Wedding Planner Chat with Andre Wells, Thursday, August 14 at 11 AM

Arlington, VA
Do you think destinations weddings are the way to go if you and your partner are from different coasts?
I definitely think if you can meet on an even ground it's great. If one couple is from California and the other is from Massachussetts, a Gulf Coast wedding would be fun or if you wanted to do something more wintry, you could do something in the mountains of Colorado or the heartland of Missouri. Also I think it depends on where you and your partner live – if your city is exciting, why leave? The key is, I think it should be a place where the guests have fun, there's a lot to do, and people don't feel like it caters to one side.
Arlington, VA
What are you suggestions for alternatives to flowers at a wedding?
It depends upon the season. Of course candles are very romantic, and can be done in a number of ways from votives to tapers to three-wicks. And if you were in one of the winter months, I like using branches, which are free and they have a lot of different shapes and come in a lot of different colors. For one fall wedding we collected bags of leaves and we laid them on the tables and threw them all over the floor of the ballroom and it really made a "wow!" look. And, it was cheap! In the spring, you can use colorful glassware, china, and napkins on  white linen–that adds a lot of "wow." And then in any season, you can also use picture frames and you could go with all one color, like antique silver or wood or modern glass or black and white. They could be pictures of you and your fiance, your family, your friends, or cool places you've traveled. 
Arlington, Va
Hi Andre, We don't all have a ton of money to spend on weddings. But some people do! I'm just curious, what's the biggest trend now in luxury weddings?

We all want our guests to have the best experience possible. We want our guests to be comfortable and have fun. And we do this by making things easy for them and being completely organized from the time they receive that save the date to the last sip of champagne at the wedding reception. We create these things by having great amenities – some of these people travel from far away and have spent time and money to help us celebrate our day so we should treat them as such.

What we do is we do full bottles of champagne in the hotel rooms, along with other amenities like fruit baskets and cheese trays. We do room drops each night like CDs on the pillows along with chocolate truffles, a crossword puzzle about the couple along with a regular crossword puzzle book. We give them a complete schedule of the events for the weekend so that way they can plan their weekend as well. One thing that I think a lot of people don't do but I think they should do is a hospitality suite. We do a hospitality suite that's open the entire weekend – we have a message board, snacks, beverages, games. And it's just a comfortable room where guests can catch up with family and friends they haven't seen in a long time. 

Also, a trend is having an event every single night from a welcome reception to a rehearsal dinner to the wedding reception and after party to a brunch and a farewell dinner.  Why make your guests wait until the cocktail reception to have a drink or snack? As guests arrive at the ceremony, if it's in a non-religious space, we like to have water, sparkling water, and champagne available, as well as passed hors d'hourves. 

Washington, DC
When it comes to footing the bill, who's paying for weddings now? Is it still the bride's parents – and does the groom's family still take care of the rehearsal dinner?
What I've found is, especially in a progressive city like Washington where we have so many educated and professional people, that a lot of times the bride and groom are older and they pay for their own weddings. And sometimes parents contribute to the wedding but not pay for the entire wedding. The groom's parents might still pay for the rehearsal dinner and the bride's parents pay for the Sunday brunch or make a contribution to the bride and groom toward the wedding. And I've also found the younger the bride and groom, the more likely it is that the more traditional methods of payment apply.
Bethesda, MD
Hey Andre! What's the most extravagant, over-the-top wedding you've ever planned?

Let me think. I did a wedding in the Dominican Republic and the bride and groom paid for everything and all of the 75 guests to get there. And spared no expense and wanted no gifts. So just from the level of comfort to lavish meals and activities, they even sent all the guests little photo books that commemorated the weekend as a thank-you for helping them celebrate their union. I think that was the most unselfish, over-the-top event that I've ever done.

Washington, DC
I'm sure every couple has their own ideas of their perfect wedding. What kinds of outrageous requests do couples make?
It's funny, I really don't get too many outrageous requests. Sometimes we get things that really might not make sense from a financial or logistic point of view and then that's when we really try to talk to the bride and groom about whatever it is that they're envisioning and help them reel it in. 
Washington, DC
I think brides get a bad rap. There's such a big deal about bridezillas but I've heard that there are a few groomzillas out there too. Are grooms becoming more demanding?
I think yes. I feel like more grooms are helping contribute to the wedding so they have more of a say in what happens on that day. So many times grooms were blindsided, so to speak – they would walk into a wedding and it would be all pink. Or it really relected the bride's choices and her vision but there was nothing that reflected the groom and his vision. So I wouldn't say demanding, but more grooms are being an active part of the wedding planning process besides just showing up. 
Rockville, MD
What's the average cost of one of your weddings?
We have a minimum – $125,000 is our minimum.
Alexandria, VA
Hi Andre, my fiance and I are planning a 2010 wedding. What trends will be hot at that time?
Trends happen so fast and they change as fast as they happen. There really is no way to predict two years out what will be the trend. Society and current events affect trends, different administrations affect trends. Now, people are cutting back a little because they feel like we're in a recession – the trend is holding back a little. So I think if you think of your aesthetic and your style and being able to look back on your wedding 10 years from 2010, that should be your trend. 
Washington, DC
What other wedding planners do you admire?
Colin Cowie – he is the master. 
Washington, DC
Hey Andre! There are no degrees in wedding planning that I know of. How did you get started in the business? Thanks!
I always wanted to be an event planner from the time I was a child. My cousins and I played wedding. And the strange thing, I went to tons of weddings growing up and that was odd for a guy. So, I have a bachelor's degree in business and I like to say in my first life, I was a buyer of women's sportswear. So I parlayed my way into the industry by volunteering at the convention center, volunteering for other event and wedding planners, and then I landed a job at PBS as a meeting planner. And then I went to work for a catering company as an account executive, and then an event company as an event planner. I like to think I have a good aesthetic and a knack for detail and thank God I have an innate ability for creativity, which is really helped foster my career. 
Washington, DC
I can imagine that being a wedding planner requires you to be part artistic, part mind-reader, and part psychiatrist sometimes. What advice can you give to a just-starting event planner?
Be patient, be fair, be honest, and build great relationships with your clients. This business is all about relationships and your ability to maintain those relationships and also your ability to produce the best events you can.
Washington, DC
Hey Andre! I'm curious – what's the largest wedding you've ever planned?
This couple I did in Florida – they had about 650 people.
Washington, DC
If you were asked to plan a fantasy wedding, who'd be on the guest list?
Oprah, Tom Ford, Carolina Herrera, Robin Roberts, and James Weldon Johnson. 
Arlington, Va
What do you think of as your signature touch?

For me, it's all in the details so I love coming up with details that other people don't think about. As an example, on a very hot night, as guests depart the reception, I like having two ice-cold bottles of water in their car when they get in. Or at cocktail receptions, we like putting mints around – people are talking, they're eating things that are garlicky and eating seafood. For me it's all about the details, and the details vary.


Thank you so much for submitting all of your questions, I really appreciate the time and effort. I wish you all beautiful and fantastic weddings, and weddings that you can look back on 10 years from now and you still get that warm and fuzzy feeling about all of your hard work and planning.