Why an experienced wedding planner will complete your wedding day

Wedding interview image

Please introduce yourself to our readers.

When Sondra Wagner began her hospitality career in the mid-1980s, she never imagined that it would become her passion over the past 30+ years.

Sondra has been a Director of Catering & Events for the best companies in the world including Hilton, Marriott, Hyatt and Westin properties. Sondra has received premier training from “the best” that the hotel industry has to offer and it has allowed her event experience to be so diverse. One of her most memorable events included the George W. Bush Presidential Rally.

Sondra has budgeted, planned and managed countless top corporate conferences as well as multi-day corporate conventions. Sondra has planned professional boxing events, weddings for all denominations, off-site catering for 2,000+ guests, holiday events and rooftop gourmet dinners including a 4th of July event that ended with a spectacular firework display.

“You have made this so easy!”

Many clients have simply stated that “You have made this so easy”! Clients often describe Sondra as thoughtful and diplomatic as well as having a calm demeanor yet being upbeat and energetic through the whole planning process. She has additionally been described as ethical, trustworthy, professional and detailed. Sondra loves working with people over her long career and SONDRA WAGNER EVENTS promises to work carefully with you.

Sondra has written and reviewed countless contracts as well as she speaks “Hotel”. She can easily navigate through the most daunting and overwhelming paperwork. Her clients get what they need and are safeguarded by the entire team throughout the planning process.

SONDRA WAGNER EVENTS can work with clients from the beginning of your event. If you need assistance, even during the middle of your event, then she can provide her services, including On-Site/Day of Event Management.

To be successful and have the longevity Sondra has had in her extraordinary career, “you have to know your stuff”. This cannot be taught in a classroom. She has been tasked with writing and managing multi-million dollar budgets for the hotel industries best.

Details, timing and management of your budget are the keys to the success of the event. Sondra and her team will manage your event, vendors, details, and invoicing. Everything will be taken care of from beginning to end. Sondra has a network of partners, with whom she has long and trusted relationships, that work together to seamlessly bring your vision to reality. You will be assured of your budget being exactly as you expect as well as on time.

Sondra is married to her husband, Jim, along with their 3 children, Ryan, Josh and Lauren. As wife and mother with a large extended family, Sondra wears many hats taking care of her family, friends and clients.

Regardless of the occasion, a client should always ‘Be a guest at their own event’.

"Getting to be a part in the planning of someone’s wedding was such an honor, such a pleasure, I felt privileged to make their day their BEST day!"

How did you become a wedding planner?

When I first began in the hotel industry, I was also going to school to become an Interpreter for the Deaf (ASL). A few of my classes had cancelled, and coincidentally, I was promoted at the Westin Century Plaza (but I don’t believe in coincidences :) and I remember thinking, “I will take advantage of this promotion with more money and go back to school in the fall”, well that never happened. I found my passion, work was so much fun and fulfilling I did not feel like I was working.

Getting to be a part in the planning of someone’s wedding was such an honor, such a pleasure, I felt privileged to make their day their BEST day! I have done countless weddings of all denominations, from small to large, casual to formal, Christian to Orthodox. I love each couples traditions and dynamics. Don’t get me wrong, there can be challenges. Blended families and strong personalities . . . it takes a firm but gentle touch to ensure the couple is taken care of which is the ultimate goal.

What are the most common questions that couples ask you at the first introductory appointment?

What is my experience? A couple should ask for their Wedding Planners experience, this is a job interview and they want to know who they are potentially hiring.

How many weddings have I planned? Great question! Most planners have testimonials on their websites, but, it is perfectly okay to ask!

Are you available on my date? Prime dates book quickly; just because you are planning 12 months out doesn’t mean your date is always available.

Can you help me select a venue? Your Wedding Planner should definitely get to know the couple and what they are looking for and more importantly, what they are NOT looking for before suggesting several venue options.

Do you have any vendors that you can recommend? Take advantage of the existing relationships your Wedding Planner already has. If they are recommended, you know that your planner has worked well with them before otherwise they would not be a recommendation.

Is it okay to register at for both traditional and non-traditional items? Absolutely! Register for not only what you need, but for what you want. Your guests want to help you start out your marriage, so don’t be afraid to put “whatever” you want on the list.

Is it wrong to state on the invitations “no children”? That is completely up to the couple. In my experience, sometimes parents are looking for a night out and are not offended by that. If you want to play it safe, ask your venue for a “kids room” and hire a babysitter so that your guests can easily check in on their kids without worry.

Do I need to feed my vendors? Again, this is totally up to the couple. Most venues offer Vendor Meals at a discounted price. I think it’s a nice touch if you can afford it.

Is it tacky to ask for money in lieu of gifts? Sometimes couples are “not in their 20’s”, and have already established homes so it is perfectly acceptable to have guests donate to your honeymoon fund, new home fund . . . whatever you call it, it’s ok :).

Will having my wedding on another date other than Saturday save us money? You bet it will! Saturdays are the prime day, followed by Fridays and Sundays. Many venues are typically dark on weekdays, so opt for a Monday-Thursday wedding and you will find huge savings.

Is it strange to have a wedding in the morning? It will save you money, and the perfect time for the wedding is when the couple wants it! Of course, you want your guests to be accommodated, but I always tell my couples to do what makes THEM happy and everything else will fall into place.

Do we have to host the bar? The answer is simple, no. And, should you want to add that on as you get closer to the wedding you certainly can. I always advise contracting the absolute minimum with your venue because you can always add to the minimum, but you cannot subtract from it.

How to find the perfect wedding planner for my wedding?

Do your homework? Check out their website, social media and references. If someone has been in the business for a while, they would not survive if they did not have some kind of success. Most importantly, meet with them in person and make sure that you connect with them and feel totally comfortable. This is an important decision, and you do not want to regret entrusting such an important day to someone with whom you have doubts.

How long do most couples spend planning their wedding?

In my experience, the average is length of time couples spend planning their weddings is 12-18 months. Some couples will plan beyond that, sometimes due to finances or just because they want to enjoy being engaged. Regardless of the length of time couples should not settle, and live with the regret of a decision for years to come (i.e. venue, date, colors etc.). I do try to remind couples that they need to focus on the marriage and not the wedding. The wedding is one day, but the marriage is a lifetime.

Why is planning a wedding so stressful?

It is stressful because it is an emotional decision, it is personal. Normally multiple family members are involved in the planning and everyone wants to participate. That can be very enjoyable, but can also add undue stress to the couple. Remember to take others input “with a grain of salt”. I know that sounds easy, but, take advantage of your Wedding Planner and have them run interference to ensure that you are not bulldozed by family and friends good intentions.

"Eliminate the negativity, and don’t let other personalities take control over your day. - MOST IMPORTANT!"

What are your best expert wedding planning tips?

- Be selfish! Don’t let others impose their wants and likes on to your wedding. - Enjoy being engaged! It is such a fun, exciting and romantic time for the couple. Take time for themselves, they should surround themselves with those who are supportive and happy for them as a couple. Eliminate the negativity, and don’t let other personalities take control over your day. - MOST IMPORTANT!

Set a budget, a realistic budget and stick to it. Do not go into debt for your wedding! If you start your marriage out with the debt of a wedding, you are on a path of stress down the road. As I have said many times over the years, “a bigger wedding does not a better marriage make”.

What are the typical services/packages offered by wedding planners?

I offer (3) packages to assist my clients in budgeting. Premier (Full-Service start to finish), Classic Package (Partial Planning), and Essentials Package (Day OF Management Only). I can also customize a package based on the couples needs. Most planners offer packages, which spells out exactly what they are getting for their money, which makes budgeting easy for the couple. However, there are some planners that will line item each service, which, in my opinion, is confusing and hard to budget for the couple. At the end of the day, it is up to the couple to pick the offerings that they feel will truly fit their needs. Again, contract the minimum and you can always add more on later.

I offer (3) packages to assist my clients in budgeting. Premier (Full-Service start to finish), Classic Package (Partial Planning), and Essentials Package (Day OF Management Only).

How do you handle difficult family situations?

These days, there are many blended and extended families, the Ex-Wife/Husband and let’s not forget the Step-parents. I have had to run interference on more than one occasion. I recall having a lovely bride who’s soon-to-be-step-mother-in-law was . . . let’s just say challenging. I am sure she had good intentions, however, this was not her day as much as she wanted it to be. Remaining calm, firm and professional go a long way. The family members are emotional, so it is much easier to be the 3rd party who is not caught up in the history of the emotions.

What were two of your most challenging weddings?

It’s hard to narrow it down to just two weddings, but: - I was hired to plan the wedding of a couple and they put so much focus on the wedding, truly SO much focus, and never really discussed beyond the day of the wedding. They both had 2 completely different visions of the wedding, their marriage . . . it was very emotional for them. The cancelled the wedding 6 days prior to the wedding. Each coming to me separately to ask what they should do. Sometimes you do end up being a marriage counselor of sorts.

I always try to give advice as I would to one of my children. At my encouragement, I suggested they calmly sit down and decide if they were indeed on the same page. Once the emotions had calmed down, they really had a breakthrough and they did get married. I do think to have that situation before the wedding made them realize that they needed to take a step back and look at this from fresh eyes. And yes, they are still happily married.

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