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Ask Anything: 10 questions with Wedding Planner Tammy Nesmith

Wedding Planner Tammy Nesmith answers your questions about "Bridezillas," bridesmaids and budgets. Plus, Veterinarian Dr. Page Wages is now taking your questions.

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How did you get started in the wedding planning business, and what kind of advice would you have for someone who wants to break into the industry themselves? – Jaime Ward, Cary

Jaime, when I realized that I wanted to make this my business, I did as much research as I could. I read as much as I could online and attended Bridal Shows, seminars and classes. Then I started planning weddings for friends and family (free of charge, of course). Eventually, by word of mouth, my passion became my business. My advice would be to learn all you can about the business, try and find a wedding planner that will allow you to shadow and let your family and friends know that you are available. You may want to start out by volunteering your services and then let your creative flair advertise for you.

Have you had anyone act like the "Bridezillas" we see on TV? Some seem to think it’s their "coronation" instead of a union between two people and a celebration for the families. – Laura Mercer, Wilson

Fortunately, I have not had anyone quite that dramatic. Weddings are such an emotional time for the bride, often the planning process gets so overwhelming the bride tends to get caught up in the moment. It's hard to be so emotionally involved and plan everything at the same time.

We're planning a wedding next summer in Wilmington. How do wedding planners bill – percent of budget, flat fee, fee per vendor? – Jane, Wendell

Wedding planners tend to bill differently, using whatever method works for them. Personally, I prefer to use a flat-fee system in which my clients know exactly what their bills will be, which alleviates any misunderstandings or surprises. I also allow my clients to pay in three installments.

If you receive an invitation to a wedding without "and Guest,” is it rude to call and ask if you can bring a guest (for an out of town venue)? I told a friend not to, but she did anyway. – Amy, Raleigh

Normally, if your name is the only name on the envelope, then only you are invited. The only time I would make an exception is if you are engaged or living with someone and the bride may have been unaware of this fact.

I am debating on not having any bridesmaids in my wedding, but I am afraid it might hurt some of my friend's feelings. Are there other ways I can include them in my special day? I'd really just like the ceremony to be about my fiancé and I. – Sarah, Durham

The most important thing to remember when planning your wedding, Sarah, is that it is YOUR day. You do what makes you happy. You can have your girlfriends serve as hostesses, or maybe one can read a poem, sing or serve in some other capacity. I’m sure your friends are going to be happy to just be in attendance.

When sending out wedding invitations, and you do not need anything but monetary gifts, is it OK to put that on the invitations? I know many, many people who give house supplies as wedding gifts, and a lot of the stuff is not needed. What is your opinion? – Mrs. Fabulous, Cary
I always find it in poor taste when I open an invitation to a wedding and it reads “Monetary gifts would be greatly appreciated.” In my opinion, mentioning gifts on the invitation, especially monetary gifts, is a big NO NO and often offends many people. Most guests, if they know the bride and groom well, know what’s needed or will ask. If you insist on mentioning your gift preference, let it be by word of mouth or posted on your wedding Web site. Unless your event is a fundraiser, I don’t in anyway find it appropriate to mention anything on an invitation about gifts.
What is the best way to have alcohol at your reception, without having to handle all the costs yourself? We want to offer our guests a drink or two, however our reception site does not allow a cash bar. It must be open bar. Is it tacky to allow guests to purchase "drink tickets" Is this legal in N.C.? – Jennifer, Cary

Jennifer, since your venue does not allow a cash bar, try having an open bar for a specific amount of time, say an hour or two. You could also set a dollar amount limit for the bar and once that limit is reached, the bar would close. Also you could check with the venue about stocking your own bar. It would be less expensive to purchase alcohol at the ABC Store, and you may be able to return unopened bottles for a full refund. I would not encourage “drink tickets for purchase” for any reason.

What is a polite way to let guests, family and friends know that because they fail to return their RSVP card, they cannot attend the wedding reception? And do you think it is fair for the bride and the wedding director or planner to constantly remind these individuals to return their RSVP card? – Shay, Rocky Mount

That is a tricky situation, Shay, because in my experience, no matter how you stress the importance of the RSVP, you will always have people who will not do it and will show up to the reception. The best way to handle it is to have a seating chart and place cards. I normally have two to three extra tables in the rear for the non-RSVP guests and when those tables are full, I politely explain to others that we are at capacity.

I am getting married in October. We know a lot of people and would love for everyone to come to the ceremony. However, it would be way too expensive to invite everyone to the reception. How can we have a "private" reception by invite only without hurting other people? Is it okay to have an open ceremony and private reception? – Pack08, Morrisville

I get this question a lot and, truthfully, there is no way to invite everyone to the ceremony and only some to the reception, because someone will have their feelings hurt. I would recommend that you scale back the invitation list and only invite guests to the ceremony whom you can afford to invite to the reception.

Both my fiancé and I are about to become graduate students and can't afford an "average" wedding. My fiancé’s parents offered to help us pay for the wedding. But so far, his mom is "taking control" and starting phrases off with "I think we should..." or "We can do this..." Hmmmmmm, I'm thinking, "We?" Also, the majority of the time, she only wants to talk to me about the plans. When we get together lately she pulls me to the side to discuss wedding stuff without my fiancé being around, and I don't like this. Why is she taking my fiancé out of the wedding plan equation? Does she think he doesn't care? I've been told by others it's because she's knows she will get her way if she goes through me. On a different note, I can already tell she wants this wedding to be "nice," meaning expensive nice. She's made comments about the venue and flowers that give me this impression. So when she and her husband (my future in-laws) help us pay for the wedding expenses, how should this happen? I'm hoping they will just give my fiancé the funds and then we can spend it on the wedding how we see fit. Then if we decide to get our cake from Wal-Mart or Costco, I won't have to hear her comments about how a wedding cake shouldn't come from "those" kinds of places. How can I accept their financial offer without it feeling like they are controlling our wedding? 

Well, this won’t be easy. Normally, whoever is dishing out the money expects to have a say in how it's spent. This is where you and your fiancé will have to sit down with your future in-laws and talk. Let them know how much you appreciate their financial help and then tell them how YOU envision your wedding day. Just be prepared and pick your battles carefully. Some things should be compromised on. Bottom line, remember the wedding, no matter how beautiful and spectacular, is one day. We still have to maintain relations beyond that day.


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