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Wedding Planner


You said, “Yes.” The ring is on your finger. So, what next?

“Most people plan just one wedding in their lives so it is nice to have someone who has already learned things that you might only learn by making a mistake,” said Stephanie Holst-Grubbe, owner of SHG Event Planning. “I’m here to help you think through things and make educated decisions.”

Holst-Grubbe’s firm, which offers full and partial planning services as well as wedding day coordination, said she likes to start the planning process about 18 months in advance of the big day. “That’s a good time frame,” she said. “We don’t want it to be a stressful experience. I build time into the planning process and for the weekend of the wedding—you do the menu tasting and choose the flowers, then wait a month and add the next piece of the puzzle. If you do it too fast, it can be overwhelming. If we start in May for an August wedding, we would have to be eating, breathing and sleeping wedding planning.”

Holst-Grubbe has been planning and coordinating weddings since 2008, mostly in Northwestern Connecticut, Hudson Valley and the Berkshires. “I just love it,” she said. “It’s not a rough life. It’s a lot of work, but so much fun.”

One of the things she tries to impress on her bridal clients is that they need a team of connected vendors. “You are relying on their professional relationships,” she said. “There are little things you might not think of—if the caterer is new to the venue and someone asks where the restrooms are, you want him to know. My focus is to find the vendors so they can rely on the little team they are developing.”

She explained that social media has “taken the wedding industry by storm. Everyone has to have his own hash tag. There’s a big pull on the businesses to make sure they are current, to make sure they are posting what they are working on. It’s a great way to stay connected.”

She said increasingly weddings are not just a twenty minute ceremony followed by a reception and dancing. “Weddings are very trendy,” she said. “Brides are always focusing on what’s new, what’s next and one of the biggest shifts is that people want to create a full weekend experience. Couples are sensitive to the fact that one-hundred-and-fifty to two-hundred people are traveling to our area to honor their big day. It’s not New York City so they feel it is important to give them things to do.”

A weekend wedding could include a Friday night party during which the bride and groom can have meaningful conversations with people from all the stages of their lives. “A five-hour event is over in a flash, but a weekend event gives an opportunity for people to visit. Saturday would not be very structured but the couple might plan things for the guests, like a hike, paddle boarding—one bride had a huge pool party. Then, on Sunday, it’s not over yet. Everyone drags out of bed and we do brunch or a farewell pizza lunch.”

She admits that a weekend affair is “very expensive,” with the price being affected by the chosen venue. “Sometimes it makes sense to rent the whole property,” she said, “but you might be able to bring in food trucks to cut on food costs. Or you might rent a big Air B&B for all your college friends to stay in. There are tricks of the trade to cut costs.”

Many couples choose an estate or a farm for their wedding venue but with a difference. “They might choose a rustic barn but will jazz that up. It’s ironic—you walk into a barn but inside it is dripping with Swarovski crystals. And there are companies that will rent vintage living room furniture and put it out in a field.”

Although weather is the uncontrollable factor at any time of year, among the mistakes she tries to steer couples away from is using a clear-topped tent. “I try hard to discourage that in the summer months,” she says. “A clear-top tent in July or August? It’s like a greenhouse. Some trends are a wedding planners’ worst nightmare.”

Another nightmare can be off-season wedding weather. “June through October is the main wedding season,” she said. “Last year I had one in February, but it can be pretty risky in winter to have people journey in. I do some spring weddings but our area is best suited to summer.”

Everyone today is a foodie and Holst-Grubbe said there is an intense focus on food. “They want beautiful and unique food. What better way to bond with people than over food? Family-style meals are a trend, which is wonderful because it’s a party not just a band and bar anymore.”

Weddings are a huge industry, Holst-Grubbe said, and the amount families spend can be substantial. “It’s very dependent on the variables,” she said. “Some venues provide just the space; others are all-inclusive. It could cost $150 a person or I have seen people spending up and up and up because they have to bring in everything from salt-and-pepper shakers to bathroom facilities. Bringing in everything to have a wedding in the back yard of your grandmother’s estate would be $350 a person and upwards—but that would include band, bar, staff and food.”