When Jamie Sears was a little girl and her parents threw parties, she made sure to be a part of every stage of the planning. But it wasn’t until after she graduated from college with a degree in event management that she realized she could turn her passion into a career.
Helping to plan her best friend’s wedding and then planning her own wedding inspired Sears to pursue her dream, which she did by forming Simply Chic Events in 2006. Since then, she’s planned more than 40 weddings in Washington and beyond—everywhere from the Hay-Adams and Meridian House to Bermuda and Napa Valley. “Being a wedding planner is about much more than timelines and spreadsheets—it’s about being a friend,” says Sears, whose firm offers services from “month of” to full wedding planning.
Now, after a holiday season filled with happy engagements, January has arrived and wedding-planning mode is in full swing. If you’re not sure where to begin, don’t worry! Sears is coming to The Washingtonian this week with helpful advice. Fire away with questions below—and Sears will answer them from 11 AM to noon on Thursday.
I want the look of a luxury wedding with all the fabulous details you see in the magazines, but I am working with a limited budget and just don’t have the funds to spend without restraint. What do you suggest for an average bride like me, who really wants to have an extraordinary wedding sans the enormous cost?
This is a really great question and one that I think many brides have. The first thing that I suggest is to really limit your guest count. Some of my favorite weddings that I have planned are smaller, intimate celebrations. By reducing your guest count you will be able to save significantly on food and beverage. The fewer guests that you have, the fewer tables you will have. With this, you will be able to reduce the number of rental items and table centerpieces needed.
I also suggest finding a gorgeous venue in which you won't need to add much decor. Let the backdrop of your venue be your decor. Lastly, there are some really great DIY ideas out there. I suggest visiting the Style Me Pretty (www.stylemepretty.com) blog for inspiration.
Jamie, what was the largest wedding that you have ever planned?
The largest wedding that I have planned took place last summer. There were over 350 guests and it was a truly grand affair! It was important to the bride and groom that they were able to personally thank each guest for being a part of their special day, so they attached a hand written note to each escort card. It was a very sweet touch!
What one aspect of planning a wedding do you consider the biggest challenge?
Another great question! I find that selecting a venue tends to be the biggest challenge. There are a lot of great locations in DC to choose from but it can be tough to find something that fits all of the criteria (budget, space needs, availability). I always tell my clients that selecting the venue is one of the most difficult parts of the planning process. One we choose the location, the rest will fall into place!
If you could give one piece of advice to the bride as she begins to plan her wedding…what would it be?
Have fun! I truly believe that the planning process is not just a time to plan the celebration but to also celebrate the planning! This is such an exciting time and it goes by so quickly. it's important to relax and enjoy. Just remember that no matter what colors, type of flowers, invitations or flavor of cake that you choose, your day will be amazing!
My friend just got engaged, and I was asked to be a bridesmaid. She lives states away from me, but I still want to feel involved. Have any tips as to what I could offer long distance?
What a good friend you are! There are absolutely ways in which you can help while being long distance. First and foremost, be there to listen. Brides love to talk about their plans and share the excitement with others! She will really appreciate having someone who she can bounce ideas off of and is willing to listen to her planning updates. Also, ask questions! It will make her feel good to know that you have a genuine interest in her plans. You can also send her ideas and inspiration that you think will be of interest to her. There are a ton of great websites and blogs which offer fun and unique ideas. Checkout Style Me Pretty, Snippet and Ink and The Bride's Cafe. She will appreciate the fact that you have taken the time to research ideas which you think will compliment her wedding vision!
Is there a trick of the trade in terms of making a wedding look luxurious with just a simple touch? What, in your opinion, is the best way to add ambiance?
There absolutely is- lighting! It's really amazing to see how lighting can transform a space. In my opinion lighting is the most important decor element. There are several different options such as pinspotting, uplighting and washes. Pinspotting is a great way to showcase your table centerpieces but it can tend to get pricey. If you are on a more limited budget I recommend using uplight cans. Candlelight is also a simple (and inexpensive!) touch. You can never have too many candles! Candlelight adds a soft and romantic feel. Not to mention, everyone looks great in a room filled with candlelight!
I love the color green! I want to make that my main color (bridesmaid dresses, etc.) but do you have any suggestions for accent colors?
I love green, too! There are several colors that compliment green beautifully. Depending upon the shade of green that you select, pink (pale or fuschia) works very nicely, especially for a spring or summer wedding. Yellows are also a great option. I am working on a wedding now and we are working with a lime-ish green, navy and ivory color palette. This combination is fabulous! The navy and ivory are timeless and the lime green adds a fun punch of color!
Where do you find your inspiration? Are there other event professionals that inspire you?
I love this question! It's so important for event planners to be in tune with the latest trends. Trends tend to change as quickly as they are introduced. I am constantly reading magazines… not only wedding related but home decor and interior design as well. I also follow several blogs, which are filled with inspiration.
I really admire Mindy Weiss and Colin Cowie. Their work is truly amazing! I love that their events are always unique and reflective of the host/hostess. It's the special personal touches which guests will remember!
How can I save money on flowers? I am surprised to see how expensive they are. Thank you!
A great way to save money on flowers is to select blooms that are in season. If you are set on having peonies but are getting married in July, you are going to pay a premium. Also spend your floral dollars where you are going to get the most impact. Your bouquet, ceremony arrangements and table centerpieces should be priority. No one will notice if you don't have pew arrangements. Lately I am really loving the look of carnations grouped tightly together in a large arrangement. Carnations tend to have such a bad rap but they can be so striking. Baby's breath is another one that looks great in a large grouping.
You could always get married married in an outdoor or botanical garden where you won't have to provide additional ceremony flowers. Meridian House has a gorgeous garden that is a perfect setting for a ceremony!
What should I expect my day-of planner to do for me?
Each planner is a little different in terms of what their packages include. My "day of" package is really "month of" service. In order to get a sense of what is involved in a clients wedding I need to begin working with them at least one month prior to the wedding day. This gives me plenty of time to speak with all of the vendors, confirm details, delivery/pickup times, etc. and put together a very detailed wedding day time line. At the very minimum your day of planner should prepare a time line, contact all of your service providers to confirm details and answer any questions, serve as the wedding day point of contact, oversee ceremony and reception setup, attend your wedding rehearsal and, of course, be the first to arrive and last to leave on your wedding day.
Wow, I can't believe that I am already out of time! Thank you for all of your questions. I had so much fun today! I'm sorry that I wasn't able to answer every question but please feel to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Happy planning!