What does a full-service wedding planner truly mean when they state, “We plan your wedding from A to Z”? Well, we really do plan your wedding from start to finish. Trust me when we say we do a lot, but what are the benefits for you in hiring a full-service wedding planner? There are plenty, but you really don’t get to experience them until you are in the planning phases. Time and time again after the wedding, our couples will share that they would have been lost without us or they couldn’t possibly imagine planning without us. This always warms our hearts because we played an important role on such an important day for them. So what benefits did they experience as you may be thinking of hiring a full-service wedding planner for your big day? We outline the key benefits below that you may not necessarily be thinking about when looking for a full-service wedding planner.

We Are Budget Managers

We’ve planned and executed tons of weddings in our career so we’d like to think we know a thing or two when it comes to the numbers. We understand how much weddings cost, especially the cost of weddings in Toronto. With that being said, it is absolutely crucial to set a preliminary budget with your partner and anyone else who may be involved in the financial planning. However, it’s equally important to understand what the costs of weddings truly are in your market and understand if your budget is realistic enough to meet your wants and needs in the market you are in. Does my budget allow for 200 guests? Does my budget allow for a city venue? Does my budget allow for a dreamy ceiling installation? These may be questions you’ve asked yourself. But, how do you obtain this information when it’s likely your first time planning a wedding? Couples who don’t have a full-service wedding planner from the very beginning often rely on information they find online or begin to collect quotes from the first wedding vendor they need to book – the wedding venue. Although these approaches are a great way to start the budget process, they do have downfalls that ultimately impact the rest of your wedding planning decisions.

Firstly, information online is often misleading. We know, we are writing a blog that is shared online so how will you know if our information is also misleading? Simple. We are planners who manage budgets for our weddings and have first-hand experience of knowing costs for every single vendor you will need for your wedding. The budgets and costs you see online are often national averages of all types of different weddings that vary in guest counts, location, time of year and vendors among other factors. Let’s also not forget they don’t include your specific desires.

Secondly, obtaining venue pricing is absolutely a great way to begin understanding costs and we do encourage this to get your feet wet, but they are only one part of the entire equation. Yes, the wedding venue is the largest investment for your wedding especially if food and beverage is included, however on average, there are 14 vendors in total that are required to execute a wedding. At the time of venue analysis, couples are often not thinking about photography, cinematography, florals and all of the other costs. With a planner by your side from the very beginning, we can help you learn the cost ranges for each wedding vendor and help you prioritize your needs. Is photography a priority? Is cake a priority? Are flowers a priority?

By learning more about your needs, we can allocate funds accordingly while educating you on true wedding costs. This is the first advantage you will experience from a full-service wedding planner. Something we see time and time again is couples spending a huge chunk of their wedding budget on their venue without realizing they still have several other vendors to still hire. The last thing we want to see as planners is you investing heavily in one component of your wedding and sacrificing on your remaining priorities simply because you didn’t have the resources to help you in the first place.

At SJ Soirée, something we like to emphasize is that your budget is always evolving. You may change your mind throughout your planning journey and decide to invest more in certain areas or decide to decrease in others. It’s your wedding after all! This is why we like to call it a preliminary budget as estimations are set from the beginning while actual quotes are received and decisions are made throughout the wedding planning process. We always begin with setting a preliminary budget before working on the fun stuff – scouting venues and hiring a vendor team.

At the end of this blog, we do share what you can expect to spend on your wedding in Toronto so keep reading!

We Are Timeline Creators

Creating a skeleton of your timeline is just as important as setting your preliminary budget from the beginning. If you don’t, you could be making some costly decisions afterwards. How? Let’s take venue scouting as the first example. Your wedding venue charges you for a rental period. Beyond knowing your wedding start time, have you thought about the time required for getting ready or the time required for your florist to set up or your first look at the venue or even a portrait session at the venue before the start time? A detailed timeline created from the very beginning will help aid in the venue conversation so that you can feel confident that you’ve secured the right number of hours. If you realize months down the road that you need more hours with your venue, these ultimately become costs you didn’t account for.

Let’s take photography as the next example. The top question any wedding photographer will ask you is about the number of hours you are looking to secure with them. How do you possibly answer this without a detailed wedding timeline? You can definitely make an educated guess and discuss the day at a high-level with your photographer to get an understanding, but it likely won’t be accurate simply because the photographer doesn’t know all of the details you want planned at that time. Are you planning for a first look before the ceremony? Is there a separate location for the first look from the ceremony venue? How large is the wedding party? All of this, and much more, impacts the number of photography hours you need. At SJ Soirée, we ask these questions from the very beginning and get as close to your day-of wedding timeline as possible, months in advance so that the information you are providing to wedding vendors is accurate. Changes will always occur, however we minimize the time changes for the large events required throughout the day such as getting ready, ceremony time, portrait session and cocktail hour. In addition, our wedding timelines include buffer time where we know things can get delayed. On average, we add 1.5 hours of buffer time that is scattered throughout the day. For example, we add extra time during transportation periods and the transition period of guests moving from cocktail hour to the reception dinner as they find their seats. This is time that is unaccounted for when there is no wedding timeline set from the getgo and without it, you will likely be adding more hours with your photographer later down the road.

Thirdly, we know how important securing a hair and makeup artist is and it’s often the third priority on the list after the venue and photographer. The top question any artist is going to ask you is your getting ready time. So, how do you answer this? Again, it’s another educated guess. Something we see time and time again with our Wedding Management clients is that there has not been sufficient time allotted between the moment you are hair and makeup ready to the moment you need to be at the venue. Time for getting dressed, putting on jewelry, getting ready photos and transportation time is simply scheduled in too short of a time. If you don’t give your artist an accurate getting ready time and realize much later that you need to actually be ready earlier, your artist may not be available to accommodate that request and you could end up rushing the getting ready portion on your wedding day. A full-service wedding planner will create a timeline based on your needs to help you avoid costly and logistical problems down the road.

We Are Your Wedding Roadmap

Every couple has a different planning timeline. You may have 16 months, 10 months or 6 months to plan your wedding. A full-service wedding planner will create a wedding roadmap, along with a wedding checklist, that shows you a visual of what your planning months will look like from when to secure your venue to when you should schedule a trial with your makeup artist. Something you will learn very quickly in the wedding planning process is that there really are no hard deadlines. This means that it’s totally up to you when you want to secure your vendor team. However, full-service wedding planners will first understand your priority vendors – those who you want to secure first – and educate you on when vendors get booked in the planning timeline. For example, if a venue isn’t a priority because you know you want to invest heavily in design, you still need to secure your venue first as it ultimately sets your wedding date. If florals may not be a huge priority but are still required, a full-service wedding planner will still tell you it’s key to book a florist 6 to 8 months in advance as the design process does take time. If your planning timeline is shorter, then your planner will adjust the booking time. There are vendors who you definitely need to book before booking others. If you are looking to secure upgraded tabletop rentals, you wouldn’t do this before knowing the overall look and feel of your design with your florist or decorator to ensure it all looks cohesive. There is a recipe to the chaos, we promise. And this is where a full-service wedding planner will shine.

We Are Venue Scouters

There is much more that meets the eyes than the aesthetic and style of the venue. This, of course, is your priority and what you are mainly focused on. You’ve been dreaming of your wedding day and so you want your wedding venue to be just as exquisite for you and your guests. However, a full-service wedding planner is looking at several other factors to help contribute to finding your dream wedding venue beyond aesthetic such as price and service. We cannot stress enough how important venue service should be a priority for each couple. How quickly did your potential wedding venue get back to your inquiry? Did they offer a site visit? How did they make you feel at the site visit? Were they able to answer all of your questions with full confidence? These are all indications of how you and most importantly, your guests, will be treated on the day of the wedding. Great service, from all of your vendors, is what will make a successful wedding. At SJ Soirée, we bring on the questions for all of your vendors before you book them and you better believe that we have the most questions to ask your wedding venue. What are the setup and teardown times? What is the cancellation and postponement policy? Is there a landmark fee for outside catering? Are there noise restrictions? How many bathrooms are there? Who will be the point of contact? How many parking spots are there? These are just a few of the questions we come prepared to ask. Because this is our full time job, chances are we have worked at the venues you want to explore or at the very least, have had interactions with them. With a full-service wedding planner by your side from the beginning, you can rely on our intel and experience to help you make the best decision on the largest investment of your wedding – your wedding venue.

We Are Interviewers

We mentioned this above and we’ll mention it again. Full-service wedding planners have a laundry list of questions to ask each and every one of your vendors before you secure them with an initial payment and contract signing. We are like the interviewer you never thought you had asking questions you would not have thought of otherwise on your behalf. Simply put, we know what to look for. How does your photographer backup your wedding photos after the wedding? What happens if your hair and makeup artist has a personal emergency? Does your venue have special pricing for vendor meals? What are your caterer’s logistical needs and can your venue accommodate them? What is the service staff to guest ratio at your wedding venue? When does your florist place the floral order? Can your DJ announce reception entrances? Each client’s needs are unique and so our questions are tailored to those needs even with vendors who we have worked with time and time again. Just because we may know their answers, policies and processes, we can’t assume that you do. Another benefit of having a full-service wedding planner by your side while you explore and consult with different wedding vendors is that we will review your agreements with them before you sign them on. Now, we are not lawyers and will always advise you to seek legal advice if necessary, however we know what to look for in these agreements. Are your names and contact information included and correct? Is your wedding date, time, location and other details correct? Are the services that you discussed during the initial consultation outlined thoroughly in the agreement? Do you understand the cancellation and postponement clauses? Believe it or not, there is a lot of reading that can go into these agreements and having a full-service wedding planner from the very beginning will help you source the right vendor and ask the right questions making you feel confident about your choice.

We Are Schedulers

On average, a couple hires 14 vendors for their wedding. Can you imagine the number of meetings you need to have with them discussing floor plans, designs and logistics? Don’t forget the wedding vendors you don’t hire as you explore and vet your options in the beginning. That’s often 2 to 3 wedding vendors per vendor category, if not more! You will usually have up to 50 wedding meetings or more with your vendors from venue site visits and tastings to design meetings and timeline reviews. How can you possibly keep up and manage scheduling in meetings with your vendors while you’re trying to keep up with work and personal commitments? A full-service wedding planner takes the wedding scheduling burden off of your shoulders. We already know your work and social schedules so we take it upon ourselves to get your vendors’ availability and align it with your schedule along with ours, of course. You don’t need to worry about the back and forth emails where you’re trying to get your vendor’s schedule and trying to align it with yours. In fact, we’re not even going to cc you on those emails as we understand how busy you already are. There is no point in filling up your inbox! Full-service wedding planners are really like an executive assistant you’ve never had. If we have to schedule in-person meetings where we know you may need to take a day off of work, you better believe we’re going to make your day off worth it by including meetings with other vendors to get more tasks checked off of our wedding checklist. Do we have a details meeting with your venue? If so, can we fill up the day with a cake tasting or design meeting with your florist? We are always thinking about how we can maximize your time and how we can get multiple wedding tasks completed in that time. Remember the 50 meetings we mentioned above? It’s pretty alarming, but true. Full-service wedding planners can help decrease the number of meetings you have to attend. Of course it’s important for you to attend meetings as you decide on who to hire, what flowers to secure and what the floor plan looks like. However, there are meetings where you simply don’t need to be a part of because your full-service wedding planner can handle them. For example, your photographer may want to review the timeline. Or, your officiant may want to jump on a call to discuss audio logistics. Perhaps your florist wants to cross-reference the floor plan with their centrepiece quantity. Your full-service wedding planner is equipped with these answers and can manage these meetings and correspondence with your vendors while you focus on work or other components of the wedding.

We Are More Than Just Pretty Work

We are more than just the pretty tablescapes you see on Instagram and Pinterest. Let’s take this image for example from one of our very own weddings here at SJ Soirée. What you may see are pretty flowers, perfectly placed napkins and romantic lighting. However, what you don’t see are the hundreds of hours of design planning that went into producing this stunning capture. We’ve listed a few of our wedding design responsibilities below that put this image together:

  • Site visits with venue, florist and caterer to measure, scale and optimize guest flow and overall experience.
  • Three floor plan options outlining various layouts with the sweetheart table, dance floor, guest tables and bar.
  • Comprehensive meetings with the florist to finalize the colour palette, flower types and overall design.
  • In-person design meeting with the rentals company to explore rental options for chairs, tables, linens, tabletop accessories, bar and much more.
  • A detailed Excel spreadsheet outlining the description of each rental and its quantities including the caterer’s needs. We always ensure we add buffers to our quantities for those ‘just in-case’ scenarios because you just never know.
  • Final design meeting with florist to finalize quantities and logistics.
  • Meeting with dance floor vinyl company, day-of stationer and cake artist to finalize their designs to ensure every element looks cohesive to the overall look and feel.
  • A very detailed two-page production schedule that outlines each vendor’s set up time and requirements from the audio & visual team and the florist to the rentals company and caterer to ensure a successful execution.
  • Countless ad hoc meetings and phone calls with the venue, florist and caterer to ensure everything is in order because every vendor’s responsibilities always impacts somebody else.
  • Lead and manage set up for 8 hours before the event start time to ultimately deliver this stunning image.

It takes hundreds of hours, meticulous planning and an unbelievable amount of organization to pull off successful and well-executed events. Do yourself a favour and hire a full-service wedding planner!

We Are the Line of Communication With Your Vendors

Not only do we manage planning timelines, budgets and checklists with you, we manage all of your vendors. We are the go-to person and line of communication for your vendor team. Does your venue need you to send over the revised floor plan? Does your caterer need to add in additional rentals to your rentals list? Does your baker need to see the design board again? Does your photographer need to review the timeline with you? Full-service wedding planners are not only at the beck and call for you, we are also at the beck and call for all of your vendors. Your vendors also have deadlines they need to meet and need to know information as soon as possible to meet your vision. Your vendors also don’t want to burden you with technical and logistical questions because they, too, understand how busy you are. Having a trusted professional by your side who can manage all lines of communication, is detail-oriented and responsive, will not only put your mind at ease, but also your vendors. In fact, many vendors these days either require or strongly advise couples that they need a planner alongside you if you want to work with them. Strong lines of communication with your entire vendor team is incredibly important to ensure your wedding is executed well. Ultimately, we are the glue that holds the entire wedding together. It’s a large responsibility, but we love what we do and we thrive in challenging environments.

We Are Wedding Day Prepared

Have you ever seen wedding planners hold a clipboard throughout the entire day? Clipboards are our most precious item on the wedding day and we will never let it leave our sight. Why you may ask? They contain all of your important wedding information and the documents we’ve created and shared with your vendors to ensure a successful execution of the day. These documents not only include the timeline that we work together on, but they also include the production timeline, load-in maps, photoshoot lists, floor plans, guest dietary restrictions, vendor emergency contact lists, menus, alphabetized seating chart by last name, and what our team especially can’t live without, the set up checklist. Did you want your napkins to be folded in a knot-style? Did you have specific food ordered by the venue to your wedding venue suite before the ceremony? Did you give us your special cake knife and server that’s been passed down through generations? These are just examples of your needs we have listed on our checklist to ensure your wedding day is set up the way you want. On average, it can take us anywhere between 15 to 20 or more hours to put these documents together and you better believe that we’ve been accumulating this information since the moment we begin planning with you. You may have mentioned you and your partner would love a champagne toast with just the two of you right before your ceremony, months before your wedding. A great full-service wedding planner would note this down and ensure the venue provides just that on the big day. At SJ Soirée, we truly treat every wedding as if it is ours and we are prepared in just that way.

We Are Your Friend

Full-service wedding planners wear many hats. Wedding planners are counselors, financial advisors, interior designers, mediators, personal assistants and if you ask us, we’re also magicians! However, the most important hat we wear throughout our planning journey together is being your friend. We don’t want our relationship to be based on a business transaction. We want our relationship to be fun and exciting where we get to learn more about you, where we can schedule lunch consultations and where we can laugh. And as your friend, we always have your best interest in mind. It’s the reason why you hired us in the first place! At SJ Soirée, we truly pride ourselves in building lasting relationships with our clients.

And that’s it friends! This is what a full-service wedding planner truly is and how you can benefit by having one by your side. Your wedding is a large investment and this is one wedding vendor you shouldn’t think twice about. Speaking of wedding investments, we haven’t forgotten about sharing the costs of a wedding in Toronto. Keep reading!

So, what is the cost of a Toronto wedding? No one wedding is the same as each couple has their own set of priorities and desires. There are several factors at play such as location, guest count and time of year to name a few. We at SJ Soirée also specialize in both Western and South Asian weddings so the type of wedding greatly impacts the overall numbers. However, we can provide you with a starting investment based on our knowledge, insight and experience of the Toronto wedding market. For a one day Western wedding for approximately 150 guests in Toronto, the starting investment begins at $80,000. For a one day South Asian wedding for approximately 150 guests in Toronto, the starting investment begins at $100,000. We do want to preface that these numbers are simply ‘starting at’ investments and that your priorities and desires will dictate what your number looks like. Are you inviting more guests? Are you hosting a two day wedding? Are you bringing in upgraded rentals? Are you getting a premium bar? These factors will increase these numbers and are examples of questions you and your partner should be asking yourself when setting out your preliminary budget. We also want to preface that the numbers we’ve shared do not include components such as wedding attire, jewelry, hotel and accommodations and any events taking place before or after the wedding such as a rehearsal dinner, Sangeet, post-brunch or honeymoon. All in all, a wedding is the most expensive party you will likely ever plan and host. Do yourself a favour and hire a full-service wedding planner so you feel confident with the decisions you make throughout your wedding planning journey.