Expert Advice: 10 Things Wedding Vendors Want You to Know, But Are Too Polite to Tell You: Part 1

The purpose of our “Expert Advice” posts is to discover the real truths to wedding planning. These aren't meant to be fluffy, feel good articles. Planning your Tampa Bay wedding can daunting, exhausting, and stressful if you haven't done your homework, and we don't want to sugarcoat that reality. But luckily for you, Marry Me Tampa Bay is here to help you make educated decisions about your wedding!

We can't tell you how many times I've read a wedding planning advice article only to have been told generic, non-helpful information. To really understand the ins and outs of wedding planning, reading the “butterflies and rainbows” article just won't do.

If you're looking for raw, honest wedding planning advice, then I hope you'll be enlightened throughout this post. We've enlisted the help of our preferred wedding vendors, who are true experts in the Tampa Bay wedding industry, to share what they feel couples need to know to make educated decisions. Please read their thoughts with the understanding that they truly want to help you have the best wedding planning experience possible!

1. Don't Expect Us to Respond 24/7

“One thing that drives me nuts is when a client leaves a voicemail or email and immediately texts to let me know they called or emailed and they would love a response. While I want to answer right away, we are at meetings or events which makes us a little different than most businesses in that we are not always in front of the computer.” -Katy Martin, Owner and Lead Planner Coastal Coordinating

“We know your wedding is the most important wedding to you. We truly know! But your wedding is just as equally important as the other 300+ weddings we have on our books too. Please understand that it's not that we don't care about your wedding or your wedding isn't our priority, it may just not be a priority RIGHT RIGHT now. We are spread so incredibly thin with the continued staffing shortages, supply chain issues, and exponential influx of weddings and inquiries, that we can only respond so fast. -Leigh Wilson, Event Director, Red Mesa Events

“We get it. This day and age we all want fast responses and instant gratification. We want to feel validated and special, and that we are the only ones getting married and our day should be tended to over anyone else. We use to reply to couples within minutes or hours, a day. With the number of weddings currently taking place in 2022 and 2023 and the number of inquiries coming in, there is a lot to juggle and time management can get the best of us. Know that no vendor wants to make a couple wait a day or two for a response, however, know that vendors cannot be accessible 24 hours a day. When couples know we are at a wedding, follow our wedding day on Instagram, know it's the weekend and/or we're out of the office and email us, text us, or DM us wanting us to tend to them. Or they'll email on a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday and email us first thing on a Monday stating they've emailed us multiple times and haven't heard back from us. Couples hire us to execute their wedding day, and the majority are on the weekend. Think about this, if it were your wedding day, would you want your planner's full attention or for them to be disturbed with other couples about their future wedding? Please have grace and give all a reasonable time to get back to you. If you emailed a vendor after hours, don't email first thing the next day to see if they received it or ask why you haven't heard back from them. Some correspondence requires research and vendor follow-up; having a quick response is not always the accurate response.” -Melanie Barker, Owner and Lead Planner, Elope Tampa Bay

2. Ghosting is Just Bad Manners

“Communication is such a critical part of planning a wedding. I find myself time and time again pulling together proposals and information requested by couples to only be ghosted. It’s extremely frustrating because couples can be very demanding, requesting quicker than normal turnaround time. I always work as quickly as possible to provide the potential client with everything requested so we can work toward a meeting or phone call. Even after sending follow-up mail and attempts to call the client, a lot of times I never hear from them again. I think sometimes proposals are shopped for lower prices, which is completely at the couple's discretion. However, the least that could happen would be an email thanking me for my time and simply explaining you have gone in a different direction or giving feedback if something seemed unreasonable and giving me an opportunity to suggest options. Not being selected by a couple is part of the business, but ghosting someone is just bad manners.” -John Elice, Bruce Wayne Florals

Tampa Bride and Groom Exchanging Wedding Vows | Tropical Pink and Green Outdoor Courtyard Wedding Ceremony Decor, Monstera Palm Leaves with Orange and Pink Flowers, Bamboo Arch | Tampa Bay Wedding Planner Coastal Coordinating | St. Pete Wedding Venue Hotel Zamora

Pink and Green Tropical Rooftop St. Pete Beach Wedding | Hotel Zamora | Coastal Coordinating | Cornelia Zaiss Photography

3. Listen to the Experts

“One of our biggest pet peeves is when couples ask us for advice and then interrupt or not listen and instead give examples of what they did when they helped plan a friend's or family member's wedding. It is so hard as a professional event planner for others to understand that we are professionals for a reason! Yes, it is a fun job, but it also a lot of problem-solving, counseling, and stress management. We love to have the input from our clients, of course, however, every wedding is extremely different. Different venue, vendors, guest count, style, budget, preferences, personalities…the list goes on. Just remember that when you are hiring event planners or professionals, they will do what will work best for you while also making the jobs of other vendors a little bit easier too!” -Lauren Gertz, Owner and Lead Planner, MDP Events Planning

4. You'll Probably Regret Not Hiring a Planner

“Book an experienced planner and the right amount of planning services. In the six years we’ve been shooting weddings, the most chaotic days are when a couple doesn’t book the proper wedding day/design/logistical support. A day-of coordinator is for sure better than you or your mother running around doing it all. However, having partial or full planning is going to result in a much less stressful and more cohesive day, as well as a more streamlined and informed planning process. Add to that typically better design decisions being made, which has a huge effect on the overall look and feel of your day. And working with a planning team who has had several years of experience is going to give you so much more insight and ease than someone who is just starting out. For example, we had a wedding where the couple did not have a planner or day-of support. As Brandon and I were getting ready to shoot the processional, the entire family and wedding party looked at us and said, “Okay so what do we do now?” There had been no rehearsal, no information provided about when they were to walk or with whom, and where to stand/sit down. The wild thing is that since your photo team is with you all day, people assume we know every job on the wedding day. We may know some things here and there, but positioning and pairing up a 16-person wedding party in a matter of seconds is just not one of them. Make sure you’re thinking of these things when you’re convincing yourself that you don’t need this planning support!” -Shannon Dewitt, Dewitt for Love Photography

5. You Must Be Flexible

“We're really gonna need you to be a little flexible with your planning and your budget. The cost of food has exponentially increased, and certain foods are still difficult to get. There's some weird cream cheese shortage that I still can't figure out why (seriously, are the cows getting COVID now?!). Certain brands of alcohol that were easy to get pre-pandemic are now virtually impossible to find, much less order in large quantities. Specific flowers can't really be guaranteed, and the quality of florals is still a little unpredictable. Every Saturday in November of 2023 is already booked, and some of us are already booking in 2024. Labor costs are bonkers right now because the cost of living is bananas. If you want that beautiful Italian lace dress, prepare for an extra six months due to back-ups in customs. Also, COVID is still a thing so don't panic if your DJ or photographer gets COVID and has to send in a replacement. Prices may in fact change during the course of your planning, so build in that extra wiggle room in your budget. None of us are trying to become millionaires, we're just trying not to lose money. Plus, be honest that you're planning a wedding. We don't arbitrarily double our pricing simply because ‘it's a wedding and we can.' That's not a thing and is a really nasty rumor that needs to permanently push daisies.” -Leigh Wilson, Event Director, Red Mesa Events

Outdoor Rooftop Downtown St. Petersburg Wedding Ceremony at St. Pete Wedding Venue Red Mesa Events | Wood Cross Back French Country Chairs | Geometric Gold Arch Ceremony Backdrop with Natural Rustic Floral Spray of White Roses and Eucalyptus Greenery | Perfecting the Plan

Rustic Copper and Green Downtown St. Pete Wedding | Red Mesa Events | Perfecting the Plan | FotoBohemia

6. Pinterest isn't Realistic

“While we appreciate the creativity, discovery of information, and shareability Pinterest provides, this often gives couples unrealistic expectations, often not possible due to state/beach regulations, or simply put ‘looks great' but costs totally breaks the budget. We regularly receive a handful of pictures ‘found on Pinterest' for beach weddings that took place in foreign countries, home furniture out on the beach, private beach setting with string lighting, or 21,000 floral stems on an arch. We agree, that this looks great, but when you start to count the cost, realize public beaches close at dusk and only private settings exist on private land that often does not allow high-traffic events such as weddings. For a lot less you can have a wonderful beach ceremony and reception at a nearby restaurant/hotel with a built-in backup plan and save thousands in the process. We always emphasize ‘If there are no people in the pictures, it's often a staged photo' which most likely was heavily edited to benefit the photographer/venue.” -Brandon Wheeler, owner, Gulf Beach Weddings

7. DIY Flowers May End in Disaster

“While it is a great way to save money, it is never a good idea to take the florals into your own hands. There are so many variables that can happen. What if the flowers don't arrive on time or at all? What if the flowers are not great; how are you going to get backups for them? A florist has those contacts to get them right away. Will you have time to prep and process them the day before you put them together? Do you have the containers or products like ribbon to properly make them? Who will deliver them on the day of the wedding? Do you have a fridge large enough to keep them cold? There are so many what ifs in these options, and I highly suggest spending the money and getting a professional for this.” -Katy Martin, Owner and Lead Planner, Coastal Coordinating

“During the consultation, clients say ‘We have a friend that will do all the designing, we just need the flowers.' That's fine, we have no problem with this, but, we warn them, that this isn't always a definite. Then the week before the wedding, ‘Oh, we don't have help, can you do the arranging?' At this point, we've already booked at least one other wedding for that date, since they didn't hire us for design.” -Dorelle Raphael-Fishkin, owner, Brides N Blooms Design

8. Open Seating Can Be Uncomfortable

“Open seating can be successful if done properly, but most of the time it's done very poorly and leaves me (and the guest) feeling awkward. Most of the time couples do open seating thinking that it's better for the guests because they can pick who they sit next to. However, it can cause a lot of stress to claim the seats you want and not have your group broken up. There are also guests who arrive that may not know your friends and then they are left having to force interaction and find a table that will welcome them to sit down. It gives me middle school lunchroom vibes all over again! There are also a lot of weddings where guests don't get along, and assigned seating guarantees that they won't end up at the same table. If you do open seating, please have more tables and chairs than actual guests so people can spread out. When it's an exact number, then people will definitely end up being split and across the room from one another. Please consider doing assigned seating. This reduces social anxiety among your guests because they know exactly where they are going and where they belong. You also can control who they are by and keep them from guests they don't like or match them with personalities that suit theirs, even if they don't know one another!” -Delaney Driver, Owner and Lead Planner, Wilder Mind Events

Green and Gold Christmas Wedding Decor, Long and Round Tables with Emerald Green Table Linens, Gold Chiavari Chairs, Gold Chargers, White and Greenery Low and Tall Floral Centerpieces, Gold Monogram on Dance Floor | Tampa Bay Wedding Photographer Carrie Wildes Photography | Wedding Rentals Kate Ryan Event Rentals | Over the Top Rental Linens | A Chair Affair Event Rentals

Holiday Inspired Green and Gold South Tampa Wedding | Carrie Wildes Photography

9. You Don't Need to Plan Lots of Activities

“We also don't like to see so many activities planned. When a client tells us they want to party all night long, but they want to do an anniversary dance, shoe game, karaoke, faux exit, pictures with families during dancing, and whatever else they have planned besides dancing. Keep it to a max of about two extra activities if you feel like you need to add those, but really all you need is some good booty shakin' to ensure your guests have a great time.” -Christopher Grainger, Owner, Graingertainment

“The garter and bouquet toss is something we are seeing less and less because it calls out the girls who are single and maybe they don't really want to be called out. For the guys, let's be honest, you have to drag them out to even be part of it. Also, the person who caught the garter putting it on the person who caught the bouquet if it isn't strategic or one of them is not age-appropriate it's just so awkward! The money dance is just not really a thing anymore and when we do see it, it goes on for a long time and is just weird in my opinion. Also, the shoe game. For some reason, we are seeing this make a come back in 2022, and it is cute but just so outdated in our opinion.” -Carrie Wildes, Carrie Wildes Photography

10. Don't Make the Cake Cutting Awkward

“When the couple takes the cake cutting too seriously and it turns into a tense situation. This is often an overlooked time in the wedding that couples don't prepare for in advance and with different personalities, which may result in awkward tension. I always let our couples know in advance to communicate and be honest with each other on how to approach the ‘cake on the face' option. If it's something the couple is normally not comfortable with, your wedding reception may not be the best place to surprise your other half. On the other hand, if you've discussed your comfort levels prior, have some fun! A little cake on the face never hurt anyone, and those candid, joyful moments always lead to the most memorable photographs.” -Mariana Herrera Mosli, Owner and Lead Photographer, Kismis Ink Photography

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Quotes have been lightly edited for clarity and brevity.