When it Comes Time to Pick a Wedding Planner and Venue, Trust Your Gut!

Budget, Real Weddings
Weddington Way CEO Guest Blogger Ilana Stern picking a wedding planner and venue

Photo: Erich McVey

What do real brides have to say about the wedding planning experience? Well, it's not all happy tears at the bridal boutique and indulgent cake tastings. Over the next two months, guest blogger and Weddington Way founder and CEO Ilana Stern will share the ins and outs of planning a California wedding, running a business, picking the perfect wedding planner, and customizing your dress.

I have my own business (Weddington Way, as you all know!), and I eat, breathe, and dream about my team, our customers, and all things fashion and wedding-related. Unfortunately, that barely leaves me any time to think about my own wedding! A month into our engagement, I was SO excited to marry Jeff and celebrate with our loved ones, but at the same time, I was a bit overwhelmed. It took a little time for me to warm up to the idea of hiring a wedding planner—after all, I run a wedding company—but in the end, I couldn't be happier to have someone experienced guiding me through the process.

Once I was ready to hire a wedding planner, I started researching all of the wonderful people out there. I read some articles on how to interview potential wedding planners and got a great idea of what I was looking for. I put a lot of thought and energy into selecting the right professional to work with, weighing the pros and cons of each, and taking into account their costs (after all, every dollar counts). But when it really came down to it, I went with my gut. Deep down, something was telling me to work with my good friend, Miss Allyson Levine of Bob Gail Special Events.

Allyson Levine of Bob Gail Events

Photo: Kim Fox

Allyson and I met at Engage!, a really special bi-annual wedding industry conference that I attended a month after getting engaged. There are a number of reasons why Allyson and I are a great match. She is the perfect combination of competence, compassion, and style. She's a straight shooter—a quality I always appreciate. I trust Allyson completely and I know that she will be honest and straightforward with me, but also super fun to work with. The best part? She'll make sure that I keep my sanity in the process!

Another decision Jeff and I struggled with was picking a venue. It was one task we kept putting off (maybe for a bit too long!). The process seemed daunting—there are just so many venues out there to choose from. We finally decided to bite the bullet, sit down over a bottle of wine, and do some real thinking about the things we cared about most.

For me, it was very important to have my two grandmothers in attendance. This meant having the ceremony in my hometown of Los Angeles. We knew planning a wedding in a city we don't live in would mean more work for us, but it was worth it knowing my grandmothers (both of whom I'm very close to) would be able to comfortably attend (at ages 87 and 98 traveling isn't an option!).

We also knew we wanted a venue that was on or near the beach. I've always found the ocean to be really soothing, so having the Pacific in sight was a must. We also wanted to stay away from the traditional ballroom and go with something a little outside of the box. Lastly, since friends and family would be flying in from all over the world (New York, Peru, and even Dubai), we needed to be close to LAX to make things easier and more affordable for our guests.

Once we figured out our essentials, our options were naturally narrowed down to a more manageable number. This was when my decision to hire a wedding planner really paid off. Allyson knows the ins-and-outs of nearly every LA venue, so she was able to quickly help us navigate the locations that would work best for us.

When we walked into the last space on Allyson's short list, Bel-Air Bay Club, something told us right away that we found the one. It was exactly what we were looking for: Right on the ocean, calm, peaceful, and full of natural light and running water. The ballroom was non-traditional with gorgeous panoramic windows overlooking the Pacific. The Spanish architecture was reminiscent of Stanford University, where Jeff and I met. It even had the perfect outdoor space where we could hold our ceremony with waves crashing in the background. We knew this place was right for us.

When sitting down to find your perfect venue, take the time to decide on three to five things that you and your fiancé consider essential before visiting any venues. This will narrow down your options and make the process more manageable. In the end, you'll find that your heart will tell you which venue (and planner!) is right for you. I promise, you'll know the place when you get there.

—Ilana Stern

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