your requests because you’re nice people in love or have a family member who goes there. Be aware of all expectations or you will be left feeling judged for your lack of understanding.

Most people want to get married in a church for one of four reasons 1) they are truly religious and consider marriage a religious experience and tradition 2) they used to go to church and want to incorporate positive childhood memories and traditions with this special day 3) they think churches make for a beautiful wedding and 4) to please their family.

Evaluate your reasons before considering a religious facility. Make sure you can truly believe in the religious/tradition aspect of the ceremony before going that route. Otherwise, you will be left feeling frustrated and angry while trying to plan for one of the biggest days of your life.

Melody Dareing – Event Coordinator

Next: The pros and cons of having a home wedding


Weddings in church fellowship halls favor simplicity

The cost of a wedding coordinator


Ok. You’re on a budget. You look at the idea of a wedding coordinator thinking it’s something you can do without.

It’s not.

However, most brides are concerned only with the cost of a coordinator and how it will affect their budget. So they skip the idea to save money.

What they don’t realize is that a good wedding coordinator will not only pay for themselves but save you money. And time.

The cost of a wedding coordinator/planner can be up to 25 percent of your budget, although some offer flat rates for specific services. Many negotiate depending on the services you need.

A full-service coordinator helps from the very beginning with finding a venue, wedding dress, caterer, floral etc. They go with you to every vendor and discuss options with you for you to make the final decisions. They meet with you weekly as the wedding gets closer, go over your budget, and see where you can cut costs.

They are there at the facility days before the wedding, the day of the wedding, and sometimes the day after to make sure everything gets returned, picked up and secured.

The make sure everyone is in his or her places at the rehearsal and at the wedding. They act as producer to make sure everyone does their part at exactly the right time.

They take care of every detail

They are worth every dime.

An event planner does much of the same thing, but on a smaller scale and with less personal service. After all you are paying them a flat fee, so there is a limited amount of time they will spend with you before their time outweighs their profit.

They send you ideas for venues, help you with rentals, floral, catering, music. They answer questions, go over your budget and are there to make sure everything goes smoothly immediately prior to and at the event.

They are also money well spent.

Here’s how these professionals can save you time and money. Unlike family, who sometimes offer to help plan or coordinate, these professionals already know vendors – probably your vendors. They’ve done the research. They know the trends and the prices.

Time saved.

Most of all, they know how to negotiate prices and get you the best deal.

For instance, you may want beef for the reception dinner. The caterer will try to get you to use the best cut because, hey, that makes the meal better and is more profit for them. However, there may be a cut that is suitable for half the price. Chances are your guests won’t know the difference.

A wedding coordinator knows these things while you might not.

Same goes for wedding dresses, floral and even music. A good wedding coordinator should be able to save you 50% on costs compared to what you would have paid retail.

So consider this part of your planning not as another budgetary burden, but as an investment not only into your savings, but into your sanity.


The importance of a wedding coordinator

Now, we are getting to some choices. Once you have planned your budget, you have to start making some serious decisions about venues and wedding vendors. This is where a wedding coordinator can be quite useful.

However, it is tricky to pick a coordinator is this modern market because of how venues are currently operating. Many venues have their own wedding coordinator included in a package, so to hire one before choosing a venue could lead to hiring someone you don’t need.

Nonetheless, I have found over the past year that many brides don’t know about all the venues available, which ones offer the best services or which ones have deals. That is where hiring a wedding coordinator up front can save time, energy and money.

Personally, I am of the opinion that hiring a wedding coordinator should be done before picking a venue unless you already know specifically which venue you want. In that case, book the venue and then look for a coordinator if the facility doesn’t have one.

Typically, a coordinator for a facility isn’t what I envision as a professional wedding planner. If they work for one facility, that facility has certain wedding vendors it uses all the time so there is no choice. More on that later, but the planner simply calls these vendors and puts in orders of what the bride says she wants. Sometimes it’s the right choice. Other times it’s not.

A facility wedding planner’s truest duty is taking care of small details the day of a wedding. In that respect, most are pretty good at their jobs. If going this route, make sure you can trust the coordinator with details. Make sure they are organized. Otherwise, you will worry on your big day.

A true wedding planner/coordinator helps a bride with her budget, her choices and offers alternatives when necessary. They steer her to good vendors, guide her in her choices and help the bride make a decision. A true wedding planner is also versed in all aspects of a wedding, such as etiquette, and how to skip around certain delicate situations that crop up at today’s weddings.

For instance, how do you handle divorced parents who hate each other? How does that read on the wedding invitation? Do you give a stepmother a corsage? These are things true wedding professionals know how to handle. They are part event planner, part adviser and part psychologist. In this respect, a good wedding coordinator can become a wise friend who keeps you on this side of sanity.

I had a bride call me once about 10 p.m. one night nearly in tears. She has procrastinated in finding ceremony musicians and now she was hearing it from her mother. To be honest, I had reminded her of the same thing weeks before. She insisted she would take care of it on her own, mostly because she wanted to save the money she would have to pay me to help. Now, it was about three weeks before the wedding.

After talking with her about how to handle her dear mother, I told her I would make some calls. I got some numbers of potential musicians, called her back, and she took half to call up and I took half. By the end of the next day, she had some wonderful musicians which did a great job at the wedding. She couldn’t have been more pleased.

No matter what type of coordinator you choose, you definitely need someone to manage the details and proceedings the week and day of the wedding. I say that from my own experience. When Chef Mike and I got married, I failed to hire a coordinator. Why should I? I thought. I knew exactly what I wanted. Exactly who I wanted. However, the day before the wedding people came up to me with questions like “What do we use to light the candles?” and “Who is going to tell the bridesmaids and groomsmen when to come down the aisle?” and “Who signals the musicians?”

I stared at these people, family members, with a blank stare reminiscent of a dog who couldn’t remember where he put his bone. I had nothing. Fortunately, my family members had been in lots of weddings and took it upon themselves to manage these tasks. I was lucky. Every bride is not.

Hence, a wedding coordinator.

Dealing with parents

One of the main issues during the whole engagement/wedding process is dealing with parents and future in-laws. The strange part is that most couples are surprised at this.

There are as many reasons for this phenomena as there are guests on the Dr. Phil Show. Some fathers have trouble letting go, some moms have trouble letting go, there are control issues, tradition issues and—here’s the big one—financial issues. I’ve found that the more involved parents are in financing a wedding, the more power they feel they have over decisions. There is some truth to that old saying “money is power.”

The simple answer is that weddings are a big deal. They not only unite a couple, but unite two (sometimes extremely different) families.

That is why I want to spend some time talking about the engagement. Many of this issues can be eliminated early in the process.

The most important thing—I repeat the most important thing—is that your parents approve of your fiancee. While some of you may scoff at that statement, saying it’s way too old-fashioned, I would say it is far more sensible than old-fashioned.

I know there are some parents who will never be happy with any choice. And I know there are many now days who are completely absent from their children’s lives. I am not talking about those. I am talking about the average ones, the mainstream.

Age of the intended couple is also irrelevant on this issue. A couple still needs to have parental support and blessing no matter what age they marry. The reason is clear: Parents and in-laws can make life hell for the couple if they don’t approve of the marriage.

Ultimately, the decision is up to the couple. However, I would advise that a couple who marries against a parent’s wishes moves far away and understands they are never to ask or expect those parents for any type of support (financial or otherwise) to sustain their marriage or existence.

There is another very good reason for seeking parental blessing: to make sure you are making the right decision.

I had a very good friend, who at the age of 22, decided to marry a man. I was rather concerned about her because she had just broken up with the love of her life and seemed a bit too anxious to get married. However, I kept my mouth shut and was supportive.

Her parents, however, had similar concerns. On top of that, they were going through a divorce. They spoke to me privately and prodded me to attempt to convince her to postpone the wedding. Not cancel her plans. Postpone. For one year. They also really wanted her and her beloved to go to pre-marital counseling.

I agreed with them, feeling it was a wise decision. I will point out none of us had a problem with her chosen. We just didn’t know him very well. He didn’t seem like her type. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but something was amiss.

Long story short, my friend hit the roof. I was ousted from the wedding party, but I really felt she should have listened to her parents. We did make up before the wedding (which was not postponed, but instead was moved up with only a four-month engagement) and I became good friends with her husband. We are still friends.

However, I was not really that surprised when my friend called me six years and two kids later to tell me she was divorcing. She said she should have listened to all of those telling her what she didn’t want to hear.

The fact is that love is blind. We fall in love and tend to overlook some obvious—and some not so obvious—red flags. Parents and friends see these warning signs where we can not. Sometimes, they can sense trouble when we are oblivious. This is the very reason we need their honest and heartfelt blessing.

Reasons vary why we marry. Sometimes we don’t plan on it and love just happens. Other times, we talk ourselves into being in love out of a need to be married, a need to have kids, a need to be “on track” with our lives. Those aren’t necessarily bad reasons to marry, if we are honest about it, make a good choice of spouse, and don’t try to make our partner into something they are not.

However, I have witnessed many female friends fall into the “29” trap or the “39” trap, feeling they have to marry NOW. Typically, they choose the wrong guy because their husband is simply the guy who is around at the time. They become very disenchanted early on when they realize they can’t make their husband into the man they want.

Some divorced. Others decided to live, albeit, unhappily with their choices.

In every one of those cases, the parents weren’t in favor of the marriage. Those parents knew the reason for marrying wasn’t the right one and the guy wasn’t a good choice.

Their daughters simply didn’t listen.

Melody Dareing

Event Coordinator

Dareing Events Catering Inc.

How much should I spend on a wedding?

There is no real right or wrong answer to that, but the next step in planning your wedding is to create a budget.

Brides (or their moms) usually make a couple of mistakes in wedding budget planning 1) they don’t have one or 2) their budget is so low that it’s unrealistic and 3) they don’t plan for all of the costs associated with the event or any additional cost that may occur.

There have been brides coming to me to plan the ceremony and reception when she has already spent half of her wedding allowance on the wedding dress. Then, she has to skimp on everything else to make it work or—to her parents or fiance’s dismay—go over budget to accommodate all of the needs of the wedding. By the way, it’s been my experience that the end result has always been the latter.

There have also been brides who come to me saying they are having 300 guests but only have $1,500 to spend on the reception. Sorry, but $5 per person is a bit unrealistic.

Then, there are those fathers (sometimes fiancee’s depending on who is helping to fund the event) who start to get angry as the wedding day gets closer and more checks keep going out for all the little things, like wedding programs, bridesmaid gifts, a guest book, candles, and bubbles. I know what he is feeling. It seems like the cost never ends.

A good budget really helps keep everything on track and, really helps keep everybody sane.

Generally, it will take about $6,000 to have a nice wedding with around 100 guests. We’ve done some much lower and several much higher. The amount depends on where the event is being held, the type of reception you have, the number of guests and how “designer” you want the wedding to be. The average wedding in Atlanta is rumored to cost around $25,000. I know some weddings can certainly cost that, but feel that is a little high for an “average” wedding. I feel most could have a beautiful wedding that meets all their expectations for much less.

Everyone knows the obvious things to pay for, like the dress, the venue, music, and reception food. However, there are several not so obvious things such as renting the formal candle lighters, buying the unity candle and the separate candles for the side of the unity candle, paying the officiant, tipping your servers and bartenders, bubbles, linens, party favors at guest tables or at the door, a wedding cake platform, aisle runner, wedding programs, parking costs for guests, additional thank you notes, toasting glasses, cake cutting knife and server, gifts for groomsman and bridesmaids, gifts for parents, preserving your flowers and dress cleaning/preservation.

Some of these are optional, but most are typical wedding expenses so they should be a part of your initial planning. You can always decide later to opt out, allowing for more money in your budget. It would be much harder to find the money later should you discover you need some of these items and services.

A great budget planning tool, the best in my opinion, is found at www.theknot.com. That is what I used when we got married. The cool part about their budget program is that it instantly gives you ideas for what you can accomplish on your budget. Since it lists absolutely everything and you just plug in numbers, it is extremely user friendly so a bride or fiance doesn’t have to think about everything to include.