Wedding Planning 101


Ms. Bridalicious wants to know: Do I really need a wedding planner?

I decided to ask Heather Sala, the savvy entrepreneur behind HJ Planners and, an online marketplace for brides and grooms. As expected, Heather provided valuable insight worth reading before you decide whether or not to pursue a wedding planner…

Kira: Heather, what would you say to brides that feel like they don’t need a Planner?

Heather: There are different levels of planning, and not everyone may need a full planner. If your onsite venue contact has agreed to do a detailed all inclusive timeline of your entire day (not just the catering aspects) and assist with yours vendors (from makeup artist and hair stylist to transportation coordination and music), you may not even need a day of planner. However, this is the exception, not the rule.

HeatherSala_clicktoTweetMost weddings require the following: Money, moving parts, a timeframe for planning, and a coordinated design. You may be familiar with a couple of these areas (or have a friend who is), but you haven’t dealt with the many and various road blocks that come along with these areas. An experienced planner will have encountered issues and can save you your sanity and money by pre-empting them.


Heather Sala

Planners wear many hats, and most couples would like to just wear one – the one that says “Bride” or “Groom.” We joke at HJ that we are logisticians, human calculators, interior designers, stage directors, babysitters, seamstresses, contract negotiators, therapists, accountants, mediators, circus ring leaders, and magicians.

Kira: I’m curious, what do brides get way too hung up on when planning their wedding?

Heather: The idea that everyone else’s idea MUST be better than their own. Trust yourself! Friends, family and co-workers will all be weighing in with information and their opinions. They may provide perspectives you had not yet considered, but you know yourself and your fiancé. You’ve made plenty of successful decisions together before you were engaged. Have a little faith.

Kira: Can you provide 3 tips for brides that are feeling overwhelmed and unable to articulate their wedding ideas?

Heather: Wedding design is a different world with the arrival of sites like Pinterest, Etsy, The Perfect Palette, Style Me Pretty, tons of blogs, and our new site,

Before you log on or pick up a magazine (and proceed to get inundated with ideas), try starting with this –

1) What colors/images transcend time in your mind? If you don’t want to look back at your wedding in 20 years and think, “Oh, that table linen was so 2014!” the same way that people look back at 1980s hairstyles, then it’s a great idea to jot down the colors you are comfortable seeing decades from now. And if you’re not into color combos, it’s okay! Some of the most beautiful designs we’ve created have been non color-centric. A farm table with different natural arrangements can be just as striking as mint green table cloths with navy napkins.

2) Close your eyes and think of the top moments that make you feel the happiest (the ones that give you warm fuzzies). Did a beach vacation come to mind? Laying on a blanket under the stars? Skiing down a powdery slope? A stroll through a quaint town with little shops? These moments say something about what makes you happy…your wedding day should be made up of moments like these. If you can’t physically have your wedding in a place you love (like a ski chateau), consider bringing elements of that experience into your wedding – i.e. Have your wedding in the winter, find a venue with a fireplace, use luxurious faux fur for bridesmaid wraps, and make your signature drink Hot Chocolate with your favorite liqueur and marshmallows.

HJ Planners

HJ Planners

3) Hire a planner to get you through the basics if you don’t feel comfortable making decisions in this arena. I was a lawyer before I was a planner and designer. When I didn’t feel comfortable with a case, I asked for help. It’s the same concept – don’t try to “go it alone” if you’re just not ready. Many planners offer intro packages to help couples get organized, budget and understand the basics of design.

Kira: What is the difference between a mediocre planner and a phenomenal planner?

Heather: A talented, experienced planner can answer questions about venues and budget that a mediocre and/or inexperienced planner can’t.


1) After discussing my ideas for my wedding, what top 2 venues do you recommend? (research their recommendations when you get home. If they are completely off base, you can assume the planner is not on the same page/does not have the experience necessary)

2) How much do those venues cost to rent/what are their catering minimums?

3) Will you be able to do cost comparisons of everything that I will need to consider for each of these venues? If, in the context of each venue, a dance floor, chairs, tables, linens, uplighting, bars, etc. are not mentioned, the planner may not know their way around the venues in your area.

4) Do you take referral fees from vendors? A good planner will be honest about this. If the planner does take referral fees, you may want to ask for more vendor options than those on the planner’s preferred list. We’ve found that not every vendor is a fit with every client. If they take referral fees, they could be tempted to recommend a vendor that may not be the best option for a client.

5) Can I see pictures of designs that you have created? Look for the details.

6) What is the biggest lesson you have learned as a planner? It’s important that planners stay open to constant improvement. You likely won’t find a great planner who has never faced a challenge. It’s what makes us better at our job.

Thank you, Heather, for your informative responses. You can find Heather at HJ Planners and her newest venture,

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