The Busy Girl’s Guide to Wedding Planning

Joy Bijou, event planner behind Hydrangeas & Co., walks us through the process.

Joy Bijou is a stationery enthusiast, a super-efficient wedding planner and the brains behind Hydrangeas & Co., a luxury event service based in New York City. Besides throwing a tastefully elegant 50th birthday for her mother and planning her own wedding in record time (a few weeks and six months, respectively), she created her most-epic event to date: a 100-person seated, "Mykonos-themed" poolside dinner party this summer.

When her client called just two weeks prior, Joy scrambled to find orange trees as décor, hire entertainment and create the perfect menu that included tzatziki, hummus and pita. “I didn’t have time to second-guess myself on which chair I chose or which centerpiece would look best,” Joy says. “Every first decision was my last decision and that’s why I think it was such a success.” 

Given that we have three newly engaged women on our team (all with busy schedules!), we asked Joy for her expert tips on planning a wedding in no time. If you can't afford a wedding planner, here's where to begin. 

Start with a specific schedule

Create a timeline and stick to it. Before even working with a client, we establish a budget and then focus on a venue and a date. After that, we book the caterer, florist, DJ, photographer and videographer and get straight to work on the guest list and invitations. We deal with details like the menu, cake, music selection and floral arrangements only after that. If you forget one of the initial steps, you may have to pay a rush fee or miss out on designing something special. 

Expedite your research

WeddingWire will tell you the capacity and cost of venues, instead of calling each place individually to get the information. Carats & Cake has hundreds of venues listed where you can search by state. They help you see a location in a different light because they post pictures of real weddings. The Knot and Here Comes the Guide are also great resources. It definitely helps to have friends and family who can advise you on vendors they’ve used and loved since it could take a few weeks to call the companies on your own. 

Get organized

I make a Google spreadsheet for the budget, writing down all my vendors and what they’re charging me. I’ll mark down when I’ve paid someone a deposit and what my balance is with them straight from my phone. Keep track of vendors with folders for each category—flowers, caterer, etc.—because you’ll have to price out a few different options. You’ll also be able to efficiently show inspiration photos while meeting with them, instead of flipping through 100 different screenshots on your phone.

Be upfront about your timeline and budget

You have to be honest with everyone, tell them you’re in a rush and ask for your options. For example, invitations are a whole different ball game if you have six months or three weeks to get them (hand calligraphy requires more time). To make the planning experience much quicker, walk into a meeting and say “This is my budget.” Instead of an endless back and forth on what certain things cost, say “I’m spending $10,000 on catering. What can I get?” 

Communicate your aesthetic effectively 

To get the most out of meeting with a vendor, know exactly what you want and the look you’re going for. Come prepared with photos. When clients don’t use Pinterest or Instagram, they could talk for hours about what they want but the vendor could be imagining something completely different. Some clients will even show me their bedrooms, the dishes in their closets and old family photos. People will show me anything they could to demonstrate their style and how they live their life. 

Bring the vision together 

An app called Morpholio helps me create moodboards that showcase all my selections in one place. When I’m choosing flowers, napkins and chairs separately, I need to see it all together. After dragging all my pictures onto the board, I can decide if I need a different chair or if the flowers don’t go. Besides allowing me to gather my design thoughts, it helps when meeting with vendors to present the idea for the whole party and not just for their specific category. I’ll show the caterer what I’m doing for flowers and vice versa. 

Have a DIY moment 

To get more bang for your buck when it comes to menus or place cards, go to an invitation store and ask for any extra liners they have leftover from invitations. They’ll be excited to turn a small profit on paper that would normally go to waste. Something else I recommend if you’re on a time crunch and working within a budget is to use ribbon in place of napkin rings—it still gives that beautiful, finished look.

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