*This is a paid post from an APW Sponsor*
When doing interviews, one of most common questions I get asked is, “Looking back at your wedding, what would you do differently?” And my pretty honest stock answer is, “Nothing really, except possibly have a shorter engagement.” And that’s mostly true. But when I think about it a little more, if I had the current APW resources at my disposal (nothing like inventing the tool you wished you had… too late for yourself), I’d probably hire a wedding planner. Why? Because now I know about sane, skilled, affordable planners like Melanie Hsia at MSH Events in San Francisco.
The reason we didn’t hire a wedding planner is pretty simple: most wedding planners we could find were WIC-crazy, and having a wedding planner that’s not on the same page with you philosophically is going to be a disaster. (No we don’t want favors, no we don’t want fancy linens, no we don’t want a DJ…) And then there is the opposite problem: there are planners that are all awesome philosophy, but not a ton of skills. What you need in a planner is a no-nonsense philosophy AND no-nonsense skills. And that’s what you get with MSH Events. Melanie Hsia is trained, for serious. She double majored in English and Statistics at UC Berkley and then went on to take the wedding planner certificate course at CUS East Bay (three months, eight hours of class a week, memorization and homework).
And that brings me to why, if I were doing it all over again, I’d have a wedding planner. Organizing a wedding is hard work, and more than that, it’s skilled work. Planning a DIY wedding is even harder work. (Because of that, at APW we’ve been working hard to give you all the tools you need to pull this sucker off smoothly). During the planning process I would regularly break down in tears over just how hard we were working for a wedding we wanted to be simple. David would always say to me, “We want things to be nice, and we can’t afford to pay people to help, and that means it’s just hard work.” And he was right. But these days you can hire MSH Events for a starting price of $1,200 for Day-of Coordination and $1,500 for wedding planning (and it’s less, if your wedding has fewer than seventy-five guests). And that money would have been a huge gift to myself (and my sanity, and my friends who could have done less work).
Plus, here is what I’ve realized: a skilled wedding planner does actually save you money. A non-skeezy planner won’t promise to save you money (because they are not a used car salesman), but the reality is, they will. Melanie Hsia knows a ton of Bay Area venues, so she can help you pick the right one. She knows how much booze or compostable plates you really need, so you can avoid buying five times too many. She’ll be able to walk you through simple and affordable ways to make centerpieces (so you don’t spend a zillion dollars at the flower market like I did). She’ll be able to guide you through which DIY projects are worth it, and which ones no one will really notice. That, right there, would have saved me the MSH Events fee, AND a lot of tears. (Melanie isn’t making that claim, but I’m telling you that it would have been true for me, for sure.) She’s there to get it done and can even pull that all-nighter FOR you (ideally all that planning avoids this, but it’s real life so it happens!).
And then there is the organization. The blessed, blessed organization. Melanie sent me a nine page timeline and planning document for a recent wedding and… the heavens opened up and sang. She put it this way:
I actually enjoy the tedious part of planning as much as the creative part. Spreadsheets, floor plans, contracts, online forms, bring them on! I feel like I’ve mastered many of those programs too, so I have a lot of tools at my disposal. Another thing that sets me apart is my level of detail. Planners are generally more detail-oriented than your average person. Up until the day-of, I’m gathering every scrap of information possible; that’s just how I like to prepare. You just have to handle things as they come on the actual day.
And here is the best part. Even though we feature a lot of indie-hip weddings on APW, the truth is, you guys have a LOT of different kinds of weddings (high fives to that). And Melanie is… honest about not being an ultra-hip wedding planner (which I seriously, deep down in my core love). She says:
I’m not really very indie or in love with vintage, and I may be too serious in some respects for some. But I promise I won’t try to pretend that I’m all that just to get business. I want to work with couples to bring THEIR wedding to life, and that can only happen if we’re on the same wavelength. You’re a real person with your own personality and tastes (which could in fact be very traditional), and the variety of weddings we’ve done reflect that. We’ve done everything from an intimate synagogue wedding for twenty-five to a DIY outdoor ski resort reception to a Chinese banquet with a salsa band!
Plus, unlike loads of planners, she’s comfortable working with a whole range of wedding budgets, she says, “I get budgets. Growing up in a typical first-generation Chinese family, do I need to say more? So I’m very comfortable working with budgets big and small. But I’m also upfront about how much things cost, because stuff requires, you know, money. Even as reasonable APW planners, sometimes even we just aren’t a good match and it’s our responsibility to let you know (often with some very helpful suggestions!).”
And finally, she loves working with you guys. She told me, “After almost a year with APW, when people say they found me on APW, it makes my whole day better. Mostly because I know I’m about to have a really great conversation with someone really cool.” So go for it, San Francisco and Bay Area. If I was doing it all over again, I’d hire a planner like Melanie at MSH Events, wrap it in a bow, and call it my wedding gift. Worth it.