Experts, Fall/Winter 2012
The Project Pro
It’s not a wedding until someone has a meltdown — unless, that is, you hire a planner like Amy Kimball to be your creative ally and master negotiator.
Boston-based event planner Amy Kimball has organized weddings up and down the East Coast, not to mention in Hawaii and, most recently, southern France. In addition to arranging dream days for brides-to-be, this energetic, level-headed blonde has overseen Hollywood premieres and private parties with star-studded guest lists — so it’s no wonder she excels at the interpersonal aspects of a well-planned fete. Kimball’s strategy is to keep everyone in sync from the start, whether that means facilitating heart-to-hearts among feuding family members or creating minute-to-minute timelines for cranky vendors. “There are always interesting family dynamics, so my role encompasses a lot of talking things through,” she says. “Essentially, it’s all about diplomacy.” Here, she offers tips for getting hitched … without a hitch.
Is hiring a planner really ?necessary?
Planning a wedding is like building a house — always hire a contractor. You want it to be beautiful and fun, and a planner makes that happen. When I get married, I’ll definitely hire one. I want somebody else to do the work!
What’s your role as the coordinator?
I am the mediator. I get people to understand one another. A groom once texted me the day after the wedding, saying that everything was perfect: the preparation, the design, and most important, the “psychiatry.” I was a pysch major in college. I use it every day of my life!
How should a bride choose a planner?
It’s as much about personality as it is style. It’s an intimate experience; she becomes part of the family. Meet in person to see if you click and if you feel she is someone you can trust. Also, did you laugh together? If you have the same sense of humor, it’s a good indicator that you can get through it. If you feel at ease and think you’ll have fun working together, then it’s a golden match.
Is there a wedding tradition you wish would disappear?
Tossing the bridal bouquet. It’s an embarrassing, awkward situation for everybody. Single women don’t like to be called to the middle of the dance floor, forced to vie for a bouquet. And unmarried couples don’t want to be questioned as to when they’re tying the knot. I hold my breath until it’s over. Thankfully, I’ve only had a few brides throw their flowers.
What’s the most common source of friction between a bride and her mom?
How much to spend on flowers. Usually the daughter wants to spend more, and the mother thinks it’s a little crazy. Most people don’t know much about linens or lighting, but flowers they understand. It becomes the tangible thing they latch on to, the talking point.
Do you have any suggestions for how to avoid such arguments?
A lot of parents tell the couple up front how much they’ll contribute. If the bride and groom want to spend more, it’s their responsibility. This has been a huge relationship saver, especially between mothers and daughters, since most of the time their priorities are very different.
Can you offer any insider tips on how to cut costs?
A lot of hotels and caterers charge for alcohol based on consumption. With a big-drinking crowd, it’s better to get a set price so there are no surprises. Ask if they offer a fixed cost on beverages, the same way they do with food. They won’t usually suggest it, but this can be negotiable.
What should you splurge on?
Lighting, hands down. Uplighting the room is essential — it changes the entire mood. Boring white light doesn’t get it done. Subtle colors create atmosphere, and pinks make everyone look good. And pin spotting is key — a pin spot will highlight floral centerpieces and create a feeling of depth throughout the room. Everything looks better when lit properly, including the bride.
How do you reconcile big dreams with a small budget?
I talk with the bride until I fully understand her dream, and she feels confident that I get it. Then I tell her we have to work with reality. I explain from the get-go what can happen within a limited budget. I don’t have rules of thumb — I ask what each couple’s priorities are. Recently I had a bride who wanted to spend lavishly on food and didn’t care about flowers, so we used potted herbs as centerpieces.
Do you have any tricks for day-of damage control?
I tell the couple that four things will go wrong at every wedding, and there’s nothing they can do about it. Usually, there aren’t four, but this way everyone is prepared. After a couple of things do go wrong, everyone starts to breathe. They think, “It happened, and it wasn’t so bad.”
Amy Kimball’s foolproof wedding game plan.
Know Your Options
The cost of a full-service planner is typically 15 to 25 percent of your overall budget. If that doesn’t work with your bottom line, opt for a day-of coordinator to manage last-minute logistics.
Do Your Research
It’s helpful to have a couple of venues and dates in mind before meeting with a planner — that way she can check on availability.
Keep It Close
Even if you’re throwing a destination wedding, hire someone who’s based where you live. Your planner is your advocate, so it’s important to have her on the ground with you.
Pay It Forward
Work with your coordinator to have your flowers taken to nursing homes after the wedding, or make a charitable donation in lieu of favors.