Need Some Help Planning Your Wedding?
Please introduce yourself to our readers.
Hi! I’m Erin Daubert Ramirez. I started working in the world of catering in 2006 and have been on the event planning side of the events industry since 2008. My initial work with special events was with corporate and nonprofit, but I entered the world of weddings in 2013 and founded Dotted Events, a wedding and event planning company, in 2014. We are based in Chicago but have worked all across the Midwest and the country.
How did you become a wedding planner?
My favorite thing about my job is seeing how happy the couple and the families are during the dinner reception; they aren’t stressed; they aren’t managing details; they are enjoying the moments and enjoying being together.
While my intention wasn’t to be an event planner when I first entered the events industry, I became hooked early on when I realized my love for logistics, my passion for people and my drive to see each and every project through to the end paired perfectly with the role. When I entered the world of wedding planning, everything was complete… I loved planning the events AND getting to be a part of such a special day.
My favorite thing about my job is seeing how happy the couple and the families are during the dinner reception; they aren’t stressed; they aren’t managing details; they are enjoying the moments and enjoying being together. I feel so fulfilled that all the hours that go into the planning and execution of the day give them the chance to celebrate the union in such a joyous way.
What are the most common questions that couples ask you at the first introductory appointment?
Much of my job during the first appointment is to reassure couples that wherever they are at is okay, and to let them know I’ll serve as a guide to help prioritize tasks and check things off the list.
- Are we doing okay?
I get questions similar to this a lot. Many couples I speak with are overwhelmed by the decisions they need to make or are nervous about making the wrong choices. It’s normal for couples to be questioning what they should be doing after they get engaged. Much of my job during the first appointment is to reassure couples that wherever they are at is okay and to let them know I’ll serve as a guide to help prioritize tasks and check things off the list.
- Is our wedding budget accurate?
Most couples have a number of what their wedding budget is in mind when I first meet with them, but most have never planned something with so many moving parts, so many considerations, and something quite so personal. By getting a good sense of what the couple and their families prioritize, the location and season of the wedding, the guest list, etc., I help them identify if the budget they had in mind is on point, or if there are some recommended tweaks that should be made to help them to have their priorities.
What question do couples invariably forget to ask?
Who should come to our meetings with our planner? Family dynamics are unique for each wedding. Sometimes one partner is the lead with the planning and the primary contact, sometimes the couple is, sometimes the couple and their parents are, and still, sometimes a parent is taking the lead if the couple is very busy. The couple should be aware and behind all major decisions regardless of the dynamic, but whoever is a key decision-maker in the wedding planning process should be included in the planning meetings. Without them, decisions get made at the meeting and then need to be re-made later or someone gets upset. It’s best to think through who the one, two, three or four people are who need to be involved in making decisions and include them in planning meetings.
How long do most couples spend planning their wedding?
Most of my couples get married 14-18 months after they are engaged.
Top venues and vendors in Chicago get booked early, so they often book more than a year out. However, I would say many of my couples wait 1-3 months before starting the planning. I’ve also had some couples who have booked me before getting engaged! And others who have booked me just 4-6 months out to do full planning, so it varies based on the couple and situation.
How to find the perfect wedding planner for my wedding?
- What are your budget and desired level of service?
As with any kind of vendor, there is a wide array of price points in the wedding planning and management (coordination) market. Once you start meeting with planners and seeing what options are available your budget may adjust based on your expectations, desires and style, but at least you have a starting point.
Your wedding is an incredibly personal celebration, and it’s important to select a planner who vibes with your vision.
- What is your style?
Your wedding is an incredibly personal celebration, and it’s important to select a planner who vibes with your vision. Renowned San Francisco planner Alicia Falango of Alicia K Designs suggests discussing the planner’s process. Start by looking at their portfolio. Some planners showcase a gallery of weddings with a specific and distinctive look, while other planners showcase an array of weddings and are more adaptable to the styles and tastes of their clients. Knowing the difference is important. You want to make sure your planner understands you and your vision for the day and has experience with events that have a similar style so you have the confidence your wedding day will be executed just as you imagined.
- What is your planner’s personality?
You want to vibe with your planner. You will be working very closely with your planner and want to feel really good about the choice and feel confident that you are on the same page. Trust your gut. Sometimes you’ll want to interview four planners, sometimes just one, but if you feel a connection and trust them, it’s probably a good fit. If you don’t, keep looking.
How do wedding planners charge?
Some planners charge hourly. However, in Chicago, the most common method is a set price based on the level of service.
There are a couple of main ways to charge. Some planners charge hourly. However, in Chicago, the most common method is a set price based on the level of service. A planner typically meets with the couple to determine what level of service would be appropriate and, based on the consultation, a proposal with a set fee is proposed. If a client wishes to change the level of service later, then the planner and couple can re-evaluate at that time.
Which portion of the process keeps you busy the most, and what takes the most energy?
Every wedding is a bit different, but working with vendors to book them, and later to communicate all the details is probably the busiest piece. Fortunately, I have a relationship with many Chicago area vendors, so I know how they work and their preferences when they are booking and once they are booked, but there are still a lot of pieces to pull together.
What does your day at the wedding itself look like typically?
My team is on site to make sure the day is executed, the other vendors do what they are contracted to do, and any issues are resolved without the couple and family even knowing about them.
Each wedding day really varies based on how where the couple is getting ready in comparison to the venue(s), how many venues there are, and the level of service they have contracted. I am typically on site from 10-16 hours, with an assistant or two on site for much of the day as well.
I usually check in with the couple while they are getting ready, but depending on location, that’s not always possible. I often head to the reception venue to oversee work there and then leave an assistant there to continue overseeing the set-up before heading to the ceremony. Once the couple is down the aisle, I’ll head back to the dinner reception venue to make sure things are moving smoothly. I stay through the end of the wedding to make sure the day continues as planned. I’m exhausted at the end of a wedding day, but it is totally worth it!
My team is on site to make sure the day is executed, the other vendors do what they are contracted to do, and any issues are resolved without the couple and family even knowing about them. We also try to go above and beyond throughout the day in little ways. What’s the groom’s drink of choice? We’ll go grab it for him. Does the couple really want pictures with their sorority sisters or workgroup? We’ll rally-up the crew with the photographer.
If you could ask one thing of the grooms and brides that would make your job at their wedding easier, what would it be?
What are the family dynamics around your wedding? If they are a full planning client who is coming to me early in the process, they may not even know the dynamics yet because not enough of the planning process has unraveled. If they are a wedding management (coordination) client, they may have a better sense of that but might not be ready to reveal that with me on the first meeting.