Ask the Experts: Patti Davis and Melinda Strobehn, Elegant Whims Wedding Planning

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Photograph courtesy Elegant Whims

Cousins Patti Davis and Melinda Strobehn have been the party planners of their family for years: “We learned early on that it was in the details that memories are made,” says Davis, who hosted her first “wedding” in the family backyard at age 10. So combining their mutual love of weddings into a joint career with Elegant Whims Wedding Planning just made sense.

The duo, who are certified planners through The Bridal Society, sat down with us and shared their tips for what to do after you’ve got a ring on it. Our favorite piece of advice? “Listen to each others’ wedding vision—it is your day above all else!”

CW: What’s the first thing a couple should do after getting engaged?
P&M: Decide on a season for the wedding! At this point, this is where it’s helpful to hire a professional wedding planner to assist you with budgeting and organizing the planning process.

CW: How much time should you allot for the planning process? Eight months? 10? A year?
P&M: Planning a wedding is like having an additional job: Statistics show it takes an average of more than 240 hours to plan a wedding. We suggest starting the planning process the moment you say “yes.” Today’s couples often begin planning a year in advance, which gives you the best opportunity to book your first choice vendors.

CW: What is something couples should never skimp on?
P&M: Each couple has a different vision for their wedding, with one aspect being the “can’t live without” feature. Figure out what this is for you. If your must-have feature is the visual memory, don’t skimp on a photographer. If it’s the music, don’t skimp on the DJ/live music. If it’s the atmosphere, don’t skimp on the décor/venue, and so on.

CW: What are some qualities that couples should look for in a wedding planner, should they choose to hire one?
P&M: First and foremost, look for professionals that display their education credentials. You’ll also want to read their reviews and ask for references. And then meet with them one-on-one: You’ll be working closely with them, and you need to feel comfortable discussing the details of your wedding vision with them. Make sure they listen to your thoughts! Don’t be afraid to ask if they work only from their Preferred Vendor list, or if they’re open to matching vendors to your vision.

CW: You’ve been to countless weddings and seen lots of behind-the-scenes. What things cause the most stress for brides and how can those be avoided?
P&M: In the beginning stages of planning, couples are often overwhelmed when looking ahead at the amount of decisions to be made—this is when it helps to hire a professional wedding planner. Other common angst-inducing issues:

  • The weather. Have a back-up plan.
  • Family issues. Designate a point person ahead of time who will handle any situations that arise in an easy, friendly way. Often this helps if this person is not family (like your wedding planner!).
  • Friends and family who want to monopolize the bride before the ceremony. Again, have a point person who will keep you calm and have a plan in place. There is nothing wrong with politely asking guests to wait until the reception!

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