Advice: Think Big, Go Small
Two top event gurus share tips, trends, and industry secrets for making wedding dreams a reality | Photographs by Lauren Max
Owner, Holly-Kate and Company
As an avid trail runner and lover of the great outdoors, Holly-Kate Foss sees the Northwest from some pretty amazing out of-the-way spots, and that works well as a metaphor for what she brings to the wedding world. The experienced event consultant has a natural but sweetly left-of-center approach to design, and she’s definitely not one to shy away from hard work and challenging situations.
Q | What should couples know about choosing an event planner who really fits their style and budget?
A | I tell potential clients to meet with a few of us and make sure there’s a “click” there. There is a real community within the industry and we often refer clients to each other when we know there is a better fit. Couples themselves will know it’s right when the vendor is organized and understands their vision; they should feel listened to, and they should feel really confident that the vendor is capable of executing their vision.
Q | What’s your first order of business with couples?
A | I ask them to prioritize the three things they want their guests to experience. Do they want a really great water view? Is it all about the food? A great band? This way, I can keep them on track. As things move along and progress, a couple might say something like, “Maybe we should take these two items off the menu to save money,” but I’ll remind them that they wanted their friends and family to sit down and have a relaxed, formal dinner, and I’ll figure out another way to save money—I might suggest salmon instead of halibut, for example.
“One of my favorite moments is seeing my couple sit down for dinner, look around the room, and just feel total happiness.”
Q | Are you ever surprised by their priorities?
A | The variety of answers is really interesting, but rarely do we hear “We can’t wait to be married.” It’s so easy to get caught up in details and décor. The ceremony piece: that’s really why we’re all there!
Q | Even those of us in the industry can get caught up in those cool elements.
A | It’s true, but wedding vendors know how to choose the details wisely; how to ensure they don’t get lost in a big room with high ceilings, how to make sure they have impact. I do love coming up with new ideas; I want every wedding to be unique. As an example, my dad and I once cut a bunch of logs and rolled in about 60 huge stumps to line the aisle. I never thought I’d use a chainsaw in this line of work! We covered them with candles and it was just really cool.
Q | Where do you see couples getting stuck in the dreaming and planning process?
A | Oftentimes they’ll get hung up on Pinterest images that look cool but really don’t fit what they’re doing. They fall in love with an escort card setup, but don’t realize that they don’t need those for the cocktail party and passed appetizers that they’re doing.
Q | How do you help them cut through the overwhelming amount of inspirational images and hone in on what will really make their day personal, meaningful, and localized?
A | For those who just don’t know what they’re looking for, sure, go online and get some ideas, but then turn it all off. Not everyone has a creative mind, so it can be important to go see what’s out there—but even those who can truly envision their day worry that it will become overly crafty or too “done.” But that’s where we come in. I always have suggestions about making it real, and making it feel right.
My couples have been doing a lot of cakes—like 10 small ones with different flavors and designs.
Dept. of Resources
All my clients get my 12-month checklist, a vendor referral sheet, a budget tracker, and a list of things for visitors to do in Seattle.
I have a couple with a church wedding in lower Queen Anne; we’re drawing out cool the geometric details and mixed metals in the architecture.
Owner, A Kurant Event
There’s a certain type of event consultant who gets into the field for a really simple, pure reason: they like to have a good time. Count Megan Keller among that breed—in fact, go ahead and picture her as the poster child. (Need a for-instance? She had a mechanical bull and a barbecue cookout at her own shindig.) You know what’s really exceptional about fun-loving professionals like Keller? They somehow manage to make organizing, modifying, and coordinating seem enjoyable, too.
Q | Where do you start with new clients?
A | We start with budget. One of the most important things that planners do is keep their clients on budget. I get my couples to think critically about their daydreams and inspiration images. Whether they want a giant campout in the woods or a soirée at the Four Seasons, it’s important to figure out, early on, whether it’s realistic. I can look at a table setup or a floral design and tell them how much it would cost to do 10 of them. If they can’t afford to get their Plan A vision to match up with their guest list and budget, we start taking apart the elements and figuring out a really cool Plan B that will make them really happy.
Q | What should couples do if they aren’t sure they want, need, or can afford a planner or event designer?
A | Starting with a planner at square one doesn’t mean you have to get their full package; meet with us and find out how we can help. It could be that I just meet with a couple three or four times and then again on the day of the wedding. Sometimes they just want my curated list of vendor and location picks, and to have me there at the aisle on the big day, ready to keep things on track. On the other hand, I have clients who are so busy with their lives that they give me full rein to put together an amazing day for them.
“You can’t have a $50k wedding for $25k, but a $25k wedding can still be really fantastic.”
Q | What’s the Kurant Event version of a really amazing day?
A | Intimate, all-inclusive weekends are becoming more popular; you can host a dinner before and a brunch after and really create an authentic experience. I’m planning a wedding at Suncadia right now for 40 or 50 people; the bride has her Jimmy Choos and a beautiful dress, but Cards against Humanity is a major theme. They’re just doing them; they’re being themselves. The more intimate the guest list, the more they know you. You eliminate the people who might be offended or just confused, and you’re left with people who love you and your quirks and passions.
Q | What does working with a wedding planner not get you?
A | The idea that what you spend on planners you save on the deals they get you is a fallacy. I would love to get everyone a price break on everything, but that isn’t how it works with photographers, venues, and florists. I can typically get a discount on rentals and transportation, but I help clients save money and time by helping them understand value within the industry, and connecting them with vendors that match their personality and budget.
Go to Pike Place Market, buy some flowers, and make two centerpieces. Now imagine making 12 of them—on the day of the wedding. If you still want to go without a floral designer, we’ll talk about it.
If you’re getting married on a Saturday, please arrange to miss work on Thursday and Friday, if not the whole week.
Day Dream Deals
Sunday weddings will get you a break all year long, and they’re great if you’re not throwing a rager. But if it’s a rager you want, you can’t beat a Friday, and you can usually get a discount, too.