Today, Norm Goldman, Editor of Sketchandtravel and Bookpleasures is pleased to have as a guest Judy Allen. Judy is the author of Your Stress Free Wedding Planner (Sourcebooks, Inc.), as well as five professional books on event planning (John Wiley and Sons).Judy has created-produced-orchestrated special events in over 30 countries for up to
2,000 guests.Good day Judy and thank you for agreeing to our interview.Norm:Judy, could you tell us something about yourself and how you became involved in wedding planning?Judy:I started out in travel and managing one of the highest producing offices for a national chain. As part of my office’s growth, I developed corporate business, which evolved into handling all of their corporate events such as incentives, conferences, conventions, product launches and social corporate branding events.
Subsequently, I joined one of the leading incentive houses to design custom one- of- a kind events around the world for corporate clients.Over ten years ago, I opened my own special events company. As a result, I have created-produced-orchestrated corporate and social special events around the world for over fifteen years, including the gala theatrical opening for Disney’s Beauty and the Beast and the co-ordination of Oscar winning director Norman Jewison’s 25th Anniversary Celebration of Fiddler on the Roof.In addition, I am also the author of five best-selling professional books on event planning that are being used around the world by industry and business professionals, and as teaching tools by Universities and Colleges.The foreign rights for my second book, The Business of Event Planning, have been sold to China and Russia, and Harvard has deemed my third book, Event Planning Ethics and Etiquette, a “must read” for event planning and small business professionals.The event planning series of books came about as a result of my being called “to run and rescue” non-profit gala events days before an event was scheduled to take place.I noticed that many charitable organisations were clueless as to what to be aware of and wary of when planning events. I found this most disturbing.The same situation occurred with wedding planning. Clients or their friends began to consult with me regarding their personal wedding plan needs. I kept hearing from them as to how stressful they found the process to be- the hidden costs and surprises they kept encountering along the way. Because of the direction I am taking my company, I do limit the number of weddings that I personally become involved in.I wrote Your Stress Free Wedding Planner as a means to provide couples with what they need to know from a design, budget, implementation (logistics) and orchestration perspective – not etiquette – when they go to plan their wedding. I wanted to give them a wedding planning tool that would held them enjoy the process, lessen the stress and show them how to create a wedding day that is meaningful, memorable and magical.Norm:Could you tell us something about your book Your Stress Free Wedding Planner?Judy:I have shared with readers the ten key planning steps, that when followed in sequential order, will allow the bride and groom-to-be to create and co-ordinate a wedding that will exceed their expectations and stay within their wedding budget guidelines. It does not matter if a couple has six weeks to plan their wedding or a year or more, the event planning principles I have designed and the order of the steps which be followed for optimum results, remain the same.
Your Stress Free Wedding Planner simplifies the wedding planning process and allows everyone involved to relax, and enjoy the festivities that lead up to this very special day, secure in the knowledge that everything has been attended to.What is unique about Your Stress Free Wedding Planner is the wedding design questionnaire that will show the bride and the groom how to combine their individual wedding visions and take them their personal idea of a dream wedding to one that will become “our” dream wedding. I also show couples contract red flag areas – that can cost them thousands of dollars more than they expected – that they need to be aware of before they sign on the dotted line as well as areas of negotiation and terms and conditions that they need to have amended on their contracts.Norm:If you had to choose 5 of the most romantic wedding destinations in the world, which ones would you choose and why?Judy:For me 5 of the most romantic wedding destinations in the world would be· Greece/Greek Islands for their beauty, ambience and history – you can relax, sightsee, and have fun exploring as a couple:· South Pacific (Bora Bora) – getting married on the beach and honeymooning in an over the water thatched bungalow with glass bottom floors – perfect setting in a romantic paradise· Bali – staying at the Four Seasons that come with private plunge pools and secluded outdoor showers – a romantic hideaway from the world:· Egypt (getting married with Pyramids as the backdrop) then on to the Valley of the Kings/cruising the Nile (honeymoon) exotic and a trip of a lifetime:· Italy – Rome, Venice, Tuscany, Capri, Florence – so many romantic choices to choose from. You can hold your wedding reception in a castle, rent a private villa in Tuscany, hold the wedding and reception there (and honeymoon for the rest of your stay), take-over a medieval hamlet or be married or hold your wedding reception in a winery. Italy just has the air of romance.Norm:You have indicated that you have sailed on all types of yachts/ships. Which yacht or ship did you find to be the most romantic?Judy:Failing to afford chartering your own private yacht and set your own course, I personally found Windstar Cruises to be more romantic than larger cruiselines. I liked the more intimate feeling aboard ship.Their guest count ranges in the low hundreds (148 to 308) as opposed to the in the thousands and they are not geared to having children onboard. I also like that you have the luxury of eating meals at your leisure and not at set times, summoned by a bell.There are no formal seating table assignments – you can dine or your own or with couples you have met, there are no jacket and tie requirements and should you chose dinner can be served to your cabin. I also like the tucked away ports of calls available to you – due to being on a smaller sailing vessel — and the easy on and off of the ship. And sitting out on deck, under the stars when the sails are unfurled is extremely romantic.Norm:What is a wedding planner and how do you separate the good ones from the incompetent?Judy:What is a wedding planner and how do you separate the good ones from the incompetent?In the planning industry there are two types of planners: Event Planners and Wedding Planners.Generally, event planners handle designing and producing corporate, social and non-profit events. The types of events they are involved in can be quite diverse — from complex one-day entertaining events strategically planned to meet business objectives to corporate learning, performance, motivational events and elaborate arrangements of incentive or product launch theme productions that take place over the course of a week around the world. Some event planners handle not only event design, but also education and entertaining components (transportation, accommodation, food, beverage, decor, entertainment, themes) but also multimedia stage production. This is the type of event planning that I have been primarily involved in.Wedding planners work with newly engaged couples to help them create the wedding of their dreams. They take over all the wedding planning and operation requirements, consulting closely with their clients along the way. They are compassionate, caring and adept at handling the emotional elements that are tied to planning a wedding when nerves are frayed, couples get jittery and help find areas of compromise between couples and their families when there are opposing ideas on how the wedding day should unfold. Wedding planners co-ordinate the weddings from beginning to end and are on hand on the wedding day to oversee that all goes as planned. Some wedding planners also handle social events as the two event planning styles are closely aligned whereas event planners who mainly work with corporate and business related social events generally do not cross over into wedding planning as juggling the needs of these two very different clients does not tend to mesh.If couples are considering hiring a wedding planner, I suggest they first read Your Stress Free Wedding Planner.
With this in mind, they will immediately be able to spot the level of competency of a wedding planner, and they will be able to discern if the wedding planner is experienced or not.Experienced wedding planners are able to fully answer questions pertaining to the budget, contract and logistical problems.Check references- not only other wedding couples that have hired them. Also check the venues in which they have held their events.Find out their level of ability e.g. if the wedding planner has only done events for 50 guests or less and your wedding is for 500 or more, there will be a learning curve for the wedding planner – don’t let it be at your expense.Norm:Have you ever planned weddings for any celebrities?Judy:No, not weddings, but social events with Oscar winning guests and celebrities in attendance, such as the theatrical gala premiere of Beauty and the Beast and the co-ordination of Oscar winning director’s Norman Jewison’s 25th Anniversary Celebration for Fiddler on the Roof.Norm:Could you tell us which wedding celebration you had planned that was the most memorable and why?Judy:They are all memorable – each is different and unique.
However, the one that was most memorable was one where I was a guest but got involved when there was a slight glitch.
It was an outdoor reception and the staff carrying the wedding cake out to garden for the cake cutting ceremony, tripped over one of the small children that was attending the event.The child was okay as was the wait staff but the wedding cake landed upside down. Luckily a cloth had been placed over the cake for the reveal and guests were not aware of exactly what had taken place.The cake was carefully righted and I went into the kitchen to meet with the chef to see what the damage had done. The top of the cake was totally smashed. I quickly gathered the bridesmaids’ bouquets that matched the flowers the bride was carrying and with the chef’s help, some plastic wrap (to protect the cake from flowers as flowers were not edible etc.) and icing.The flowers were artfully arranged on top and fresh icing was skilfully applied to mask the dents and damage. The cake was made picture perfect without guests being any the wiser and raves were given to the floral topping on the cake. The bride and groom had been advised of what happened and were trilled with the results.Norm:What is your idea of a unique romantic destination?Judy:The amount of time it takes to get to the Seychelles can be quite daunting with airline connections and layovers (depending where you are travelling) but after arrival, there was never one moment that I regretted the travel time. What is a wonderful romantic combination is doing an African safari first and then flying to the Seychelles for the rest of your stay.Norm:Is there anything else you would like to tell our readers about wedding planning, romantic getaways or wedding destinations?Judy:Should you decide to combine your wedding with your honeymoon, there are now bridal registries that handle weddings and honeymoons at upscale hotel properties around the world.Instead of giving a toaster as a wedding gift, family and friends celebrating your nuptials can contribute to your destination wedding. As an example: the activities on your honeymoon stay, or a couples’ massage or a private romantic dinner for two after the wedding.These individuals work with wedding specialists at the location to pre-arrange all the wedding and personalized honeymoon details.They also advise couples on the legal issues that being married in a specific location will entail.
If couples are planning a destination wedding they need to make sure that all is in order for them to get married and to file their marriage papers after their wedding.One couple that flew to the Caribbean for their wedding did not check into residency requirements for weddings. They did not allow sufficient time and were unable to extend their time on the island, as they had to return to work. Unfortunately, they ended up posing for wedding photographs on the beach and then getting married at home.One last comment, I have a second wedding planner coming out in 2006 called Engaged to Married in Three Months or Less (Sourcebooks, Inc.) and I will be covering destination weddings in the book. Stay tuned!Thanks Judy and good luck with all of your future projects.