7 Tips from a Chicago Wedding Planner

7 Tips from a Chicago Wedding Planner
Photo via Leslie Hamer

We know our Zankyou couples are starting to plan the details of their weddings, so we chatted with Chicago-based wedding planner Ali Phillips of Engaging Events by Ali for some professional wedding planning advice.

Ms. Phillips offers some tips on what to look for in a wedding planner and how to stay organized, and she discusses some of the latest wedding trends, as well as her inspiration for planning the perfect wedding.

Wedding to-do list

What are the top 3 things a couple should look for in a wedding planner?

1. Experience – Does the wedding planner have good experience under their belt? How many weddings have they done? Do they attend conferences to stay ahead and get educated? Is this their full-time job? These are questions you should be asking.
2. Connection – You spend a lot of time with your wedding planner during your engagement. He or she is with you at most of your meetings, you email and talk a lot and you need to really like that person and enjoy being with them.
3. Style compatibility – Has the wedding planner you are speaking with done the same style of wedding you are looking to do? They don’t necessarily have to have worked at the venue you are selecting, but do they do events in the style you are looking to do? Ask to see their portfolio of work and make sure it fits your style and aesthetic.

Are there any common misconceptions about wedding planners?
I think one of the main misconceptions is that wedding planners are only for celebrity weddings or weddings with big budgets. Nothing could be further from the truth. A good wedding planner will be able to work with any budget and help you stay on budget and on task. Wedding planners are less of a luxury item and more of a necessity for busy brides and grooms to help keep the planning process moving along smoothly.

Another misconception is that we have this very glamorous job. Sure, we get to go to fun hotels, attend tastings and be at fabulous events on the weekends but we are working and have a job to make sure the wedding goes perfectly. We are not eating and drinking and enjoying like the guests; we are working, and my team and I take that very seriously.

Oh, and we don’t wear heels like in the movie The Wedding Planner. We are on our feet 10+ hours and I wear the most comfortable (read: not super fashionable) shoes I can find.

The Wedding Planner
Jennifer Lopez's organizational skills were realistic. Her choice of footwear? Not so much.

What has been the biggest wedding crisis you’ve had to handle as a wedding planner?
I hate to think that we feel anything as a crisis. Everything that comes up is solvable to me and can be fixed. The most things that we battle with are weather (and bugs) with outdoor weddings and making sure the guests are comfortable. Just because the bride always wanted to get married outside does not mean it is a good idea to have it outside for your guests when it is 90 degrees and there is no shade and no breeze.

What are some wedding trends you’ve seen emerge this year?
I see a return to traditional seated dinners for weddings. And I see wedding cake being a part of the dessert, but not the only dessert. Candy bars, cookie bars, sweets tables and fun passed sweets are very popular lately.

A trend I have not seen going away is the customization and personalization of wedding items. From cute little logos or the couples’ initials on the printed materials, down to the wedding favors.

And colors in flowers are really in right now – mixing up not just one or two colors but multiple colors.

What inspires you as a wedding planner?
I love to travel and find inspiration in everywhere I go. I take pictures in the most random places and think, “Wow, would that work for a wedding?” I love the color combinations at restaurants and bars. I even found these amazing tin lizards on a recent trip to Turks and Caicos and thought, “I would love to design a wedding or party after the lizards.” I brought some home with me and hung them on my wall. Fashion magazines, interior decorating magazines and travel magazines inspire me.

When getting inspired for your own wedding, clip pictures and make a “mood board” of your favorite things and favorite flowers, even pictures of places you have been that made you happy.

What are your tips for couples to stay organized when it comes to their wedding?
I think the best way for a couple to stay organized is to divide and conquer the to-do list. If you make it a collective effort, not only is it fun to be planning your wedding together, but you are also able to help each other make decisions and book vendors. Your wedding planner will provide you with a timeline for this, but if you can sit down and review that together and decide which meetings you will attend in advance.

Also, make sure to get working on the guest list addresses early. It is a tedious process to collect everyone’s addresses, so start working on that early.

Make sure to involve the parties that are paying for the event and keep them updated on when payments are due and when decisions need to be made by.

To book Ali Phillips for your wedding or event, call 773-777-2299 or visit www.engagingeventsbyali.com.

Ali Phillips headshot
Ali Phillips is a member of the Association of Bridal Consultants, the Internal Special Events Society, and the Wedding Industry Professionals Association.

From the moment you are engaged until you are whisked away to the honeymoon suite, Engaging Events by Ali can help with all areas of your wedding planning. From a small cocktail reception to a lavish black-tie dance, Engaging Events can handle your event from start to finish. Ali Phillips is a dedicated self-starter who is goal-oriented, has a professional and positive attitude, and takes a proactive approach to everything she does. She has extensive experience with all aspects of planning a wedding and other social events and has what is takes to create that perfect day! For Ali, no occasion is too large or too small; she treats each event with care, respect, professionalism, and conscientious commitment to excellence.

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    Such great advice from a true pro. Ali is hands down the best wedding planner in the Midwest and I’m so impressed you were able to have her as a guest author. There is a lot of misinformation floating around online right now and it’s great to read an article that is written by someone with more than 200 weddings under her belt and who truly knows her field.

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    Liene Stevens
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    Nice article. It’s definitely true that today you can get a wedding planner for any budget. I always thought it was a lofty thing, but I was able to find one in my price range and I don’t know what I’d have done without her!

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    Kavita
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    Leann
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    I totally agree with your viewpoint of dividing the to-do list. Dividing makes the work easier. Every person responsible for marriage feels himself involved and much more responsible by dividing the work into smaller parts.

    If you are running an event, you are invited to check out what we are building at http://eventplanningbusiness.net/. Your feedback is welcome!

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    mani
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    I think this wedding planner has some misconceptions too :)

    For one, the most important thing a couple should look for in a WP is TALENT because – simply put – there is NO POINT in paying somebody for something (ie management) that you can do yourself by becoming an educated consumer. Speaking about keeping the bride on a budget, btw :)

    Secondly, I am a wedding planner and I do wear heels. In order to stay comfy, I wear dancing shoes with heels (of course!). I would NEVER dress down at an event I help styling, especially when it’s a classy one (mine are) as I consider it to be extremely unprofessional. If you can’t see my point, think about your lawyer showing up for trial in gym clothes because “his/her job is hard” and you’ll see what I mean, hopefully :)

    In a way she is right, the budget is not an issue… The client wants style, class AND management, definitely NOT management “just because”. Unfortunately, I’ve seen a number of weddings that were perfectly managed with mismatching colors and styles. A classy look can be achieved with cheap materials too IF the wedding planner is talented…. which is why talent is so important.

    And no, customization doesn’t mean getting adhesive labels for water bottles with the names and monogram of the couple (it’s CHEESY). Customization means understanding who the client is and styling an event that way, which is WAY more important than budget, timelines and worksheets.

    Of course I use them, but it’s not how I define myself. I’m not a manager, I’m a designer.

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    Rosanna Tarsiero