The Experts

“The wedding is about you and your partner, about your personalities. Don’t get hung up on what you think your guests want or expect. It’s about what you want to share with them.” -Jill Goldberg

The Partymaker

wedding experts

Photograph by Jörg Meyer


Hiring a seasoned pro to throw your big-day fete may not save you cash—but it just might save your sanity.

By Donna Garlough

At some prewedding point—usually around the time you’re putting your distant cousins on the invite B-list—every couple asks, “Why aren’t we going to Vegas, again?” Imagine if, for a few extra bucks (well, really, it’s like spit in the ocean at this point) you had your own fairy godmother to turn all your half-baked ideas into a party? Hopple Popple‘s Linda Matzkin has no magic wand, but with 25 years of event planning under her belt, she might as well. She shares how to outsource your dirty work and how to make sure the big day is what you always wanted. (Hint: Manage your expectations.)

So a couple’s planning to get hitched and looking to hire help. Is it better to gather ideas and bring them to a planner, or approach a professional with a blank slate? A lot of people come to us with specific ideas—photos they’ve found in magazines or online, or of events they’ve attended. This definitely helps us understand the couple because few people can describe exactly what they want or don’t want. We look closely at those photos to determine what’s really possible given the wedding date and size. Maybe the bouquet is just right, for example, but the flowers shown won’t be in season. Or maybe you’re both drawn to a venue, but because of your guest count, you’ll need a bigger space.

Every planner you talk to is going to insist that they can put on a great event. But how do you know who’s really right for the job? Just like finding a great doctor or decorator, when you meet the right person, you’ll know. The planner is going to make many important decisions on your behalf, so you must trust him or her implicitly. He or she will be your advocate, so go with your gut.

Between wedding websites and blogs, there are so many tools and listings online. What’s to keep a couple from throwing a wedding on their own?
The Internet plays a big role in planning these days, giving couples access to all kinds of info. But it takes time to analyze each listing, and you can’t interview everyone. Planners act as a filter. We introduce them to the venues and vendors that fit their dreams and wallets. Another benefit: There’s no need to negotiate or worry about individual deposit checks because we manage all of that. However, hiring a planner isn’t for everyone. If someone comes to me with a really tight budget, I’ll say, “You’re going to need this money for your cake and your invitations. Don’t spend it on me.” It’s about prioritizing.

If you’re short on cash, what can you leave out? I like to steer couples away from the “shoulds”—as in, we should have favors, we should have altar decorations. If having those things feels right to you, go ahead. But don’t do it just because it’s on some to-do list. And don’t take out a giant loan to pay for things you never knew you wanted. Remember, it’s only for a day. These decisions aren’t for life. Well, hopefully the marriage is.

Boston’s got so many hotel wedding venues. What if you just aren’t the hotel type? Consider museums, clubs, and galleries. Explore your options: Do you know anyone who has a great house, or has access to vacant office space? In any case, the venue doesn’t have to define your event. With the right lighting and décor, I can make a ballroom feel like a beach.

What about that one thing you can never account for—rain? What’s your go-to contingency plan?
I have a policy: No surprises on the wedding day. Before we even book a venue—indoors or out—I ask if the couple will be happy getting married there, rain or shine. This is New England, after all. As long as the bride and groom are relaxed and happy, that feeling will carry through.

Hopple Popple, Inc., 284 California St., Newton, 617-964-6550,



Matzkin’s tips for hosting a totally original affair.

BEWARE OF WORN-OUT TRENDS  This season’s “in” flowers and color schemes may look dated in a few years—or worse, fail to reflect your personal style. Worse yet, vendors can get stuck in a style rut, and your input can provide them with needed inspiration. Taking cues from the colors and themes that fill your home, your wardrobe, and your venue—are you classic? Preppy? Fashion forward?—and use these concepts as a starting point.

EMBRACE COLOR  Choosing a vibrant palette—or even one dominant hue—can luxe up any wedding, no matter what the budget. (See “Real New England Weddings” for examples of four different—but equally intriguing—color schemes.)

TAKE INSPIRATION FROM ANYWHERE  Maybe your fiancé is a vintage-car fanatic. Who says you can’t get married in an auto museum? Or maybe you got engaged in Hawaii. Why not deck your altar in orchids and hibiscus? The more personal your details, says Matzkin, the less likely that your wedding will look like every other one your venue has hosted.