Tools of the Trade: Expert Wedding Planner Tips

Tips from Wedding Industry Pros

Two vendors who’ve each spent nearly a decade helping couples to create meaningful memories on their wedding days hosted their own spectacular vow renewals in 2022. Both drew upon what they’ve learned from planning and hosting weddings to bring together their loved ones for unique, celebratory events. We’re sharing wedding planning tips from vendors – so keep their expert insight in mind as you begin your own planning journey.

Meet the Couples

Addie Thompson and Michael Thompson, co-owners of Dogwood Gatherings and Events, celebrated their vow renewal in August 2022. Addie has worked as an event planner since 2014, and Michael joined her at Dogwood two years later, although he still works part time for the Town of Cary. The couple was married by the magistrate at a Wake County jail after showing up too late to the Wake County Courthouse – a story Addie loves to tell – in 2017. For their fifth anniversary, the pair decided to host the party they didn’t have for their first vow exchange at The Distillery in Garner.

Amanda Peoples and Scott Peoples marked a decade of marriage at their Raleigh event venue, Walnut Hill, also in August 2022. The pair turned the property (Amanda’s family estate) into an event venue in 2019 and hosted 75 weddings in 2022. Amanda leveraged her previous experience working for rental company Party Reflections, as well as inspiration from facilitating so many Walnut Hill weddings, to dream up unique details for the vow renewal. This time around, Amanda says, she and Scott left out many of the traditional elements they had felt obligated to include in their wedding at St. Michael’s Episcopal Church in Raleigh.

Create Personalized Touches and Details

“We’ve been seeing so many beautiful things trending recently that we wanted to be able to share in that experience with some of the best vendors in the area,” Addie says. “We wanted people to feel like they were coming to a very elegant dinner party that had some awesome dancing afterward.”

The Thompsons served their loved ones a custom menu of traditional Irish dishes (like soda bread and shepherd’s pie) from Catering Works, honoring their shared cultural heritage. Treats from SweetWater Ices paid tribute to Michael’s native New York in lieu of a cake.

“[Michael’s] family was thrilled to death that we had [SweetWater]. It was very personal and felt welcoming and homemade,” Addie says. “The whole event in general was homey and comfortable, and that was exactly what I wanted.” She and Michael skipped toasts and cake-cutting in favor of getting right to the party. Their loved ones left heartfelt messages via Love Line Memories’ voicemail guest book.

Amanda and Scott’s 2012 reception at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences’ Nature Research Center was decorated with 1,000 origami cranes hanging from the ceiling – a motif they carried throughout invitations and acrylic place settings crafted by stationer Ashley Triggiano for their vow renewal. The Peoples dressed up their barn venue with a dramatic color palette of black with burgundy, mauve, and pink tones.

The Peoples opted for first looks with each of their two children, and Audrey, 2, was the flower girl while Phillip, 5, walked Amanda down the aisle of Walnut Hill’s new open-air chapel. After the ceremony, guests enjoyed a cocktail hour with alfresco appetizers from Catering Works.

For the reception, Amanda added a dramatic black Robert Bullock Bride overskirt to her beaded Dany Tabet gown, both from White of Raleigh. The couple topped off the evening by pouring Champagne over a tower of glasses and sharing a toast.

Plan Your Guest List and Seating Chart Early

Addie says she was caught off guard by how challenging it was to arrange a seating chart that would please all her guests. “I am encouraging my clients moving forward to begin [creating a seating chart] as soon as they start putting their guest list together. Go ahead and start grouping people with [folks] you know they’ll get along with,” she advises.

The Peoples reduced their guest list – from 220 at their wedding down to 50 vow renewal guests – allowing more space at the venue and in the budget for specialty decor and unique elements. Mainly, Amanda says, they had the opportunity to mingle with each guest and thank them for attending. More room in their budget allowed for a custom moss topper and dessert display sitting on Walnut Hill’s vintage piano created by florist Once Gathered, plus an escort wall design by Ashley Triggiano in which guests picked their seat placements like flowers.

Addie and Michael had 100 guests at their elegant ceremony. “Most of the events that I feel go really well are at that 120 [guests] mark,” Addie says.

Addie adds that the biggest shift that she’s noticed while wedding planning over the years is that events have trended toward personal details unique to each couple. “COVID-19 made us completely reassess how we do everything,” she says. “It was very humbling and made me realize that weddings are not necessarily trendy – they’re meant to be … a representation of the couple.”

Prioritize Your Perfect Day

Narrowing down the single element of the wedding that’s most important to the couple is a fundamental task in Addie’s planning process. For her own event, the floral design took the cake. She says the Once Gathered team did an incredible job of making guests feel as though they were immersed in flowers. Addie recommends that couples choose their photographer carefully since the day will largely be remembered through photographs, so finding a style and vendor you love is well worth the cost.

Best-Kept Planning Secrets

“What I ask our couples when we sit down for our initial meeting, which is also our budget meeting, is, ‘What is the most important aspect of this wedding? Are you guys foodies? Do you guys love music?’ People tell me that thing, and we base the entire event off of [that],” Addie says.

Hire and Trust Your Vendor Team

“Honestly, hire a wedding planner,” Addie says. “I thank God for [Distillery owner] Chad Biggs because … he stepped up the day of our vow renewal and was unfreaking-believable. My biggest mistake was not hiring somebody to come in and actually do planning with me and thinking that I could handle everything on my own.”

Amanda emphasizes two things: don’t stress too much about the date and be sure to have a well-organized backup plan in case of inclement weather.

Embrace the Moment

“Remember, the most important thing on that day is who you’re marrying,” Amanda says. “You’ve picked a great vendor team – trust them. Embrace every part of it because that’s what you’re really there for: to get married to the person you love.”

You Might Also Like
Multicultural Duke Chapel wedding Jennifer Bosak Photography ceremony venue

Durham Wedding Venue Guide

Heart of NC Weddings’ Guide to Bull City Weddings Welcome to our Durham wedding venue guide! Venue options in the heart of Durham range from cozy inns to manicured gardens

Read More »