We recently gave an interview on The Celebration Society and she asked so many great questions that are relevant for newly engaged couples either planning on their own or interested in getting to know a bit more about our services and our team. Read on if you’re interested or you can read the original article here…
Introduce yourself and give us your 60 second elevator pitch.
I’m an event designer specializing in destination weddings throughout the world. We create event experiences that emphasis intimacy, warmth and approachability no matter the guest count.
How did you get into your field?
I started in the nonprofit world planning fundraisers and fell into part-time, day of wedding coordination at a private estate in the midwest. I fell in love with weddings and wanted to find a way to do it full-time when a job essentially fell into my lap at the Grand Wailea Resort on the island of Maui. I was their wedding planner for a little over 2.5 years prior to starting my own business in 2007. Beth Helmstetter Events is a little over 10 years old.
What sets you apart from the rest in your field?
We really focus on creating refined and luxurious environments, but the entire time want to ensure we are creating a guest experience that makes every attendee feel honored to be a part of the day. We focus on every guest touch point to ensure approachability and warmth is communicated no matter how formal the affair is.
Photo by Steve Steinhardt Photography
Spill the beans…how do you stay on the cutting edge of this ever changing industry?
I’m not sure that I do. I actually spend very little time watching other designers in our industry as it can wear on your confidence and creativity. Instead, I’m inspired by my travels and my day to day experiences. I use every minute of my day looking for design ideas, from a lighting fixture in a friend’s home, to linens I see in a local flea market. It all inspires how I create the look and feel of the day.
What trends are you loving right now?
We do a lot of pillow gifts at the end of our weddings that can either serve in lieu of a favor or if the couple is forgoing a brunch the next day, we will put a little care package to each guest’s hotel room or in their car at valet with snacks for the morning. This could be something as simple as 1/2 dozen mini doughnuts, or scones and local jam, etc. Everyone expects a favor. No one expects something on their pillow at the end of the night when they get to their hotel room.
Best advice you can share with someone planning an upcoming occasion.
Keep the “planning committee” very small. If possible to keep all decisions between you and your fiancé, that will lead to the least amount of stress. The more parents, friends and siblings get involved, the more people you have to make happy which takes away from the fun of the planning process.
Describe a typical consultation with a bride.
For our initial consultation with our clients, we invite them into our studio and just ask a ton of questions. We work to get to know their expectations of the planning process and their planner. We talk about their personal aesthetic, how they want their wedding to feel and what they want their guests to walk away experiencing. Of course, we offer homemade cookies, sparkling water and the such, but the meeting is more about just getting to know each other on a personal level and further elaborate our process with the couple.
What is something that surprises clients about you/your field?
Unless they’ve been closely involved in a friend’s or sibling’s wedding, chances are, the cost of a wedding will surprise clients. There are a lot of elements that are involved in a wedding and it takes many professionals to create a flawless day which all adds up very quickly.
What information should they have before meeting with you (i.e. head count, budget, theme, colors, etc.)? Why?
We work with our clients from the very beginning stages of planning, so it’s actually better if they don’t have too many set decisions, however know the region they are considering, the approximate number of guests and their deal breakers (no curfew, sleeping accommodations on site, etc) are very helpful so we can start finding the perfect venue. You can’t do much until you have your venue and date in place, so that’s really our starting point.
Design mockup by Beth Helmstetter Events
What questions would you like the bride/client to ask you? What should be asked?
Couples should have a clear vision of what their expectations of a planner is and ask questions that would ensure this vision is met. For instance, for some couples, the main role of the planner is to keep them on budget. For some couples, the main role is to create their dream wedding with looser financial parameters. For some couples, flow and logistics is the priority. For others, making sure the day is pretty is the priority. Sure, a good planner should be able to do all of the above, but some planners excel at certain skills more than other. For instance, I will give you a wedding no one has ever seen, but I’m not a shark when it comes to financial negotiation. Couples expecting a beautiful wedding will be happy with me. Couples expecting a lot of deals and price breaks from vendors, probably wouldn’t be as happy as I believe the best vendors come at a price. Overall, knowing what your expectations are of the planner will definitely lead you to the right questions. A couple should never assume a planner has the same philosophies as every other planner they’ve met as we all view weddings differently and approach the process as such.
How do you overcome objections brought to you by a potential client? (i.e. Why do you charge so much for 1 day shooting/a cake/food/flowers, etc.?)
In regards to our pricing, we simply focus on the fact that we are a boutique company and have chosen this model so we can give our full attention to the clients we bring on board. Because of this, we have a price point that is not only fair market value for our skill set and experience, but it is one that allows us to limit the number of clients we take, meaning we are available to our couples as needed. If we lower our prices, it means we have to take on more clients and no one wins in that scenario.
Design mockup by Beth Helmstetter Events
What is your deal breaker/breaking point? Is there anything that when a client asks you say no to/won’t take them as a client? (i.e. ridiculous low budget, extreme/outrageous demand, etc.)
A lot of the reasons we say no to clients has to do with pure intuition. Of course, there are budget parameters that come into play and if their budget and vision do not add up, we have to say no, but most of the time when we turn away a client it is simply because we don’t think we are the right fit or sense we wouldn’t meet their expectations. We are designers first and foremost, so an example would be, if a bride comes in wanting someone extremely type A and values that more than a creative person, I know five other planners that would be a better fit. Or, if the couple is more concerned about creating a wedding that is super flashy and focused on impressing the guests rather than creating an environment that instead focuses on the art of entertaining and taking care of the guests, they are probably not the right fit for me. I appreciate an over the top wedding, but those are not the ones guests leave saying “that’s the best wedding I’ve ever been to.” There are plenty of other planners that focus on flash and less on taking care of the guests. In those instances, I simply refer my associates that excel in those situations.
Any advice you would like to give to potential clients?
It’s really hard but try to keep perspective about what the day really means to you. A wedding is a celebration of love, but with all of the social pressures and financial expense that comes along, it’s very easy to get caught up in the things that just don’t matter.
Every party needs…Food & beverage. Obviously, but seriously, don’t skimp here. Give guests food they will enjoy and allow them to drink as much as they like. No one likes to be hungry and very few people enjoy partying without a cocktail or two.
Take time to…not talk about the wedding. Hang out with your fiancé and your girlfriends at least once or twice a month and make it a rule not to bring wedding talk to the table at all.
Splurge on…Good entertainment. We love a beautifully designed space, but if guests are bored, they will be ready to leave as soon as the cake’s cut.
Save on…Wedding favors and wedding programs. Very few people take them and of the ones that do, only a very small percentage of people actually value them. Use the funds towards a nice welcome drink or late night snack instead.
Why should I hire a wedding planner versus delegating tasks to my family/bridal party?
If you want your wedding to look and feel professional, that requires the skill of someone who’s planned hundreds of weddings. It took me a long time through trial and error to figure out what’s important, what’s not, what makes or breaks and event, what guests remember and what they don’t. You can absolutely plan your own wedding with the help of family and friends, but my guess is you will actually spend more money in areas that just aren’t noticed than you would with the help of a planner who can guide you the entire time. Also, we’ve created a team of vendors that represent the best of the best. We’ve again, done this from seeing who works and who doesn’t, who’s a diva and who’s a saint, who’s all talk and who’s underpriced. This allows you to not only save hours and hours of research but know you are getting the best possible team to fit your specific needs and budget. And, of course, on the wedding day, let’s be honest, your cousin is going to be getting her hair done when she was supposed to be putting out the escort cards and your sister in law is going to have had one too many glasses of champagne to really make sure the caterer is serving on time. Don’t put that pressure on your guests who should be and want to be celebrating you instead of working.
How can I trust a wedding planner to pull off the wedding I’ve always dreamed of when I’ve just met them?
Trust is something earned and your planner should be prepared to do what is necessary to make you comfortable both during the sales process and throughout the planning process to prove she is listening to your needs while ensuring dependability. In the end, choosing a wedding planner is an intuitive process as it’s mostly about connection and the vibe you have with each other. Of course, prior to booking a planner, you should check references but your personal connection is more important than most references. Just because your best friend loved her wedding planner, doesn’t mean that person is right for you. It’s a big decision but once you’ve made it, expect trust to build much like most relationships where it grows through every interaction.
Does wedding planner = wedding designer? Or are they separate?
They are two separate skill sets, definitely but a lot of planners offer design consulting and a lot of designers also handle the planning. Planners who have been doing this for a very long time know what works and what doesn’t design wise, but are probably not going to bring many new ideas to the table. If you have a vision and you just need someone to bounce design ideas off of, a planner with taste might be what you’re looking for. A designer is someone who’s going to think of all the design details and help to create a full vision together based on your inspiration. If hiring a designer first that also offers planning services, chances are they have a great administrative team behind the scenes dotting i’s and crossing t’s throughout the planning process.