Today we’re featuring an interview with Omaha wedding planner Carrie Dayton of Carrie Dayton Events & Consulting. For 23 years she’s helped brides and grooms turn their wedding dreams into a reality. She’s developed her expertise in the wedding planning industry by helping plan and design over 350 weddings. Carrie gives us her best tips and advice when it comes to planing and hiring the right wedding creatives.
What inspired you to become a Wedding Planner?
I have always had a love for food, beverage and the hospitality industry. I love making people happy. I love weddings and romance. The natural transition was to combine weddings with making brides and grooms happy. And after 23 years, I have my dream career. There is nothing more amazing than being the last person the bride sees before she walks down the aisle and the first person the bride and groom see as they run up the aisle after they are married. It is such an amazing moment, each couple really glows. I wish everyone could see that moment.
What is one unique quality that you bring to the wedding planning industry?
I have worked in the hotel and catering industry for 23 years. I have held positions such as a potato peeler in a kitchen, banquet server, bartender, front desk manager, hotel sales managers, off-premise catering manager. All of these positions have provided me with a complete understanding of what the vendors (creative partners) go through when producing a wedding. I understand how to speak their industry jargon and help foresee any potential problems before they happen. I’d like to say in all my years ‘I have seen it all… ‘ but I can’t because everything always changes and new situations always come up. I strongly believe my greatest strength is the ability to roll with the punches the day of the wedding. I believe in our business, we should be judged by how we handle a surprise situation rather than forcefully planning a wedding to the point that there is no time for the magic of a wedding to unfold.
I also strongly believe in partnering with vendors as a team versus me telling them what to do. When I open my mind to what each partner brings to the table, the bride and groom reap the rewards. I love working with the creative partners on the day of a wedding to troubleshoot any problems and create magic.
What goes into the inspiration and design process of planning a wedding?
Every couple is different and so is every wedding. All of the couple’s life experiences, tastes, travels, families and beliefs play a huge role in the inspiration and design of a wedding. It is important to sit down with the couple and really, truly understand who they are, where they come from and what they want. It isn’t as simple as ‘What is your theme?’ but rather, a long list of questions including: ‘What do you do on dates together? How do you entertain when friends are at your home? What was your favorite trip together? Do you love animals? What values are important to you?’ And on and on. While these questions are being answered, the inspiration and design of a wedding comes out. It is a fascinating and fun process to watch.
What is the typical timeline you suggest your clients follow when planning a wedding?
Timing is extremely important. If it is done well, no one will notice. If it is done poorly, the guests will be talking for years. In the Midwest, guests prefer to have cocktails and dinner quickly and uninterrupted. If possible, I suggest the couple sees each other before the wedding in a very special and private moment. This serves two purposes: 1) it gives them time to decompress, chat, and truly soak up the day and 2) it allows photography with the wedding party and family to be completed before the wedding. Therefore, the wedding party and family are able to enjoy the cocktail hour while the couple continue to do fun photographs with the photographer. Or, the wedding party and the bride and groom can depart after the ceremony to celebrate with their closest friends while guests participate in the cocktail hour.
I also suggest that cake cutting, toasts and first dances happen when the last person is served their meal. This provides guests with the ability to continue eating while they are watching the reception events unfold. It is important to work with the caterer to know when this happens as to not interrupt the food service. If a couple waits too long to start the reception activities, the guests get up and start moving. It becomes hard to get everyone to focus again.
Are there different ways and options for a bride and groom to involve a Wedding Planner in preparing for their wedding?
Many Wedding Consultants offer a variety of packages such as hourly advice prior to the wedding and/or day of planning only. I would offer cautionary advice on hiring a consultant for the above. During the planning process, a consultant is given the opportunity to truly get to know the bride, groom and all of the creative partners. This provides a seamless transition into a flawless team the day of the wedding. Everyone knows everyone and the consultant knows everything that the bride and groom desire.
What are some ways a bride can save money during her wedding planning process?
A good Wedding Consultant understands the couple’s budget, desires and personality, so that they can guide them to creative partners that match their personality and needs. Sometimes these partners may offer a discount to the couple because they are working with a Wedding Consultant. By allowing a Wedding Consultant to help match a couple to particular creative partners; money, stress and time can be saved by not making the wrong decision. I have seen numerous times where a dress was purchased or a vendor was hired that wasn’t what the bride and groom wanted because they felt pressured by the vendor, parents or both.
It is truly hard to say one ‘thing’ is more important than another when it comes to a wedding and reception, because every couple’s values and preferences are different. But I do suggest that the couple think about what is truly important on their wedding day. Will the $10 paper umbrella/per guest make a difference in the memories that they will have for a lifetime? If the answer is no, then the couple should save their money.
Are there any areas that you recommend that a bride and groom not skimp on?
Please, please do not skimp on photo and film. They are not the same art form and both of the physical memories you will have for your lifetime. Each one has a place at a wedding. A photographer will capture a still moment that shows the wrinkles in a grandmother’s hand or the twinkle in the flower girl’s eye. A videographer will catch the father of the bride wiping a tear away from his eye as his daughter walks down the aisle to her groom during the ‘first look.’ I recently had a mother of the groom not attend the wedding of her son due to an illness. Because the couple didn’t think they needed a video, the mother of the groom will never hear what vows were exchanged or the toast from the best man, and she’ll never see her son dance his first dance with his bride.
We get no ‘do overs’ on weddings. Hiring the right people to capture the moment is imperative.
What is the one single greatest piece of advice that you offer your clients?
With TV shows such as ‘Say Yes to the Dress,’ ‘Platinum Weddings,’ and ‘Four Weddings,’ it is very easy to feel the pressure to be the next biggest, most creative, amazing, spectacular wedding in town. Please remember what the day is truly about. You have found the person you love with all your heart and you are making a commitment to them for the rest of your life. You are saying ‘I choose no one else, you are the one for me and I will be with you now and in the last moments of my life.’ It is a huge celebration that you have found this love. The celebration can take place in a church basement with cake and punch or in the most lavish facility in the country. But either way, you are getting married and at the end of the day it is about the love you share… not the paper umbrellas, candles, linens, china, party favors or the myriad of things we are told we need to have to make the day special. It is already special, you found THE one.
Photography: Iwen Exposures