Eight Essential Pre-Wedding Planning Questions to Ask Yourself.
Wedding planner Katrina Otter has been curating beautifully understated celebrations across the UK for more than ten years. Here, she reveals the pre-wedding questions every couple should ask themselves for a regret-free big day. Interview by Jade Beer.
Do I have good chemistry with my planner?
‘We always have an initial meeting to check the personalities are the right fit. I’ve been doing this for ten years, so I get an impression straight away – whether that’s the type of client or style of wedding. My weddings are elegant and timeless and also quite understated so if you want a London ballroom, I’m not your planner. If you want tight balls of flowers, I’m not your planner.
If we’re not right for each other, most of the time, we will both know that. If the initial call only lasts ten minutes, there’s a reason for that. They know it, and so will I. If it’s been an hour and we’ve moved onto the subject of holidays, where they love to eat, that’s when you know the relationship is going to work.
I love my job, I really do, and I have to love my clients and in order to do the best possible job I can for them, I need to get to know them, we both need to enjoy each other’s company. I need to be able to deliver a wedding that’s personal to them, I worry that if I struggle to build a rapport with them, there will be something missing from their wedding. I become friends with a lot of my clients. I’ll still see them long after their wedding.’
Do I understand the planning process?
‘For us the kick-off planning meeting is where it all starts. Here we’ll talk through all the requirements, expectations, ideas, the flow, guest numbers, the style of the wedding. If the couple don’t have a venue booked, that is something we would do straight away. Once that’s secured, we build a planning timeline to work through the stages of the day itself and the priorities – looking at the catering, photography, videography and then working all the way through on a month by month basis to the day itself. We’ll have regular catch up calls, face to face meetings if my clients are based in the UK and of course I am 100% there on the day itself until the last guest and the last supplier leaves.
There is an impulse to book things straight away when you get engaged and that can often lead to a changing of minds further down the line. It’s great if I can be involved from the get-go to ensure that doesn’t happen.
I’ve got a wedding this month and I’ve been working with them since 2018. They’ve had to postpone so many times but soon we will get to that moment of finally, it’s done!’
Who has access to my wedding planner?
‘If other people are going to be involved in the planning of your wedding then it’s best that they are involved in certain parts and not all parts – it might be the food tasting or the venue meetings, rather than the day-to-day decisions. And flag it from the beginning so we can work it out and manage expectations. You do have to involve parents to a degree, especially if they are paying.’
Can this planner handle complicated logistics?
‘This year it has all been about Plan Bs and Plan Cs. Plan B being the wet weather option but Plan C being 40-degree heat for your outdoor ceremony. This falls to me, couples are not typically thinking about these issues. Equally the logistics – in what order are things arriving, travel for guests, where they are going to park. Pinterest and Instagram mean that the pretty side of things is front of mind for couples, never the logistics and that is the most important element of a wedding. Other elements are more exciting – the food, drinks, the flowers. No one stops to think about the power supply because it’s boring, but this is the stuff that is physically going to make your wedding happen.
I love logistics and schedules and I love sharing it with couples because I want them to know that everything is covered and sorted. I don’t want any last-minute panics and for them to say ‘Oh, did we ever sort out bottle removal?’ or ‘How is so-and-so getting from the ceremony to the reception site?’ They can see everything in the schedule.
I don’t shield couples from it, but the logistics are all delivered to them in one document.’
Where will my guests spend the majority of their time?
‘When you’re thinking about how to spend your décor budget, think about where guests are going to spend the most time and focus your energy, effort and resources on those areas – typically the ones where you’ll be dining or where you’ll have the ceremony. One of the first things I do is look at how we are going to divide the space and that really helps to solidify which areas you’ll be using. In a large barn like the one at Tythe, I would look to divide and cluster different zones – a chill out area, dining, a bar area right next to the dance floor. I enjoy looking at that and thinking about how it might work best.
Think of the timings and the flow of the day before booking any suppliers. Try not to use too many spaces. There’s always a temptation to use all of them but guests don’t always want that. It’s better to keep them in a close area, making as few movements as possible. Avoid having part one of the drinks reception here, and part two of the drinks reception there, then here for dancing, there for the bar, here for dining. And always think about how you can re-use and move the florals to get the maximum value from them. If you have a beautiful flower arch for the ceremony, maybe it can become the entrance to the dining room or frame the top table.’
Have I planned enough food and drink?
‘A lack of food or drink can kill a wedding. Before I became a planner, I went to a friend’s wedding that I will remember for all the wrong reasons. They didn’t have canapes during the drinks reception. It was also a cash bar and the drinks were very expensive, no one had brought enough money. There was no evening food and the wedding cake had nuts in it so I couldn’t eat that. Guests were leaving the wedding to go to the restaurant to try to get food. I got back to my Air BNB and got on the phone to order pizza.
A lot of couples are moving away from sharing feasts. They were really popular in 2019 and I love the concept of them. I think now people are returning to something slightly more formal. But sharing-style dessert tables, where you can pick up your own pudding shots and pots and brownies, are really popular still – almost half of my weddings have them. There’s more of a shift to serving vegetarian, vegan and fish dishes with street food trucks in the evening which remain really popular.’
Have I focused enough on what guests love?
‘They remember the setting and the venue. It can take so long to get the venue right, because your choice determines everything.
They categorically remember the food and drink and whether there is enough of it and the entertainment. All of these things are integral to a wedding – everything else is a bonus.
There is a myth that round tables being more sociable. Long tables allow guests to talk to the person opposite, either side of them and next to them. With round tables you are restricted to whoever is either side of you. Long tables are always better for building an atmosphere.’
Can I afford it?
‘Most planners will charge between ten and twenty per cent of the total wedding budget. That figure depends on their level of experience and the style of wedding they’re planning for you. So, it might be ten per cent for a country house wedding where you are in and out in a day but perhaps fifteen per cent for a marquee wedding because there’s more work involved. I will be on site from the moment the marquee goes up – that could be Wednesday, until the moment it comes down, which might be the following Monday.
You can always try to negotiate a fixed fee if you are worried about your fee fluctuating. At Katina Otter Weddings, we are a team of three. Kate does wedding day management which is an on-the-day service. She’ll meet the couple six to eight weeks before-hand, she’ll create a schedule and talk to all the suppliers and she will be there from the morning until all the guests leave at the end of the night. Her services start at £1,500. If it was a marquee wedding, you might want to add on the day before or the derig, you can build up her services depending on what level you need.’
For more information about Katrina Otter Weddings please take a look at her website and Instagram below: