Wedding Planner Chat with Aimee Dominick, Thursday, April 10 at 11 AM
Our wedding planner chat feature is back! This morning at 11 AM, we'll be hosting a live online chat with Aimee Dominick. Submit your questions now.
Aimee Dominick got her undergraduate degree from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. After working at a bakery in Brooklyn, she went to the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts and landed a chef position at the award-winning Flour Bakery in Boston. She has also worked as head of special events for DC’s Ristorante Tosca. She started A. Dominick Events in 2005, the year after she worked at an event-planning firm in New York. Her goal: to help hostesses feel like guests at their own parties. She and her team have worked in Washington, New York, Boston, overseas, and more.
Thanks so much for your great questions. I had a great time today! If you have any other questions or need any help with your planning please, feel free to contact me. www.adominick.com
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I have a $40,000 budget. Am I better off planning my own wedding given my modest budget? I have been able to negotiate great deals, but I still do not know what venue I want. As it stands now, I have a few venues offering me excellent rates (Due to unfilled vacancies) but I cannot decide on what I want. Also, I am worried about little things, like who will light all the candles I want at my reception? I am a contract negotiator and I feel foolish hiring a wedding planner when I negotiate major deals for a living. BUT, I feel I need help. I'm sure a wedding planner does a lot more than just negotiate prices, right?
Even on a $40,000 budget a planner tends to pay for itself. While you're a great negotiator, it's hard to negotiate if you don't know what's reasonable to ask for. Generally the relationships that a planner has with the vendors can still get you a better price than you may be able to get on your own. As far as who does the little things at your reception, every venue has a representative who tells you they will do those things, and they will, but it's different to have an advocate who works solely for you and for your family. The wedding planner will be that advocate. A wedding planner definitely does more than negotiate prices. Depending on the level of service you contract for, my team does everything from research favor ideas to brainstorming interesting ways to display your escort cards.
Hi Aimee, can you explain the difference between a wedding planner and an event designer? My florist is also an event designer and has said that she can plan my wedding for a price that is about half what some other planners have quoted me.
There's a lot of overlap between planning and designing, and every planner approaches their project in a different way. It's very important to have an itemized contract that stipulates exactly what your planner will be responsible for. Be wary of someone that's too inexpensive—you often get what you pay for. Someone who's an event designer may not have the depth of experience for the logistics of the other parts of the event. They might not understand how to best manage the caterer and the timing of the band. They might not also have the staff and time to hold your hand as much as you need in the planning process. They might be able to do it, but I've been in the business long enough to know where problems can happen and fix them before they do.
Where's your favorite venue to do a wedding in the Washington area, regardless of price?
That's a hard question because there are so many great venues in Washington. I tend to have a more contemporary vision, so I absolutely love Halcyon House in Georgetown. The venue itself is a great surprise because the entrance and upstairs is very classic Georgetown, but the downstairs "ballroom" is a huge concrete box that you can do anything with. The picture that's posted on my bio on the Bridal Party blog is actually from Halcyon House.
Could you please list what all should be included in a "save the date" invitation and how many weeks it should be mailed out before the wedding? Thank you!
Save the date should include obviously the date of your wedding, your name as well as your fiance's, and at the very least the city where the wedding is taking place. You should also include hotel information. You should have blocks at the hotels set aside previous to sending out the save the dates. Also include car rental info if that's needed. It may be a good idea to include your wedding Web site if you have one—that way you can update as the date gets closer. Your wedding invitations should go out 6 to 8 weeks in advance. There's no hard and fast rule for a save the date, but I generally recommend no more than 6 months.
Hi Amy! What advice would you give to brides-to-be who were contemplating hiring a wedding planner but are on a slight budget?
A planner will allow you and your family to relax and enjoy the day. At the very least, I recommend a month-of planner. That's the smallest service that I offer. Some people call it day-of, but it's more like month because I need to meet with you multiple times to understand what you really want. In that service, a month before the wedding I would meet with you, get copies of all your contracts, double check to make sure you haven't missed anything major, make a timeline for all of your vendors, and essentially allow you and your mom to step back from the process. And I would be the first person at the wedding and the last person to leave. I know I'm biased, but I think a wedding planner is an expense you wouldn't regret.
How can you make a wedding details affordable and glamorous at the same time?
Your wedding should be an expression of your personal style. There are lots of ways to include beautiful details that are affordable. I recommend that my brides pull pictures from magazines, whether they're bridal, fashion, or even interior design for us to create a "look" for their wedding. This way all of the details that we source, regardless of price, make sense. There are some great online style resources. One that I love is stylemepretty.com. I think there are a lot of things that you can have an impact with without it costing a lot of money, from choosing an interesting color scheme and tying that through to printing some of your own pieces, be it menu cards or programs. Homemade favors can also be a really lovely touch, with a customized sticker to tie into your theme.
Have sort of an odd question. I've always thought I'd get married in church, although in my adult life I don't attend regularly, neither do my parents, neither do his parents. How tacky is it to call a church and ask them to marry you, even if you've never been there and are choosing it because it's pretty/close to your reception location?
I think a lot of people have that situation—it's actually not odd or unusual. The best way is to approach the church in a very respectful manner and to ask what dates and times they have available. In general, they want to help you and are nice people. It's best not to act like everything else is done and this is the last thing you've thought of, because they want to feel like a priority in your day.
What are some pros and cons about having a destination wedding, more specifically in Miami? Any suggestions (time of year, etc.)?
I love destination weddings. In general, the people who make the trip are the ones who really want to be there, and therefore make it a very special day for you and your family. The pros are you can very gracefully have a smaller wedding because you'll have a much smaller turnout rate than you would if you had it locally. The cons are the expense for your guests, and that's something you need to keep in mind. Perhaps even inviting all the out of town guests to the rehearsal dinner and the brunch as a way to acknowledge their investment in the weekend. You should also include additional money in your budget for your trips down there during your planning process. Miami is an incredibly, dynamic city that I'm sure a lot of guests would love to travel to. Obviously avoid the hottest time of the year, which is June, July, and August.
My daughter and her fiance are getting married here next summer. His family is of Indian descent and we would love to find a DJ for the reception who could include some Indian music in the mix along with standard American favorites. There seem to be more and more Indian weddings in the area. Any suggestions re: the music?
I've done a few Indian weddings and they are so much fun. There are a lot of DJs in the area who can play both Indian and American music, but if you're concerned about it being absolutely 50/50 you may want to consider hiring one of each. Usually you have to pay for the whole night, so they would take turns doing set. You may also want to consider doing a band that's more "American" style and then a DJ to play the Indian music. For the cocktail hour, it could be a really interesting twist to have a sitar player to acknowledge his Indian background.
Could you discuss some of the best ways to incorporate lighting (uplights, etc) on a modest budget.
A little lighting goes a very long way. If you are planning your reception in a hotel, many have in-house lighting departments that could set up a few can uplights with a colored gel over them to create the perfect feel for your room at a very reasonable price. Pin spotting is the absolute best way to highlight your flower arrangements, but tends to get expensive very quickly because it has to be hung from the ceiling. You may want to consider doing every third table or maybe just your escort card table with this directed light. Lighting makes a huge difference, though. I would spend less on flowers to spend more on lighting.
I am trying to decide between a hotel reception and one on location at a museum or mansion. Is there a big price difference in the bottom line, considering food, furniture rental, etc? Are the packages offered by hotels a better deal than planning everything piecemeal? I want something different, but I don't want to blow the budget.
At the end of the day, you will spend all of the money you've allocated for your wedding. Plus about 10 percent more. It's just human nature to spend a little bit more on each category. If you're thinking about going without a planner, a hotel is a much better way to control costs. But you are stuck with their prices for food and alcohol, and there's not as much room for negotiation. In a museum or a historic venue you can choose your caterer and therefore get a better deal. Depending on the venue, some historic locations require much less decorating because they're already beautiful, whereas many hotel ballrooms need a lot of elements to make them interesting. Woodend Mansion is a great smaller venue if you want to get outside of DC and not break your budget.
What qualities do tell your wedding couples to look for in their wedding photographer?
Your photographer will spend nearly as much time with you on your wedding day as your new husband. It's absolutely necessary that you like him or her. You want to make sure that they have a calm way about them so that they won't get anxious or flustered in the busier parts of the day. Obviously you need to like their pictures. You need to decide if you want your photographer to tell the story of your day or if you're more interested in family portraits or frameable art. I recommend that my clients ask to see a former bride's proof book as well as her finished album. That way they can see what the pictures looked like before they were edited down. Maybe also I recommend doing an engagement session to make sure that your photographer gels with you.
Where's the weirdest venue you've ever had to plan for? To that end, what's the weirdest request you've had? I just want to make sure that my demands aren't *TOO* outlandish.
I always say I'll do anything that's legal for my full-service clients. Maybe it's not weird, but the project that I'm doing in the south of France this June may be the most challenging. We're flying in vendors from literally all around the world. Once, I had a groom who insisted I had Mike & Ikes on my person at all times in case he needed them. Throughout the day he'd come up to me and say, "Can I have some Mike & Ikes?" I guess that's the weirdest.
What time of year do you recommend scheduling a wedding in Washington, DC? I'm trying to consider travel for out of town guests, weather, and most importantly cost. Thank you!
DC is a bit challenging for weather. July and August are tricky because it's so hot. Those times of year you can get a great deal, but I would consider an all-indoor location and not risk people sweating during your ceremony. April, May, and June are beautiful times to see DC but tend to be incredibly busy with tourists and conventions. September and October have become some of my most popular months, and therefore some of the most expensive. November is still pretty busy, but end of December into the beginning of January you can have a beautiful winter wedding on a much more reasonable budget.
Hi Aimee, I was curious as to how you got into wedding planning and what advice you would give to someone who was considering it as a career opportunity. Thanks!
I guess I fell into the industry by accident. As it mentioned in my profile, my undergraduate degree is in fashion, and after fashion school I attended culinary school. While looking for a job in a kitchen in New York a woman saw that my background would be ideal for this industry and offered me a position that I thought I wasn't interested in. She convinced me to try it for six months and I found out I'm far better at this than anything else I've ever done. I think the varied background is actually a really good thing in this industry. Intern wherever you can, whether it's for an event planner or hotel or caterer. It's better to make your mistakes when there's somewhere else there to catch them.
Thanks re: the suggestions for Indian music. How do I find DJs who can include Indian music, and are there any you can recommend?
If you want to shoot me an e-mail, I can help you out with this one. email@example.com
I am planning a wedding next year in DC (Memorial Day weekend) and am torn between two wonderful venues that are very different but appeal to me in different ways. One venue is a hotel that offers a nontraditional space, beautiful courtyard, and is very elegant. This hotel gets frequent raves for weddings. The other is a more modern, grand, and unique non-hotel venue that has fabulous views of the city. It frequently hosts large events, but not weddings. Cost-wise, they are about the same. The only other differences are that the wedding would be on Sunday at the first venue, and I'd have to have a separate ceremony site for the second venue. Can you offer any suggestions on how to decide??? Thanks!
Keep in mind that with the separate venue, you will have to at the very least provide transportation for you and your bridal party, and ideally for the whole wedding. That will take a chunk out of your budget. If there's one space that speaks to you more than the other, that's probably the one you should go for. If you're going to go with a venue that doesn't do a lot of weddings, make sure you have a professional help you to make sure that the flow of the day is smooth. But just because they don't do weddings doesn't mean it couldn't be a fantastic site.