Planning A Wedding in The Berkshires


As much as it pains me to admit this, when planning a wedding there is more to it than just the food.

All jokes aside, I am well aware of that fact. We actually take a great deal of care when it comes to working out all of the small details of putting together your dream wedding.

When most of us think about getting married, we think of being surrounded by friends and family as we walk down the aisle in that drop dead gorgeous wedding dress that we spent many hours and late nights finding on Pinterest​.

The reality is, there are SO many different things to consider. Loads of planning, many vendors to meet with and loads of conversations to have. Here I will outline a few steps that can make this process go as smooth (and fun!) as possible.

Hiring a Wedding Planner in The Berkshires:

I highly recommend working with either a planner or a day of coordinator. Believe me, after working on many, many weddings and parties, this step is really a must, 9 out of 10 times. The planner/coordinator will become the middle person, filtering only the important questions your way and will do all of the leg work. Most importantly, a good planner will ensure your wedding day goes as planned and on time. I encourage you to do your homework here and have a few conversations to see who you “click with”, this is important down the road.

Bonus: Try to find a planner that doubles as a designer

This is the reason that my go to planner for my events is always Magdalena of Magdalena Events.

Design:

It is important to start looking at what overall experience you are going for and what appeals most to you. Is food the most important thing? Then you will want to start looking at caterers in your local area. Or, is an amazing venue what you are looking for, with manicured gardens or some where with a view over looking, say The Berkshire Hills? Well, than you will want to start looking at venues first.

Wedding Caterers in The Berkshires:

The majority of what you are looking at in your area will mostly have a similar take or approach to the dinner. Meet (if you can) with your caterer and begin a conversation. Same thing applies here, make sure you click with the caterer. During this period of time, I generally have a conversation over the phone and get to know the client. My style of cooking and presentation is unique and I do my best to articulate that and pay attention to our conversation and how we both can work the best together. Personally (and I am most definitely bias here) I like someone different than the cookie cutter wedding caterer presentation and food options. Think, what did they serve at the last wedding you went to?

-Get quotes. Get at least 3 - 4 quotes from caterers and see what works best for you

-Ask what other expenses are not included in the quote.

Most of the time, caterers will need a list of rentals from the rental company. Most times this price is not included in the initial quote.

Wedding Venues in The Berkshires:

8 out of 10 of my clients have parties at their own private residences. This is a plus for a few reasons — There is not site fee, there are little to no restrictions and you are in control.

That being said, there are some very fun places available to rent. It’s easy to get the ball rolling, just email or call the venue and set up a time to walk around the property with the owner. Each venue can be different with their restrictions. Some of them will require you to end the party at a certain time, some may require you to use their in-house caterer, etc. Make sure you find the restrictions out up front; Clarity is key.

Here are some of my favorite spots for Berkshire Weddings...

August Moon - Sheffield MA

The Mount & The Stables at The Mount - Lenox, MA

Stonover Farm - Lenox, MA

Mass MoCa - North Adams, MA

Wedding Rental Companies in The Berkshires:

This part can be very fun. Think of it as inviting your guests for the first time to your house that you just purchased; what rentals you choose sets the scene for the party. Most websites have an online inventory you can view for wedding dinners, however I highly recommend making an appointment and going to see everything. Sit in the chairs, hold vintage glasses, feel the cloth napkins, smell the wood tables (if you’re into that kind of thing).

Classical Tents and Party Goods boasts a great inventory with turned leg farm tables, rustic colored glasses and mismatched vintage china. Also, check out their copper top bar and dinner tables, they look pretty magical with fairy lights and apothecary jars.

Lighting Designers in The Berkshires:

A good planner or designer will be come in handy here. You will need to consider lighting, especially if you are having a portion of the event outdoors. When in The Berkshires I like working with Julie Seitel, Encore Audio and CJC lighting.

Wedding Bands and Wedding DJs in The Berkshires:

This is something I am sure you have thought about a lot. In my opinion, its good to have a band after speeches and a dj later in the night. I personally love the energy that live music lends. There are many to pick from in The Berkshires, I like working with The Lucky 5, The Easy Riding Papas and Whiskey City. Of course, The only DJ to use in The Berkshires is DJ BFG.

Wedding Florists in The Berkshires:

Another piece of the whole wedding experience is your floral arrangements. Again, do some research here because there are people who just do flower arrangements and then there are companies that have various props (I really love props) and that will design custom seating charts and tablescapes for you. Ask to see your florists previous work and of course google them.

Hands Down, Crocus Hale is my go to florist - amazing style, easy to work with and the Best English Accent in The Berkshires.

Wedding Photographers in The Berkshires:

Coming from the “back of the house” and working with lots of photographers, this is where its good to find someone a bit quirky and forward. Given that my company specializes in highly visual, almost theatre like dinner preparation, I get to work with lots of people with cameras, and I love it. I am always telling people to come closer, asking them if they need me to move anything for them to secure the best shot. There are people that are a bit shy, but you want someone thats going to get right in there.

In the Berkshires, I personally love working with Rebecca Maaia, Eric Limon and Edward Acker.

Also: In this day and age everyone (just about) has a smart phone. Create a unique hashtag so that your guest can post pictures and you can corral them all later, easily.

Lastly...

Here are some details of things that aren’t the first to come up, or things people find out down the road when planning.

Bathrooms:

Not the most glamorous topic, but a necessary topic. Luckily, Port-O-Johns have come a long way and can be pretty neat. I am sure you have gone to a wedding in the past few years and have had the opportunity to use the trailer-style bathrooms; without a doubt, this is the way to go. In The Berkshires I only ever use Yankee Septic. The company has someone on site who periodically goes in and freshens up the restrooms and replenishes what's needed.

Payments:

This is where I highly recommend working with a planner or paying a day of coordinator a little extra to have them handle this important detail. When entering into any of these conversation and signing of contracts with vendors, all of them will require a deposit. The final payment for most of them will be due anywhere from 2 weeks to a week from the party. Well, what do you want to be doing the week before your party? Trying on your gorgeous wedding dress or suit, looking at the perfect hairstyle and makeup design, running an extra 5 miles a day so the dress fits the way you want, and having the thought settle in that you will be finally committing yourself to this person that you have loved so much for so long and how beautiful your future life is going to be together? Or do want want to be making calls to all vendors, waiting for them to call you back with your check book in hand, coordinating the outflow of cash to each vendor.

Nope.

Just hire a planner, they will play phone tag and tell you the total of how much you will need to settle up.. Let me tell you, you think it should be as easy as making a phone call to a vendor and someone picking up and calling you right back, but its not.

Also: Please do not wait until the day of to pay the vendor. Its awkward for both parties. I know that I want my client to focus on the beautiful experience of the day and not have that ruined, even for one minute, to dole of cash.

Clean up:

Yes! What a night! The food was so fantastic! The DJ played amazing songs that you danced so much that your feet went numb, or was it because you had maybe one too many delicious cocktails that the bartender was skillfully shaking? Doesn’t matter, what a great night!

Now, if the party was as good as you say it was, the venue should likely reflect that. Most venues require that you pick up the site and get it back into reasonably good shape. I train my staff to get things packed up the best we can at the end of the night, but there will inevitably be a few rouge wine glasses and beer bottle around the property. I recommend you talk to your caterer and see exactly what their breakdown procedure is and ask if you can hire 2 people for a few hours to come the next day and do a sweep of the area, you can thank me later, after you’ve slept in and rested your feet.

Wedding Budget:

Unless you’ve been married before or put on a wedding caliber party, you may have no idea what planning a wedding costs. You may go into the process with a number in mind and have it be way off. Just as an idea, the average wedding in New England ranged from about $20,000 - $30,000 in 2014, according to The Knot. It’s best to overestimate than under. Get lots of quotes, its actually important to desensitize yourself from the sticker shock. Another thing to think about, when I speak to potential clients, I am very upfront and real with people. Putting together a wedding is expensive. My full on service is more premium, however, I tell you exactly what you are getting and what I need from you. I can’t tell you how many times I have spoken to a someone who decided to go with a different caterer who has contacted me and told me (after the fact) that in the end the more conventional-style caterer ended up costing about the same price. As mentioned earlier, more often than not, you will need to rent a cook’s tent, ovens, grills, tables, etc. And that all adds up very quickly and is often not factored into the initial quote they send.

These are the lions share of important steps and questions for planning a wedding. I have detailed this particular blog to planning a wedding in The Berkshires, though any good planner thats worth their salt will help you design a perfect party in any area. Just as a side note: Heirloom Fire is highly portable. We travel all over the East Coast and beyond and will work with all of the local wedding vendors and farmers in your area to put together all elements of an amazing, communal, one of a kind event. Shameless self promotion? Well, of course! It's my blog!!

Here at Heirloom Fire we can help you plan the entire event soup to nuts (or spark to bonfire). So, now that you have been primed, I'll be waiting for your call.

Happy Planning!

-Jim

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