The Problem Solver
Nicole Simeral’s love affair with weddings began in the Boston Harbor Hotel’s food and beverage department, where she worked while studying at UMass Amherst. Three years after graduation, she returned to the hotel full time, eventually rising through the ranks to become the head of the catering department before launching her own event-planning firm, Simeral & Co., last fall.
These days, Simeral works with local couples to design luxury fetes in Boston and beyond. “I know it’s cliché,” she says, “but a wedding is the six most amazing hours of a couple’s life. I love being part of that. It’s not like selling a car or insurance.” Here, Simeral dishes on a few wedding setbacks she’s dealt with over the years, explains why receiving lines don’t make sense, and makes the case for destination celebrations.
Is hiring a planner really necessary?
Weddings are logistically complex, so hiring a professional makes the experience more pleasurable. A wedding is live Broadway. There are a lot of moving parts! I oversee the nitty-gritty, especially on the day of the event, so the bride and groom only have to concern themselves with enjoying their guests and choosing what kind of cocktail to drink.
What should a couple look for in a planner?
Couples should seek out professionals who have long-term experience planning weddings. Attention to detail and excellent business-partner relationships are crucial. Every event of this magnitude will come with its challenges—cakes fall over, the weather doesn’t cooperate, relatives make scenes. You want someone who can turn obstacles into opportunities.
What do you do when confronted with such disasters?
How you react is critical. I haven’t had a toppling cake, but two years ago there was a no-show rabbi. I had a replacement on-site within the hour. Another time, a groomsmen (a Harvard swim-team captain, mind you) jumped off a dock into Marina Bay. At 10:30 p.m.! I had to call the Coast Guard to find him. Thankfully, he was fine.
How important is it to find a planner who meshes with your personality?
If I met a client and felt it wouldn’t be a win-win situation, be it temperament or expectations, I would recommend another planner. Like a photographer, the planner might see the bride in her underwear, putting on her makeup, so it’s important to choose someone with whom she’s comfortable.
When have you gone the extra mile for a couple?
I had a couple—two young women—who had to put their dog down the day before the wedding. The morning of the wedding, I booked last-minute manicures, brought Veuve Clicquot and OJ up to their room, and cried with them. I think I helped get them to a better place, emotionally, so they could enjoy the day.
How do you reconcile big dreams with less-than-large budgets?
It’s great to have dreams. I strive to design events that are in line with the couple’s vision. The first question I ask is, “What’s most important to you?” This helps identify expectations. Then I present the options, along with the positives and negatives of each. There are a lot of vendors out there. It’s my job to know as many as possible and what their capabilities are.
Are splashy ballroom fetes as popular as they used to be?
There are definitely fewer hotel weddings right now. People are looking for iconic venues—they want to wed in places that are meaningful to them. Destination weddings have grown in popularity.
What’s the allure of a destination wedding, and how does it compare in price?
They’re guaranteed to be different from other weddings. More important, the celebration stretches from five or six hours to several days. As for price, they usually cost a little bit more. Even though the guest list is smaller, the cost per person is higher.
What are couples splurging on these days?
Food. The trend is serious customization. Gone are the days of the cheese display, seven types of passed hors d’oeuvres, and the four-course meal. I work with clients and chefs to tailor the menu and determine presentation. The “wow” factor of the event often revolves around food and drink, whether it’s during cocktail hour, the reception, or the after-party.
Can you give us a few examples?
Custom wine-pairing dinners are popular. We’ve thrown a lot of glammed-up lobster bakes for Cape and Maine weddings, with corn soufflés and lazy-man’s lobster. I just did an oyster bar with five different regional varieties. Other couples have organized s’mores bars for dessert, or late-night taco stations. People are all about making it different. It doesn’t have to be showy, but it has to have their unique stamp.
Is there an important element of wedding planning that clients don’t always grasp?
I love lighting. It’s a trend that brides are starting to understand, but harder for the mothers of the brides to swallow since it wasn’t really an option when they got married. The right lighting can transform an environment. Light can make things glow, add highlights, and theatrically enhance the setting.
Is there a wedding tradition you wish would disappear?
The receiving line. It’s a bad use of time—it eats up 45 seconds to a minute and a half per guest. Do the math. Thankfully, only about 20 percent of my clients want one, and of those, I can talk 95 percent of them out of it.
Simeral & Co., 617-699-9791, simeralco.com.
Nicole Simeral shares four ways to cut costs without sacrificing style.
Look for startup vendors who are flexible with their prices. In return, you can help build their business.
Check out Etsy and Style Me Pretty for unique DIY ideas.
You are already entertaining friends and family with a fabulous party and dining experience.
Holding a wedding on an off-peak date saves money across the board.Oftentimes vendors would rather be flexible on price than go unscheduled. May through October is peak season, but if you’re looking at a Sunday in August, especially in the city, you can cut yourself a pretty good deal.
Want more tips and tricks? Learn more from Boston’s wedding experts.