Love is in the air as we approach engagement season! Brittany chats with Erin Bruce, a local Wedding Coordinator. We hope you enjoy these great tips and tricks she has to offer.
If you want to follow Erin, you can find her on instagram @peaches.and.dream!
We’ve also created a few fun wedding themed gift guides as a resource for you!
This podcast was transcribed using Descript. Please forgive any typos or errors.
Brittany: Hi friends. Welcome to Life with Loverly. I'm your host, Brittany Sjogren. I'm excited to share my heart with you beyond the 15 seconds we get on Instagram. Grab an iced coffee and let's do life together.
Good morning. Hi friends. I hope you guys had a great weekend. I'm really excited to get into this episode today. As we start to get into engagement season, we thought it would be a really fun idea to bring on a wedding coordinator, to talk all things engaged, couples, guests, weddings, everything in the wedding world. I'm really excited to have Erin Bruce here in the studio with us. Hi Erin.
Erin: Hi, Brittany. Good morning.
Brittany: How are you?
Erin: I am so excited to be here. I am so glad you thought to do this episode. This is going to help so many.
Brittany: That's one thing we love doing at Loverly Grey and Chris and I were just talking about our engagement. We actually got engaged seven years ago on November 1st. And I just remember thinking back on what do we do next?
And Chris was I just proposed my part is done and I was very quickly I don't think that's how this works. I'm sure a lot more people have similar situations or maybe they're about to get engaged and they need some tips. So before we get into all of that, I would love for you to tell our listeners a little bit about yourself, about your family and what it is specifically that you do.
Erin: Yes. I am a Michigan native, moved to Georgia my senior year of high school. I am now a mother of two littles, a boy and a little girl. I'm the oldest of six and love having a huge family and now am into wedding coordinating.
Brittany: I love that. Okay. Really quick. You moved to Georgia, your senior year of high school. How was that transition?
Erin: Oh, that was so tricky because I went to a small Catholic high school back home.
Erin: 48 in my class and knew them from childhood. I knew everybody right. Moved here, went to a public high school senior year. All of a sudden I had I'm pretty sure 600 in my class, no uniform. North to south, anything that you could change was completely flip flopped on me.
And in the moment I thought, how. Could we do this? My dad was transferred and how could they do this to me?
When here it was the best thing that could have happened to me. It made me stretch. It made me grow. At our wedding my dad even referenced it's so great that we moved here because she met Quincey, and so it was just this moment, we were meant to be here.
Brittany: Yeah. It's so crazy how I feel like things in life happen like that and I'm sure things you gained from that experience that at the time you were like, this sucks are now things you look back on and you're like, I gained this skill because of this hard time.
I think that's really cool. Not related to weddings at all, but a little life lesson on Life with Loverly today.
Brittany: So tell us how you got into the business and how you started becoming a wedding coordinator.
Erin: It was so great because there was a local venue near us that was looking to hire a coordinator, so I started working with them. Our son at the time was six months old. He was so little and I had been doing up until that, I had done corporate America, I had taught TaeKwonDo for nine years, I had managed a restaurant, I had managed a women's boutique.
All of a sudden I was in this role where I could be home with him during the week, and then on weekends I would do weddings and it didn't start off with a bang. It was a very slow build. I'm sure like your blog, we started slow and you build up. It was a perfect transition for where we are in this season with having our two young children I'm able to be with them during the week, and then I'm with my brides and couples on the weekends.
Brittany: That's so perfect. So tell me the difference between a wedding planner and a wedding coordinator.
Erin: I bet there are so many people happy you asked that question. Yes,, there is a difference. A lot of times at my wedding, guests will say, so you're the wedding planner and I will correct them very nicely, not in a bad way, but because I don't wanna take away from my brides.
When you have a coordinator, the bride is essentially the one planning, everything your coordinator is executing everything on the day of, so we're making sure everything goes smoothly. We are working with the vendors behind the scenes. The couple is able to enjoy the day and really take it in. I'm moving all the pieces, a planner that is, it's a totally different ballgame because they are making decisions.
They are booking vendors, maybe the venue. And it's a bigger role, I would say than a coordinator. You have a lot of planners that do offer coordinating packages. They might plan and then also coordinate your day, or you might have a separate planner and coordinator, or you might plan everything and then hire the coordinator for day of.
Brittany: And it seems a no brainer that if you had to pick maybe in between the two that hiring the coordinator to have that day of experience and help. That seems like a no brainer to me, right?
Erin: It is. And it was a no brainer that I personally didn't even know of when I was a bride eight years ago. Quincey and I got married at a very DIY, it was a beautiful venue, and you booked your own vendors.
There was no preferred vendor list. I didn't know a coordinator was a thing.
Erin: That meant I was running my own rehearsal, which was fine. Our grainy had gotten in from Michigan that day, and I'll never forget talking to her over by the fence, and one of my bridesmaids came, probably one of my sisters and they were like we've gotta get going. We've gotta rehearse.
Then we've got dinner and I didn't get to separate the coordinator from the bride. I had to be bride, then I had to switch into boss mode and everybody was well behaved. It just took away from that being just the bride.
Brittany: Definitely seems like a benefit. It sounds like something you would suggest to people to do who are in this season. Definitely considering hiring a wedding coordinator to take that stress off.
Brittany: All right. Let's give a scenario here. Let's say that a couple is recently engaged. Where should they start with planning? What do they do next? What is the most important thing to do as soon as you get engaged?
Erin: Excellent question. The first thing I would tell the couple is to sit in that moment and really enjoy being engaged. It's such an exciting milestone and this life event that is happening for them and to them that I really encourage them to enjoy that moment, whether it's one week or two weeks before they dive into planning.
Sit in that moment and enjoy it from there. You're going to want to decide together with your fiance. What the size of your wedding will be. Are you looking at doing the traditional ceremony, reception, the big event, or are you thinking you want to do more of an elopement slash minimony, which has become this coin term for around 50 guests or less.
It's a smaller, more intimate event. One of honestly, Brittany, one of my favorite of things that has come out of COVID is the immersion of elopements. They used to be so taboo.
And they've just become out of necessity. This beautiful thing. Last year mid-March was when we went into the gatherings of 10 and under. All of a sudden, my mid to late March couples were looking at 10 and under guests right around June. If I remember correctly, we got to go up to 50. It was 50 and under, and then gradually we were able to increase the guest size. What that did, it made couples make that decision. Do we wanna go ahead and do our ceremony just us and our family, those closest to us, and do we wanna count that as our wedding, which many did. Or they did that elopement, that small intimate ceremony and then pushed their party off to either later in the year or even this year. I have many that eloped last year, and then their party is this year.
Some pushed the entire gig further into the year. Whichever it looked like. Like I said, I just love how those elopements became more popular. This beautiful shattering of that taboo.
Brittany: I think that's also allowed people to get more creative and brands who are on the other side of the wedding business I feel are coming up with more ways to cater towards couples who wanna have an elopement. I've started to see on social media these amazing ceremonies and these unique touches, and that is just as special as having a big party with all of your friends there. So I think that is definitely one thing that came out of COVID for wedding.
The industry as a whole was like how to get unique, where can we offer other services?
Brittany: I don't know. I think that's a really cool place to be in the industry.
Erin: Yes, it was beautiful. It honestly was. When you're looking at size, what are we thinking? I still highly 10 out of 10 recommend booking vendors and having professionals run it. For example, a few weeks ago coordinated a wedding that had 28 guests. They still booked a photographer, videographer, DJ coordinator, caterer, baker. They still had all of the vendors, which helps that event big or small run so much smoother and both sizes can be done. If we're on a budget, we don't let budget get in the way.
Simply encouraging you to still book the professionals.
Brittany: Absolutely. So spend some time in this engaged moment and then pick your date. And then from there, where are we going?
Erin: The next thing I was gonna say is you're going to go to venues.
Erin: Once we've decided size, for example, the wedding that had 28 guests, they were at a venue that is for around 75 or less.
I wouldn't book a wedding of 150 at a venue like that, so that's why size comes first. Then you'll go look at your venues.
Erin: Inevitably, what will tie hand in hand? I'm so glad you just said that, is the date. Once you go to your venue, you probably have, in your mind, a favorite time of year that you always envisioned getting married.
I encourage you, highly encourage you to be open minded about your date because you may go to your venue and they may be booked that day, that month, that season. In fact, I had a couple get married a few years ago, and it was a hot Georgia outdoor wedding. We were in the air conditioned office where their friend and officiant was signing their marriage license.
He had come down from St. Louis and had some comments about the weather. He had pulled his collar away from his neck and said, geez guys, he had to get married in August. And he said, pick? I didn't pick August. November was booked. We got August, so that is where it just ties in beautifully with the open-minded for your date.
From there, we've got our size. We've gone, do we want to do traditional ceremony, reception or the smaller. Then we have toured our venue, and inevitably once we book that gives us our date, that's where we are now from here. You're, believe it or not, going to go dress shopping. When I tell brides this, they are thinking already, how is that?
It's funny because a lot of times you want your dress to match the venue vibe. Side note, I'm totally here for breaking rules. If you wanna have a ball gown at a farm girlfriend, do it.
Brittany: I love that.
Erin: A lot of times though, you do want the dress to match the vibe of the venue. Why the dress so soon? It'll go with the venue, and also a lot of things factor into the dress order. We don't think about Chinese New Year, completely shutting down shipping. That is if you go to a traditional wedding store, obviously there are other routes. You may have it handmade by someone. A recent bride had hers made in Canada. It was this beautiful blue Bohemian.
It was an amazing dress. Even handmade takes time. In fact, the store where my sisters and I got our dress, our representative said to go ahead and order it one year out, if able to, and it makes sense. You need time for alterations. You want to make sure it has ship time. So that is where, even though it may seem so crazy to do dress so soon out of the gate, it really is to your benefit.
Brittany: Another to your point, maybe you have a Pinterest board of all these dresses that you think you would like. Then you go to your first, try on dresses and then you realize, wait, I don't really like what I thought I would like. Who knows how many appointments might be involved or how many different dress shopping adventures.
So once you do all of that and then nail down your dress, everything that happens after that process. So I see how that would be important to like, go ahead and try on a dress and make a selection.
Erin: In fact, that may be something you can do on weekends. If we're working during the week, it may take a month, like you said to five weeks to find the dream dress, at least starting the shopping process helps you get that nailed down.
So what do we have now? We have our size, our venue, our date, and our dress. Once those four things are taken care of, you will feel this immense weight off your shoulders. From here, you would go into booking your vendors. Why the date is so important initially is because once you start reaching out to those vendors before they even fall in love with you, or you fall in love with them and their vibe, they're going to say congratulations, what's your date? Then we go into that process of giving you quotes and what does it involve to work with us?
Which vendors do you start booking first right out of the gate? You're going to want to look at your photographer and videographer. If you can swing it financially highly recommend videographer again, learn from my mistakes.
I did not have a videographer and there were so many moments I wish I would have on video. Why is that so important is because those are your frozen images in time from that day, those are what you order your canvases of those, hang on the walls of your home for your lifetime. Those are your Christmas gifts to your parents, grandparents.
They're so important, and you want to love those photos. Next up, believe it or not is your DJ. Why? That person makes or break your party.
Brittany: Totally agree. We had a DJ at our wedding and I remember as the wedding was coming to an end, I was like, what's the cost to keep going? He said it's not up to me. The venue has timelines. I would stay. And I was like, no, you have to keep playing the music. Cause we were having so much fun. But I could imagine if your DJ wasn't really great, how you'd be like, all right, let's get to the next part of this wedding day.
Erin: Or even not having a DJ, like I mentioned earlier, the smaller wedding, how amazing it was that she had a DJ. I have in the past coordinated weddings where they didn't have a DJ and it's either myself or one of their friends pressing play on a playlist, and while that gives you music during the ceremony and it's a playlist for the reception. The DJ is introducing everybody. They are getting the party going. They are keeping the party going. There's so much that they do that a lot of times we don't even realize how amazing they, what they're bringing to the table.
We don't even realize it until we have an event that doesn't have a DJ.
Brittany: And then just to clarify, for those couples that are wanting a band, it's still really important to identify an MC if you will, who is going to be announcing everything and that's what you're saying with the DJ, correct?
Erin: Yes, absolutely. Whether it's the DJ or live music. Yes. Because they are introducing the wedding party, right? They are getting the party going. They are calling tables up for dinner and keeping the flow of dinner going smoothly. You're absolutely right. Definitely more of an MC is what you'll want.
From there you will book your coordinator. Like you mentioned earlier, planner versus coordinator either way. What does a coordinator do? They are your contact person for the vendors beforehand. They are the point of contact on the day of that is who is making sure all the moving pieces are where they're supposed to be and when they're supposed to be there. Coordinators are also working with the couple ahead of time. Sometimes there's this misunderstanding with the title Day of Coordinator, where the fiances are a little confused as to what we do beforehand. I explained we're working together beforehand. It's simply the title means they're coordinating day of right.
Had a couple recently, she did all of the planning, the vendor research, the booking, everything. She had a very generous family member take care of the wedding financially. She had to do, like I said, everything. She was so well organized, and the one vendor, this person let's say did not see the value in was the coordinator.
After we had our discovery call, we talked and she said, I have to do this with you. I have to book you, and we worked out a payment plan. We made it happen. The best part of that evening was towards the end. I was taking my stuff out to my car and this person was over by the bar helping load up the excess alcohol.
They stopped me, grabbed my arm and said, I did not think we needed you beforehand. And after seeing what you've done today, we couldn't have done it without you.
Brittany: I feel like that's probably one of the biggest compliments you can receive when it's thank you so much for seeing the value in the work that really goes into it on the day of and leading up to it.
Erin: For sure. Yes. It's this validation, I know I'm needed. The bride knows I'm needed, but to have, and that person could have easily walked away not said a thing, but for them to admit, I didn't think we needed you and we couldn't have done it without you was one of the highest compliments you could get.
Brittany: I remember at our wedding, our venue. Part of the package was a day of coordinator, and I'm so glad that we had that because I was just planning to do the whole thing myself. I remember a few weeks before I really thought on the morning of my wedding. At some point I was gonna be leaving the getting ready part and going to help set up in the reception hall. In my mind, I was like, maybe this is just behind the scenes that nobody hears about on a wedding. No. The bride is not part of the setting up . But thankfully this coordinator was like no, we've got this covered. We will see you at the reception after everything, but I promise I will bring your vision to life.
That was just great, very grateful to have her on our day of and everything, went very smooth. Thanks to her.
Erin: Yes, exactly. They're executing. You're doing all the hard work. You're doing all the planning and then they are the ones making sure, as you said, vision comes to life. Moving everything around guiding you through. I'll tell my couples don't even check your watch. It doesn't matter what time it is. I will make sure we're just moving you through the day. I'll come let you know when to be ready for these pictures, when we're heading over here, what we're doing next, I'm moving you through the day. I, again, with not having a coordinator, didn't realize I wouldn't just get to be the bride. That is where my entire mission as a coordinator comes from is truly making sure they're able to enjoy it. That all the hard work is done. They've done all the planning the day they show up. That's when you enjoy the wedding day and you'll remember how you felt.
That's where me doing my job correctly, helps you enjoy it.
Brittany: I love that. Another question. Once you have identified your wedding coordinator, how much communication do you have with your couples and how far in advance are you starting to plan things before the actual wedding day?
Erin: It all depends on the timeline that we're looking at. If we're a year out, if we're six months out, one of the things that I will tell couples is not to believe it or not start looking at flowers and colors if you're a year out and decor ideas, because the trends will change. Be prepared to maybe change your mind unless you are dead set on something, be prepared to change your mind.
Don't start looking at that necessarily right away at about the six month mark and even 60 day mark. I may not be like all coordinators. I encourage them to reach out anytime if they are looking at the groomsman attire or a guest book idea, or recently they saw on TikTok, this thing where they cut the cake before dinner, have I tried it?
Have I seen it? Did it work? Was it chaotic? I'm like reach out anytime. I love to be a sounding board for them. One of the most frequent comments when I tell people what I do is oof you must have a lot of bridezillas and I really don't. My brides are amazing to work with. These girls have so many opinions coming at them, whether it's their friends, their wedding party, their parents, and it's normal.
It's so exciting. Everyone wants to help. They have the best intention. It can be a lot. I tell them to come to me, just come to the sounding board. It's nice to have a neutral ground. Let's just see what Erin says, and it also helps them to communicate back to let's say mom or mother-in-law and say, I talked with Erin and here's what she suggests.
This is what she sees often because they are planning one wedding and I see multiple in a month. So it helps to have that person to be a sounding board. Then we will get together closer like I said, probably about 45 to 60 days out.
We will work on the timeline of the day. We will work on the wedding party lineup. We will talk about overall details. We've been in communication the whole time though. Your timeline, I always tell them. It's the guide for the day. Some get really nervous like it's this by the book on the minute?
And I explain. No. This is simply our guide to move us through the day to make sure we hit everything that you wanna hit. Get the pictures we want to get without wasting time or losing any.
Brittany: Speaking of vendors, what are your thoughts on vendor tipping? What is the rule of thumb around that for your vendors?
Erin: Yes. Great question. When you think of wedding industry, all of your vendors, they're in the service industry. We are there serving our couple and the customary appreciation is to tip them. There are articles that suggest whether it's a percentage or a flat amount. That's completely up to the couple. It always feels so good to be appreciated.
Brittany: What's the best way to handle that?
Erin: Great question. The couple brings envelopes for their vendors. They will pass those to me at the beginning of the day. From there I will pass those out for them. I don't, like you said, I don't want the groom walking around with just cash in his pocket. It's very helpful to have envelopes labeled, and then I would pass those out for them.
Brittany: Another reason to have a coordinator and somebody in your back pocket to handle all of these behind the scenes transactions on the day. Absolutely. So tell me about what is the most unique thing that you've ever seen at a wedding?
Erin: I have to say. There are so many, it's hard to pick a favorite. One of the more recent ones that I love for a couple reasons is first, it involves everyone there. Second it costs you nothing. It is called a ring warming ceremony, what we would do instead of a ring bear, carrying the rings or the best man having 'em in his pocket, which is typical.
The best man would have those. We would have them already set up in the ceremony space once bride and whoever is walking her down the aisle, get down, everybody gets situated before the ceremony starts. The officiate picks up the rings mother of the bride, or whoever is highest honor on the bride side would come up.
He passes her the rings while telling what they're going to do from here. She would start it on the left side of the venue, right? She says maybe a 10, second prayer or a wish for the couple while holding the rings. She simply passes it to the person to her left. And every person touches these ring. Once they weave through the bride side, they'll get to the back.
That person will bring them over to the right hand side. They weave through the fiance's side of the venue, ending up at the mother of, let's say, mother of the groom. From here, she says her well wishes or prayer takes them up to the best man. From here about this time, they are ready for the ring exchange, and that way everyone has said a little prayer over their rings that they are about to put on.
Brittany: That's so cool. I've never heard of that, but I love how that's involving everybody in the audience who are hand picked to watch this couple get married and pledge their life together. It includes everybody in the audience.
Erin: Yes. And can you imagine having whether it's 28 people or 150 people of your closest, like you said, handpicked that said prayers over your rings. I just love it so much.
Brittany: That is a really cool tradition. I feel like there are so many unique things about weddings and that's another area where I feel like as the coordinator and as that sounding board, you have a plethora of ideas to offer to your couples. So if they're looking for something unique, another benefit is talking with you about how can we incorporate something that's gonna be specific to us, what has worked, what hasn't. I feel like that's another great benefit of having you as a sounding board.
Brittany: All right. So tell me your thoughts on. A first look for one of your couples. Do you like them? Do you not like them? I feel like 50% of the people that I talk to are like, nope, we're not doing a first look. And the others are like, I couldn't imagine not doing a first look. What is your opinion on this?
Erin: It's still, I think even today is still 50 50, and I honestly think it will forever be 50 50, right? I personally did not do a first look. One of my sisters did not do a first look. Even as we talk about it, after we say, wish we would've done a first look and it is one of those things that it has to be a decision between the couple. Sometimes their fiance is full fledged yes or no and if the other could go either way. Then I would go with whatever decision that person is, headstrong on some of the benefits of a first look that I tell couples when they ask me I'm torn should I, or shouldn't I?
In that event, I do encourage the first look, reason being is that it gives you this intimate moment with just the two of you. A lot of times it's the bride that perhaps doesn't want them to see her beforehand. She really wants that first look magic and I remind them. There's still nothing like seeing you at the end of the aisle, when either they open the doors or they open that curtain or you come walking down, that's still this magic moment where surrounded by your family and friends, everyone is in their seats.
It still has a different feel, whereas not having that first look it's you still get that moment if that makes sense.
Brittany: Chris and I did a first look for our wedding and we were able to spend time together in that moment. Then also we got our photos out of the way, but I felt like there was a weight lifted off of both of our shoulders that it was okay, like now we can focus on the actual wedding and getting married.
There wasn't any type of surprise or anything. And he was still teary eyed at the end of the aisle when I walked in and it was still just as special, but I loved having that moment of being like, how's your day going so far? How are you? We haven't really talked today and joining together before we then got married.
Erin: Yes, absolutely. I had a recent couple that didn't do the first look and my poor groom was a ball of nerves, and when his mom had come down, her and I were talking and she said, I wish they would've done a first look. He could have gotten these nerves out. And it was so great because a lot of the couples think that their parents, because they didn't do one and tradition says. Here his mom was the one saying they should have done one. They could have seen each other and helped the nurse.
I also encourage couples not to get too tied up into the tradition. I love when you involve tradition. And I also love breaking the rules. There does not have to be this rule following when it comes to your wedding. My siblings were my bridesmaids and brides guys because they are the people I am the closest to, I wanted to forever love my wedding photos because I know I love every one of those people.
My husband had a grooms girl, so we broke that. We had my bridesmaids come down to Diana Ross and the Supremes. If you wanna come down to church hymns or Ed Sheeran or Diana Ross do it, do what will make your guests say, oh, that's so Brittany. This is so them because you want your day to represent you?
Don't worry about the rules.
Brittany: I love that. That's great advice. I feel like for anybody in this season, is do what is gonna make you happy and what you're gonna look back on and love so much about your special day.
Brittany: All right. So taking this back to the engagement, let's say somebody listening, maybe isn't in this season or they're already married, but they know somebody who just got engaged. What is a way that you would suggest they could celebrate and be excited for their engaged couple friends in this season for them.
Erin: Absolutely. First and foremost, right away call or text. Somehow let them hear your voice with how excited you are for them. Then it can be anything from buying them a bottle of champagne and a couple of champagne flutes to a cookie delivery or maybe buying her a planning binder. Somehow celebrating them and showering them while they are in that moment of celebration.
Brittany: I think that will also help the couple, spend a little bit more time in the celebration, which is something you recommended. If their people are gathered around celebrating that special moment for them. I think that's great advice. If you are listening and you have friends or people who are about to get engaged as we head into this season of love. Speaking of gifts. We already have tons of ideas in the works for everybody in this bridal season.
So if you are looking for ideas of what to get your friend who just got engaged, or you are the bride looking for ideas of what to give your bridesmaids or what to give the mother of the groom, we are gonna have some really great ideas coming up this week on life with Lovely's Instagram account. So make sure you keep an eye out there for some great gift ideas for this season of life.
Erin, thank you so much for joining us on the podcast today. All this information was so helpful. I know we have even more questions, so you will definitely be back I'm here for it. Can you tell our listeners where they can find you and what your Instagram handle is? They can find me.
Erin: On Instagram at Peaches and Dream. I am Erin, Bruce. Thank you again so much for having me and I am looking forward to coming back.
Brittany: Awesome. Today's episode was so much fun, so I truly appreciate you being here until next time friends. Thanks for listening to today's episode. I can't wait to continue these conversations with you over on Instagram at Life with Loverly until next time.
That was perfect.