Carrie Copeland knows a thing or two about planning an event. The Detroit-based socialite serves as special events manager at Affirmations LGBT community center, as well as the head of her own company, Motor City Moments, an event-planning company specializing in fundraisers, birthday parties, relationship celebrations and corporate events. The latter, a pet project of Copeland’s, has been put on hold while she plans her own upcoming wedding – which could be the greatest learning experience of all. The wedding wonder-worker shared with BTL her most useful tips for making your special day ab-so-lute-ly perfect.
1. Work together
The very first thing you should do is spend time with your partner to determine what this celebration means to you and what feelings you’d like to evoke with your event.
Each partner can take a separate piece of paper and write their top-three most important elements of this celebration (the cake, attire, good food, etc.), and three adjectives (romantic, irreverent, sophisticated, etc.) that describe their dream for the overall feel for the wedding/ceremony. After completing these lists separately, come together for a discussion and narrow down your important celebratory elements and adjectives to describe your dream event.
This exercise is a great foundation for future decisions and assists all individuals and businesses who will be helping you to make your dream truly translate into reality.
2. Ask around
As soon as possible, and continuing throughout the course of your planning process, engage in conversations with people in your lives who may not be entirely excited about or supportive of your wedding or commitment ceremony. Ask them their opinions and fears, and patiently answer their questions and express differences of opinion.
Open and respectful dialogue can help diffuse tension and fears or, at the very least, aid in deciding that certain individuals should not be asked to participate in your big day. Remember that your event should reflect the love and happiness you share with your partner – and the last thing you need is pain or drama on this day of celebration.
3. Include your ilk
Beyond traditional bridesmaid and groomsmen roles, find ways to include people in your life who joyously support you and your partner. Consider having loved ones read meaningful song lyrics or a passage from a book, or ask someone special to officiate the ceremony.
4. Outside the box
Remember that you don’t have to be locked into any specific traditions or customs. The sky is the limit when it comes to planning a LGBT wedding or commitment ceremony. Research customs of a wide array of regions and cultures and peruse the Internet for ways other couples celebrated their special days. A great resource for ideas on atypical or non-traditional celebrations is http://www.offbeatbride.com.
5. Money, honey
Make a budget – and stick to it! Costs can wildly inflate if you’re not cautious, so continue to refer back to your budget throughout the planning process. There are tons of books about planning a wedding or commitment ceremony, and they should give you an idea of the average costs of the various elements associated with the celebration.
6. Get real
Be reasonable about your expectations. If you’ve budgeted $20 per person for catering expenses, do not expect lobster or filet mignon. Your vendors should be able to communicate what sort of options would fall within your budget.
7. All about YOU
Personalize! Your wedding or ceremony is an introduction to your loved ones about what you appreciate and value, and what you’re about as a couple. If you’re crafty or have a specific talent, find an opportunity to create something that makes a statement and reflects who you are. Brainstorm things that you love – colors, hobbies, motifs, etc. – and the ways in which you can utilize them on your big day.
Remember: Your loved ones came to the event to celebrate you and your partner, not to attend a bland, cookie-cutter event!
8. The big picture
Small details matter, but don’t obsess over them.
It may seem silly or superfluous to focus on something as miniscule as a specific shade of green, a monogram or napkin rings. While it’s true that these little elements add up to translate your overall concept and dream for the event, getting caught up on every individual element will take away from your enjoyment of a day you should cherish for the rest of your life.
9. The walk-through
Whenever I plan an event, I try to consider how my guests will experience the event from the moment they arrive until the moment they depart. Walking through the event as a guest from beginning to end will help you determine if there are details you hadn’t considered and avert potential problems before they arise.
10. Go gay!
Hire an LGBT-friendly event planner (like me)! Even the most organized couples need some planning guidance or a helping hand on your big day. Because event planners have relationships with reliable and LGBT-friendly vendors, they can help you find businesses that are respectful and excited about your commitment, and often negotiate lower prices for you.