I’ve been a Mother for 25 years and a Wedding Planner for 14 of those 25 years. Both jobs I have loved! So, when my daughter, Grace, got engaged to her beloved Caleb, we both knew we were going to have a blast working together to create her dream wedding! Grace had worked with me for years as an unofficial assistant planner (i.e. unpaid!) and had been creating her wedding workbook since I started my business. Grace also surprised me and asked me to be her Matron-of-Honor, so I had 3 important jobs on her big day.
I have planned, coordinated and implemented over 300 weddings here in Los Cabos, Mexico. I had only planned one wedding in the US, years earlier. Planning a wedding in Coronado, California, where Grace & Caleb wanted to get married, would be an interesting challenge, requiring me to work with all new vendors. But I was excited to see how it worked in the US (and especially if the pricing was the same – it was!)
Now that Grace & Caleb are celebrating their one month anniversary, I actually finally feel able to reflect back on the planning journey we had together, and I wanted to share how much I learned as a wedding planner by being Mother of the Bride. It really opened my eyes! So, these are the Wedding Planner take-aways after my daughter’s wedding:
A Destination Wedding Is So Much Fun!
For us, the Coronado location was a destination for everyone except Grace and Caleb. We did an informal buy-out (we didn’t do an actual Group Room Block, but told everyone to book at the same hotel far in advance with the Save The Dates when we knew the whole hotel was completely open.) Everyone did! There were a few rooms in the hotel that weren’t booked by our group, but no one cared. We were able to have a blast just hanging out the whole week-end! I couldn’t imagine just seeing our guests for the afternoon/night of the wedding. We wanted to see them a lot and just hang out. All of my weddings that I produce in the Los Cabos region are destination weddings, and Grace’s wedding completely solidified for me that a destination wedding is the best option for a wedding.
A Wedding Is Truly Exhausting (For Everyone)
Before I was a Mother of the Bride, I never truly understood how exhilarating but also exhausting the actual wedding week-end is (and the few weeks afterwards, too.) Now that I know, I will make a huge effort to schedule in rest and relaxation time for my couples and their families during their wedding week-end. I will also really and truly encourage my couples to rest prior to their travels for their wedding. Rest is really important before your big day!
It’s OK For The Budget To Expand A Bit As The Wedding Draws Closer
I know weddings budgets, how to plan for them, track them, etc. But I also learned as Mother of the Bride, that some things just become more important the closer you get to the wedding date. You realize you truly can not live without some of the items you cut to maintain your budget. For me, this was ceremony flowers. I have done many elaborate beach set-ups here on the beaches in Los Cabos, but for Grace’s wedding (also on the beach), she and I thought we were OK with a more “natural” setting. A week before the wedding, as I lay in bed envisioning her set up, all I could think was, ‘I want more flowers at the ceremony.’ We had changed and cut a few things because of our budget, but this time, I didn’t care. Out came the credit card, and I called the florist and added more flowers. I was so glad I did!
Some Traditional Things You Think You Don’t Want, You Actually Do Want
90%, of my couples tell me, “We want our actual ceremony short & simple.” And yet, for all the guests and almost all of my couples, whether they know it or not, the ceremony is the most enjoyable part of the wedding. It brings the magic and romance to the celebration.
Grace and Caleb were no different. They wanted a short ceremony. As MOB and Wedding Planner, I told Grace, “Make the ceremony special. Make it inclusive. Make it magical and longer.” But I lost this battle. And after the wedding Grace admitted, “I wish it was longer. I wanted to stay up at the altar with Caleb, cherishing the special moment.”
Toasts were also an item that Grace & Caleb did not want to include at their reception. They wanted people partying and dancing the whole time and not listening to a lot of Toasts. There was one toast by Grace’s best friend, and my husband and I said a short Welcome, but that was it. Later, the couple admitted, they wish they would’ve heard more from their loved ones.
Some Traditional Things Are OK To Eliminate From Your Wedding
Grace and Caleb had a very specific vision for their wedding reception that included a lot of food, drinks and dancing, but no sit down dinner and no DJ. We created a very elegant and festive cocktail feel to their venue, with sequined high cocktail tables and lots of lounge set-ups. We did include a few sit-down tables for our older guests. The food was all served at stations, with the food being replenished as people ate it all throughout the night. We served very heavy appetizers, pasta and salad stations and a huge dessert bar. There was no specific cocktail hour (the whole thing was a cocktail hour) and no specific dinner time. The food and drinks were available for the whole reception. And the dancing started the minute everyone walked in the door. We did not have a DJ but had a rockin’ playlist that Caleb and Grace had created that we cranked up for the whole reception. No one missed the DJ! It was different and everyone loved it!
Lastly, Grace and Caleb had no special dances. Caleb doesn’t really dance, and they didn’t want to “embarrass themselves” on the dance floor so we all just partied and danced the whole night, without having any Special Dances where all the attention would be focused on a few people.
Be Open To Some Spontaneity
On the Friday that everyone arrive, all of our family & friends’ flights arrived at different times. Folks rented a car or took an Uber from the airport into Coronado, and we thought all would just go check in at the hotel. We decided on the spur of the moment to meet our son and a few friends at a local Mexican food restaurant while we waited for everyone to arrive at the hotel. Then, this happened: everyone texted us, “Where are you???” We ended having all of our closest friends & family meet us over a 4 hour period of time at this restaurant, where we shared tacos, shots of tequila and margaritas. People wandered in and out, and it was totally spontaneous and one of the best parts of the wedding week-end. (Yes, we footed the bill for this impromptu get-together, but see above, where I discuss expanding the budget and how that is OK!) We were open to just letting this happen with no prior planning, and we ended up loving it!
Invite As Many People As You Can
As a wedding planner, I logically know that one of the best ways to reduce your budget is to reduce your guest count. And I reiterated this a lot to my poor daughter. I told people they could not bring Plus Ones. I didn’t invite friends who I would have loved to be there. I tried to be so “strong” about keeping a reduced guest count. And then I missed everyone who wasn’t there. Yes, we had some limitations on our venue (and we did press that number to the max) but the truth is, I really wanted to invite as many people as I could! And I didn’t really care about the budget (and how the guest count affected it) as we got closer to the wedding day.
Hire A Wedding Planner
Even as a wedding planner myself, I had to hire two wedding planners. I hired a day-of coordinator for my ceremony location (this is her, she was amazing!) and another one for my reception location (who was phenomenal too!) I literally could not have done it without them both. Even though I did everything else for the planning of the wedding (and it was a complete joy to do it, and to share that with Grace) on the actual wedding day, as I was the Maid of Honor, I had hair and make-up and Mimosa-drinking time with Grace and the other bridesmaids, and I did nothing (planning or set-up-wise) the day of the wedding. I didn’t look at my phone, I didn’t take care of a single detail. (Of course, all of my manic pre-planning paid off and everything went off without a hitch!) Hire professionals to help make sure everything goes perfectly. You will never regret it!
I loved all that I learned being a part of my daughter’s big day! But mostly, I am just so grateful to be adding this wonderful man to our crazy but fun-loving family!