Lauren Muise, Manager and Wedding Planner at The Essex Room in Essex, Massachusetts discusses planning her own wedding, including booking vendors, buying the dress, and sending save the dates and invites.
John Maher: Hi, I’m John Maher, and I’m here today with Lauren Muise, Manager and Wedding Planner at The Essex Room in Essex, Massachusetts. Today our topic is a wedding planner plans her own wedding. Welcome, Lauren.
Lauren Muise: Thanks for having me.
John: Sure, so Lauren, we talked actually last spring about the fact that you’re engaged and you’re obviously involved heavily in planning your own wedding, which is in September of this year. And so could you just give us a little update on how that’s going and what’s happened since we talked last spring?
Lauren: Yeah, so we definitely have been doing a lot of planning. We’re kind of at a little bit of a lull right now, but we got engaged last New Year’s Eve, so it’s been just about over a year now.
Lauren: We have been busy booking all of our vendors. I bought my wedding dress, and we just recently actually sent out save the dates, so things are rolling now, and we’re getting a lot done.
John: You’re about eight months away or so?
John: Is that when you recommend getting those save the dates out?
Lauren: Yeah, I think, I mean, when I was doing my research it definitely said between like eight and 10 months. If you wait much longer, honestly I feel like they’re kind of just an extra expense that you’re spending, which doesn’t really make sense because you’re going to be sending your actual wedding invites out soon. So, they’re definitely something you want to send like eight months at least beforehand. And then after that, your shower is going to be coming soon, so the word will get out otherwise. So, if you are going to do save the dates, I would do it between the eight- and 12-month mark.
John: Right, okay. Anything else that’s sort of happened in the last nine months or so since we’ve talked?
Lauren: Well, I mean we’ve worked out our budgets, kind of, and we’re trying to stick to it. The guest list was the big thing. We had to kind of narrow that down and really put pen to paper and figure out-
John: Right, because in order to send out those save the dates, obviously you have to know who you’re inviting.
Lauren: Yeah, or at least the definites and then maybe later we can add a few. And we had an engagement party, which was really nice. It was small, just a little barbecue. We celebrated with close family and friends, and then we also did engagement photos, which was really nice. I actually won them at a bridal show, so-
John: That’s fun.
Lauren: -for all you couples out there that are engaged, it actually is beneficial to go to all those shows you see around because you might get some free stuff out of it.
John: How long after you actually got engaged did you do those engagement photos?
Lauren: Let’s see, I think we did them six months after, because we got engaged obviously on January 1st, so it was really, really cold out, so we wanted-
John: So you waited for the summer.
Lauren: Yeah, well spring, late spring. We wanted it to have a little bit of color out there.
Lauren: And not to be freezing when we were outside. So, we waited a little while. But again, I guess it depends on how long your engagement is. We got engaged over a year ago, like I said, so our engagement really is almost two years, so we had a little bit of time to kind of get that off the checklist.
John: Did you use those engagement photos on your save the date cards?
Lauren: We did.
John: Yep, I’ve seen that.
Lauren: And they’re posted all over my wedding websites and hung all around my apartment as well.
John: Nice. Do you have anybody else helping to plan your wedding? Do you have a wedding planner that you’re working with, or are you just kind of doing it all yourself?
Lauren: I, for the most part, am doing it by myself. I think … obviously my fiance, I ask him a lot of questions. For the most part, he kind of was letting me do my own thing. When it comes to actually planning it, I definitely am doing it by myself. I didn’t hire a planner per se, but obviously I’m throwing ideas off my sister Jen, who’s my maid of honor, and of course my boss, Maureen Woodman. She’s been doing weddings for a long time, so she’s somebody that I rely a lot on for opinions.
John: Right, right. Any issues come up between you and your fiance in terms of making choices and things like that? I know when I was engaged to my wife, the issue came … I learned very quickly not to say, “Oh, I don’t care about that.”
John: That that came up at the beginning where she would say, “Well, what do you want? Do you want this or that?” And I would say, “I don’t care.” And she was like, “What do you mean you don’t care? It’s your wedding.” And I said, “Okay, let me rephrase that. It’s not that I don’t care, it’s that I don’t have a preference between one or the other, so if you have a preference you can go ahead and choose that one and it won’t make a big difference to me.” Have you had any issues with that?
Lauren: Wording is definitely key, I would say. Yeah, we’ve definitely had a few conversations that sound very similar to that. There haven’t really been any big issues, I would say. I think picking the menu was where he kind of … definitely was a bit more interested in.
John: Yeah, a little more opinionated.
Lauren: Yeah, which was totally fine. I think … we are still eight months out, so a lot of the little decisions when it comes to timeline and decor, that aspect we’re still kind of working on, so I’m sure there’ll be a few more conversations in there. But for the most part, honestly, I’ve really enjoyed the experience. I think I might be a little spoiled again just because of the job that I actually do. I feel like I do have a good head on my shoulders when it comes to planning it, because I feel like I understand what it takes to plan a wedding in a budget-friendly and also realistic way. Some people just have no idea, because why would they if they had never hosted a wedding before? So, it can be a little bit of sticker shock and-
John: Right, they have big huge plans-
John: I want this and this and this and this. And then they look at how much that’s going to cost and they go, “Oh, wow.”
Lauren: Yeah, I think it can be difficult, so I feel like overall I have really enjoyed the experience, because I feel like I’ve come at it with a level head and really knowing what I’m getting myself into.
John: Right, right, so what are some of the choices that you’ve made so far in regards to the wedding? Say, either in the last nine months or even since you’ve gotten engaged and why have you made those particular choices?
Lauren: I think booking the vendors was the biggest decision we’ve made, and setting a budget. Obviously when you get engaged, you have all these crazy ideas and it’s … honestly the first thing that I did was … I mean, the thing that I used was Excel, which I know is kind of like old school, but I made a spreadsheet of all the vendors I know I needed and then maybe some extras that I hope I could afford. I put realistic numbers next to everything so I could see where it was going to hopefully end. And then I started doing the research on vendors because, like I said, people who aren’t familiar with the industry, you could say, “I’m going to spend $500 on a DJ,” and you can say that as long as you want, but are you really going to be able to find one that’s only $500?
So, I think the biggest decision that we’ve made was setting a reasonable budget and then doing the work to find vendors that offered what we wanted at the price that we wanted. So I guess just finding the right value and people. I think we had to make decisions where okay, photographers are a little bit over the budget we were anticipating, where can we cut back? Honestly, winning that engagement photo session definitely helped because a lot of photographers have that built into their package, which is obviously great.
John: So you can tell the photographer, “Hey, I’ve already done my engagement photos and so you can maybe give me a discount on the cost or something.”
Lauren: Yeah, and honestly that did help. It worked. I mean, a couple hundred dollars, but still all those pennies add up at the end of the day. So, I think it was important for us to find vendors that were around the budget we wanted as well as be clear about what our expectations were so that we could make sure that that value was there. Because some vendors were like, “Do you need this and do you need this?” And we were like, “Actually, no we don’t.” And they were actually flexible with the pricing a little bit, which really helped. I think going into it organized with our expectations and what we wanted and then actually finding the people and making decisions to secure the vendors, that was the biggest decision and choices we’ve had to make was booking the vendors, because if you go wildly off your budget at that point, you’re going to no matter what be way over budget at the end of the day. So, I think that was definitely the biggest thing that we’ve done so far.
John: Okay, and then what else do you need to do? You’re kind of coming up to the last stage here. You’ve got about eight months to go, as we said. What are some of the things that you still need to do as you go into this last few months?
Lauren: Yeah, so at this point, like I said, we have all of our professionals hired for the most part. I think, like I said, we’re kind of in the weird lull of it, which I think a lot of couples hit, because after you book all your vendors, you have some time before you really have to start pulling the trigger on other things. I think the main thing now is actually figuring out what I want to do for decor and rentals. So, obviously we need chairs for the ceremony, you need chairs for the reception, you need to pick your centerpieces out, all that kind of stuff. So while we’ve been really, really great about staying on our budget when it comes to hiring vendors, I’m a little nervous about staying on the budget for actually purchasing decorations and that kind of stuff.
So, I think that’s the next research that we’re going to have to start doing is kind of seeing like, okay, where are the numbers actually going to fall for that? And I’m really excited because I feel like now it’s becoming more real, now that we’re within the year. My sisters are planning my shower, which I’m super excited about and the word on the street is that there’s going to be a little bachelorette party, and Matt, my fiance, his guys are going to be planning a little trip for him too, so I think while those aren’t per se things that I have to really be involved in the planning process, I’m super excited about that part of it because it kind of makes it all real.
John: Yeah, absolutely. Yep. When do you anticipate that this sort of little lull that you’re in now is going to end? Is it about six months out that you’ll really start with getting more involved in having to make some more decisions?
Lauren: Definitely. I think most couples within like six months out, and then hopefully they are feeling a little bit more finalized like three months before-
Lauren: -so that the last couple of months you’re not feeling like you’re running around, and those last months you’re finalizing the invoices with your other vendors, so you don’t want to be dealing with all these crazy payments with decor. You want to get that done ahead of time. For me, obviously I’m a wedding planner, so we are going to start getting super busy with our awesome weddings that are taking place here at The Essex Room. And we start to get busy in the second half of April, so I definitely want to kind of finalize things in the next few months on my end just so that I’m not worrying about things and I can put all my energy into our amazing couples that are booked here. So for me-
John: Right, because you’re going to be so busy between April and September when your wedding is. That’s going to be a busy time.
Lauren: All my energy is going to go into our couples here, which I’m super excited about. So, I don’t want my wedding to come and me be stressed. I’d rather plan way ahead and get done the next month or two, or at least get rental orders placed and stuff so I don’t have to think about it. We’ll probably be, I guess, a little ahead of the game but we’ll probably hit another lull because we’ll have all that done in the next couple of months.
John: Right, yeah that’s true.
Lauren: Like I said, all the different events are going to come up, so definitely when you hit the six-month mark, you are thinking wedding big time at that point and getting everything situated.
John: Are you anticipating in terms of the decorations going with any kind of a theme or anything like that? Have you had any thoughts on that?
Lauren: Our wedding is mid-September, so we’re right on the cusp of fall there, so I think … we’re getting married actually offsite at a venue that we’ve catered at before The Essex Room at Woodman’s. It’s called Pierce Farm. It’s a place that you can bring in your own catering, which is really exciting, because obviously I wanted to incorporate Woodman’s and The Essex Room in some way. It’s a place that’s very simple, like The Essex Room, so I kind of just plan on bringing in some glam and some flowers and some bright colors. So, no theme per se, but just like classic, elegant, I guess is kind of the vibe I’m going for, which I see all the time here at The Essex Room, which is really nice. I get a lot of inspiration from all the couples that we work with.
John: Great. Yeah, hopefully we’ll be able to talk again, maybe after your wedding and get a little wrap up on how things went. That’d be fun.
Lauren: Yeah, hopefully it’ll all be positive and happy thoughts. So far, it has been, so I’m sure it will be. I’m super, super excited.
John: All right, well that’s great to talk to you about it, Lauren, and congratulations again on your engagement and good luck with the last eight months or so of your planning.
Lauren: Thank you so much.
John: For more information about weddings, you can visit The Essex Room website at essexroom.com or call (978) 768-7335.