When i think of wedding planners, I think of too much money, spoilt girls and very, very fancy weddings. After speaking with Natasha from Your Special Day, I found that’s not the case at all.
Your Special Day is a wedding planning service based business that focusses on Central Coast Weddings. Natasha is based in Toukley and although her focus is the Central Coast, she does plan weddings for Newcastle and Hunter Valley brides and couples.
Below is the transcript from my interview with Natasha but if you’d rather listen to our chat, you can do that here.
Wedding Planners, What Do They Do
Andrew: It’s Andrew Hellmich here from Impact Images. I’m with Natasha from Your Special Day. And Natasha’s – a big part of her business is wedding planning and co-ordination. I’m not sure of the exact difference so I’m going to ask her about that. So maybe you want to start Natasha by introducing yourself, telling us a little bit about what you do, where you’re based, and just a bit of a background.
Natasha: Yep. I’m Natasha Woods, from Your Special Day. I have a showroom based in Toukley where our brides can come and have a obligation free consultation regarding their wedding planning, wedding co-ordination in, I guess, in the ease of an environment that makes them comfortable. I’ve been wedding planning on the Central Coast for 7 years now. It started back in Sydney doing event management through some of the companies I worked for, moved up here, had my kids, decided I didn’t want to work for anyone but myself and took that next step into starting the business. And here I am today.
Andrew: Excellent! Excellent! So when I think of a wedding planner, I’m thinking of movies, Hollywood movies and rich girls, and lots of money and you just look after everything. Is that the way it is in real life?
Natasha: It is about looking after everything. There is a glamour side to it as well, I guess. Like I really do love what I’m doing. We plan everything for a bride. We can to the extent of what they want done. So if a bride wants their entire wedding day planned, then that’s what we’re there to do. We work as a support system for them to help educate them, I guess and help them in making a good decision on a non-biased level, we will pass on information to them if we don’t think a situation is right. We discuss their budgets with them and work within their budgets. Take sometimes, family histories, that sort of thing, and develop their family history into part of their wedding day so that it is special.
Andrew: Okay, sure. So, I’ve talked about the stereotype that I sort of have in my head about girls who sort of hire wedding planners, is it normally girls who are just busy? Or that have too much money? Or they just don’t know where to start? Who’s your normal client?
Natasha: Normal clients on a wedding planning level would be brides that are too busy to plan their weddings or brides that are a little indecisive in making decisions. The brides that are indecisive, a lot of the times, it’s the grooms that actually push them towards having a wedding planner, which is great for me, because it does open us up to the male side of the couple. We have brides that are busy on a corporate level, busy as mums as well, that don’t have the time to research and take, don’t have the time to go to appointments by themselves and might be confused by the end result and still don’t know what to choose. So they’re looking for someone that knows the industry, knows a majority of suppliers around the area, and that can help them make a decision.
Andrew: OK, so the girls who do come and see you, are they, do they, on that first appointment, discuss what they want, the style of wedding, the theme they’re thinking of?
Natasha: Our first appointment is generally, we open the floor up to them to ask as many questions as possible. Because wedding planning is not such a predominant part of brides planning here in Australia. A lot of them still have questions. So that first initial consultation is to explain everything to them that I do, our fee structure and allow them to ask as many questions as possible. If they’re comfortable enough, then we go into that little bit more about what they’re after on the day, breaking it down from colours, themes, suppliers that they may have already seen around, that sort of thing. And possibly even giving them some feedback on how it would work. And making sure more so that we have a relationship, or we can communicate between each other, as well. Because that is really important.
Andrew: OK, so I guess in my head, is it something like they’ll come to you, they’ll say ‘We want a green and white theme. We want natural photography. We want to have a beach style wedding and we’re thinking of a marquee for our reception. I’m running with a green and white theme.’ And do you just go off there and find all that? Or..
Natasha: Yeah, we will supply them with quotes so we go to suppliers either that we know that can work in with what they want. Supply them with the brides [inaudible] quotes of what it is. We work on designs for them so a lot of the time, we do get a number of brides that come in and say ‘I really don’t know what I want.’ And it’s my job, I guess, to get a little bit more out of them of what they do want. Because while I work on a creative level and I know the suppliers in the area, it’s really their wedding day. And I don’t want them to be getting married or having their reception in my dream. You know what I mean? So I do push our brides to really think about what they want. And we do get a number of them that come in and just go ‘I don’t know.’ It’s all too much for them and we do our best to help them get to that point. So whether it’s designing table layouts for them, centerpieces, that sort of thing, to help them run with a theme, their ceremony settings, that sort of stuff, that’s what our job is. To help inspire them and find that inspiration that they might need to go ‘Yes, that’s what we want.’
Andrew: Ok. So what about if you’re halfway down or you’re getting through the planning stages and you’ve got all your suppliers picked out and they come to you and they say ‘Look, I really love Andrew at Impact Images, can we use him for photography?’ And I might not be say on your suppliers list, then do you sort of steer them away from their suppliers? Or how does that work?
Natasha: We don’t have a suppliers list per se, I know a number of suppliers. The suppliers that I recommend just kind of goes to another section. It depends on a bride and groom’s budget as well. So if they’re telling me that their most important thing on the day is their photography and they don’t care how much they spend, then that opens obviously the ball up to a number of suppliers on the Central Coast that can provide them with the exemplary product that they’re going to want. Then if it’s on the other hand, whether like, ‘We have that shorter budget, that smaller budget, we want to go there.’ I do have a few suppliers that I love to recommend. But the decision is the bride and grooms decision as to whether or not they’re happy with the service, the communication, the price, that sort of thing.
Andrew: So if they’ve got everything planned out or you’ve got all the suppliers and they pick and they say ‘My Uncle is a celebrant and he wants to do the ceremony,’ that’s fine?
Natasha: It is fine within reason. The one thing I do steer away from is family being involved in weddings, family and really good friends being involved in the planning of someone’s wedding. I’m really big on saying ‘Let them enjoy the day.’ If something does go wrong with the service they’re providing, there’s nothing worse that being angry at someone that’s in your family that has smooshed the cake around or the flowers have died, or the celebrant can’t provide the.. you know, something happens with that. So look, if they’re really for using that person, then again, that’s perfectly fine with me. That’s the decision that they choose to make.
Andrew: Okay. So then after that first appointment and you guys have worked out exactly the style of wedding you’re heading towards, so you’ll go away and gather prices and quotes. And then is it just sort of liaising through email then because they’re busy?
Natasha: Either or, now that I have the showroom, couples can come directly to us. We just make a specified appointment for them. That time is dedicated to them to start our researching services, I guess, for the wedding planning. We take our deposit first and then that gets their date booked in with us. And then we start the process of putting quotes together for their wedding, approaching particular suppliers with images or ideas of what they’re after, getting quotes from them and then a couple of weeks down the track, what we do is generally have one big consultation every kind of couple of months and go through that bulk of everything. In between, there’s always email communication or on-the-phone communication. If they need us to book something in between, then we book it in for them.
Andrew: Okay. So couples still have full control even though you’re planning the wedding?
Andrew: Alright. They’re too busy so you’re doing the running around part.
Andrew: Right. So I guess a big part of that first meeting has got to be budget. Because you need that to know which direction to go, don’t you?
Natasha: Yes. And some couples are really hesitant in giving their budget initially because they.. whether it’s big or small, especially until they make that decision that they’re going to use us as well. I guess they need to budget us into that. The budget is a big thing on the Coast, the budget varies anywhere from about a $10,000 wedding up to around $50,000 mark. So yeah, to know the budget, it gives us the indication of what suppliers we can look at. Also the importance of covering with the couple what are the important aspects of their day.
Andrew: Because then you can allocate more funds to those areas. Okay. And then talking about funding and cost, and things like that. What about your cost? How does that work in? Does that depend on what the couples are spending? For your planning section?
Natasha: Yes. What we do, how our fee structure works is that we charge 10% of what we book in for the clients. So even if their budget is, say, $30,000 that doesn’t directly mean that our fee will be $3,000. If we’re researching photographers and one of the photographers that we have sent our couples to is who they decide to go with, then the end result package, we charge 10% of for that. So if it was a $4,000 photography package, then our fee for finding them for this couple would be $400.
Andrew: Okay. And that just goes for all the services.
Natasha: Yes. It is. And in some situations, obviously on the biggesr scale of things being the reception side, venue and catering, and also the photography are probably the two higher cost ends, we have two wedding planning packages. One is for the couple that have nothing. Which is where we charge our 10% fee because we generally get to incorporate the photography cost and also the venue cost. Then we do have another package where if they already have their venue, then we can still do everything else as per normal, we just charge 15%. And the reason for that is that majority of our income for the research time and the time that we do put into it, has already gone in their booking of their venue in papers.
Andrew: Okay. That makes sense. So you talked a little bit about planning and you also mentioned co-ordination. So what’s the difference between a wedding co-ordinator and a wedding planner? Or is it two different packages?
Natasha: It is two different packages although our VIP wedding planning package incorporates co-ordination. So you get the entire service, I guess, of having your wedding planned by us through to being there on the day to co-ordinate the wedding from ceremony through to formalities, which is usually once the bride and groom have had their bridal waltz, we’re done. That is included in our major package.
Andrew: So the co-ordination part of what you do, is actually being there on the day.
Natasha: Yep. It’s a management role.
Andrew: Right, okay. And I know for a fact that makes a huge difference because I’ve seen some weddings, I’ve been to a lot of weddings but I’ve seen some weddings where the bride is just constantly hounded by different services all night. And they just don’t get to enjoy the day. So if you’re there acting as a co-ordinator, the services go to you and you make those decisions?
Natasha: Yeah. On most occasions it’s more so me chasing the services, particular thing, rather than them chasing me. But yeah, so the co-ordination works that usually couples, they can book us in as early as possible and we do recommend that couples book don’t hesitate. What we do is then about 6 months out from the wedding, we start to have a few regular meetings with them. We have no limitations on communications at all. Email, phone, or even meetings in the showroom, in any of our packages. On the co-ordination level, we sit down, they need to provide me with a list of their suppliers. They need to provide me with a list of anything particular that they want going on in the day. I’m always really big on making sure that the groom knows I’m also there for him not just the bride. And then we work through the list to put together a timeline, which would include me being in contact with the photographer, the venue/caterers, as well. So we know they’re the 2 main ones on the day that will keep things running, as well.
Andrew: So what about make-up and hair?
Natasha: We’re definitely still keep in contact with them, depending on what time of the day they’re getting hair and make-up done. I usually can catch the back end of that with the bride, so that is included on the run sheet just so that the bride has ease of mind and something to kind of go off whether it’s her going her off the bride, mother of the bride or something like that. Someone within that household where they are getting ready, will have the run sheet for the day. Obviously, cars are involved to make sure that they’re picked up on time, photographer turning up. If there’s a videographer involved, your formal photography and then heading back to the reception.
Andrew: Sure. So you just make sure everything runs smoothly on the day and to time.
Andrew: Okay. Great. So look, I imagine you’ve been to some weddings where there’s, emotions are running high and there might be some dramas. Do you sort of step in there? Or is that where you take a back seat.
Natasha: It depends what the drama is regarding. So, if the bride and groom are directly involved, again depending on who it’s involved with, if it’s mums and dads, you’ve got to be careful. Because it’s a really personal thing. I have had a situation where a father has not been happy with particular things that have gone on through the day and has shifted blame to myself as the person that’s managing the running of the day, and that sort of stuff. And I don’t want to blame anyone else or anything in particular. But you know, I take that on the chin. In my view, that particular day, there was nothing wrong with the running of the day. Everything ran to the way the bride and groom wanted. And this was the problem, the father wanted different. But the father of the bride interfered, and the bride just said to me ‘You’re doing your job you keep doing. We’re paying you that’s it.’
Andrew: So I guess the beauty of that at the end of the day is there’s no conflict between the bride and the dad. As you as a hired service, you can walk away from that, dust yourself off and get up and go again. And they’ve still got a great relationship. That’s pretty beautiful for them.
Natasha: That’s right. And I had been in that situation a couple of times and I take it on the chin. The bride is always going to be someone who respects the fact that I’ve done my job on the day. And to be honest, it’s so much nicer when you get the parents of the bride or groom also respecting the fact that you’re doing your job and thanking you afterwards with that. And on this particular day, I did get an apology from the father of the bride at the end of the day. So it just kind of topped it off. But, I knew that after everything, the bride and father would still be talking.
Andrew: Which is lovely, isn’t it?
Natasha: Yeah, that’s the way, my care is that the bride and groom have the best day possible. So if suppliers have issues, then they know to come to me, they’re not to go to the bride. Really, if I’m co-ordinating the wedding, then I’m the contact for the bride and groom. I’m the representative for them. If I need to discuss something with them on their wedding day while everything is going on, they know that. I stipulate that to the brides and grooms, initially, that there will be contact throughout the day. If anything is beyond my real decision making, then I will come to you guys to make that decision. And they’re happy with that.
Andrew: Excellent. Look, I know one of the big things that you do as a planner is you are able to sources that the brides and grooms may not even know about. And for example, the wedding that we did together for Emily and Clayton, it was a little while ago, they had the most gorgeous marquee, and table settings and decorations and lamps, it just looked simply amazing and I’ve never seen anything like that on the Coast before. So is that one of the big things that a planner will do that a bride and groom can’t do.
Natasha: Within reason, yeah. I guess whenever, I shouldn’t give this tip away, but whenever I Google something, I always put the word with wholesale in front, because it just opens up the door to a few extra things. And the everyday person bride and groom probably won’t get it at a wholesale. And may not be able to dig deep enough to find out how to get the information. But it’s something that I’ve learnt how to do, is to find things that brides and grooms wanted. Funny enough with Emily and Clayton, the marquee that we had with their wedding 50km west of Bowral, was actually from the Central Coast.
Andrew: Is that right? Wow.
Natasha: Central Coast based company, they’re still here. They still do the marquees.
Andrew: Beautiful. Fantastic. So the areas that you mainly focus on is it Central Coast, Newcastle, Hunter Valley?
Natasha: Yes, definitely. As with Emily and Clayton, for example, you know we’re happy to travel. I guess the thing there was that they’re a Central Coast couple. They lived here but there’s a travel fee for traveling, possibly overnight accommodation. But for the couple that really knows that they need someone to put together their day, then it’s not a problem.
Andrew: Right, OK. Just let me take one step back again, I didn’t even ask you about this. But do you get involved as early as invitations and things like that? And as far as honeymoons and booking trips?
Andrew: So it’s really from one end to the other.
Natasha: To the other, yeah. Really, in my view, and it’s not just because I’m a wedding planner, but a wedding planner should actually be one of the first things that a couple considers. If they want the best service and the best smooth running of planning from beginning to end, without the stress in between, then wedding planning should possibly be something they consider above and beyond their venue. If they’ve got their date, they know kind of what they want, if they need someone to plan their day, it’s important to have that all kind of ready-to-go so that we can get things moving for them. The other thing that we make sure we do is that if a couple books us in for wedding planning, and we don’t currently have any bookings on that day for our decorations side of things, for example, we won’t take any other bookings. So we leave that day as a day that’s solely focused to the couple.
Andrew: Perfect. That’s great. And I didn’t ask you, do you ever co-ordinate a wedding without planning a wedding?
Natasha: Yes. So that’s the co-ordination side of things.
Andrew: So you just have someone come in and just co-ordinate, even though you haven’t planned the wedding.
Natasha: Yes. So that’s the co-ordination package that we have where the brides and grooms will plan their entire wedding and we just come in and make sure that it runs smoothly for them. Doing their run sheet for the day, liaising with suppliers, coming up to the day, liaising with the suppliers on the day, overseeing the management of, we do get some brides coming in saying ‘We want to hire you as a co-ordinator. Can you move tables around, set this up, set that up?’ Now, that’s not what co-ordination is about, that’s a labour intensive role and we have staff or packages that can do that. But my role as a wedding planner, I say to couples ‘If you see me doing nothing, that’s actually a really good sign that your day is running perfectly.’
Andrew: Unreal. It’s normally the wedding or the decorating company that does all the moving around the tables and chairs and things, isn’t it?
Natasha: The venue could be the initial set-up, making sure tables are in the right spot, all that sort of stuff. And then the decorator’s coming in to cloth and centerpiece and that sort of things. On some occasions, we do get asked to maybe put out place cards and that sort of thing. Again, it’s something that I get my girls in to do on a labour side of things. I don’t want my involvement in co-ordinating a couple’s day to be interrupted by having to put name cards out or anything else. I think that I’ve got staff that can do that and my focus is solely on the bride and groom.
Andrew: Sure. Okay. What happens Natasha, say, if somebody is listening to this interview, that lives overseas or interstate, and they’re looking at having a wedding in their local area and they’re thinking about hiring a wedding planner, what should they look for when they’re choosing a wedding planner?
Natasha: Someone that has a number of years experience. Someone that they can sit down and talk to freely and feel comfortable with. Someone that is creative. Someone that shows the passion, I guess, for weddings as well, is a very big thing. Someone that has the knowledge of the area.
Andrew: Would they generally have a portfolio or images or..
Natasha: Not necessarily. We do, in the showroom, have a small album of weddings that we’ve planned and we also have images on our walls of our happy brides, as we like to call them. I don’t think it’s so much about having too many weddings on a portfolio, that sort of thing. Especially when it comes to wedding planning, because it’s so intricate and every wedding is so different. Someone that just honestly is confident. We have testimonials on our website so read their testimonials, make sure that there’s feedback from other brides just to see that they’ve been happy with the day. And that there’s not going to be any hiccups, I guess, along the way.
Andrew: Sure. Okay. That sounds great. And look, I know that you’re in the business of planning weddings, but what are some tips or any tips you can give, maybe a bride that would love to have a wedding planner, but just can’t afford it or is really on a budget with her whole wedding. Any little tips you could give?
Natasha: DIY, I guess is a big tip. Whether it’s hiring your decorations and putting them on yourself, if you’re going to make items, make sure you make them so they do look nice. You really want that day to be spectacular. Be considerable of your budget because you are getting married. And there are plenty of suppliers out there, but work out what your priorities are for what you want, what you want the result of the day to be. And work out where you should save money. And where you should spend money.
Andrew: Sure. And then just budget it accordingly to where your priorities are.
Natasha: Yep. We get brides coming in, saying ‘We’ve got a really little budget to spend. We don’t want to spend a lot of money. We want a photographer that’s under $1,000 or this that’s under this amount. Can you do us another special on this?’ But then they have a $4-$5,000 wedding dress. And sometimes it’s like your wedding dress is your priority, but there’s obviously, to get you a photographer that does this and you want a good quality product, they really need to think about what they’re booking in.
Andrew: Sure. Well, that makes sense. Look, I think the informations been unreal and great for anyone that’s listening. How do the girls find you?
Natasha: I have a website, www.planyourspecialday.com.au, Facebook, and direct contact via email Natasha@planyourspecialday.com.au, or in the showroom on 4396 1115.
Andrew: Right, and the showroom’s at Toukley.
Natasha: Toukley, yes. 225A Main Road. So we’re opposite the Commonwealth Bank, right on the main road there.
Andrew: And for the local brides or couples that are listening to this, you also look after decorating as well, don’t you? With your business?
Andrew: So that’s all the reception decorating..
Natasha: Anything from ceremonies, beach, garden, chairs, arches, bamboo arbors, through to your centerpieces, we do linen as well actually. So we actually have a large stock of table cloths, napkins, that sort of stock. Light boxes, drapings..
Andrew: So basically when you walk in your reception room, whatever you see, you can supply.
Natasha: We can do. Yep.
Andrew: And ceremonies, as well. Outdoor ceremonies.
Andrew: Look thanks for your time tonight, it’s fantastic.
Natasha: Thank you. Thanks!