Andi Compton, our Business Director, planned her own birthday parties as a girl, spent hours making wedding collages as a teenager, and worked at the largest bridal store on the West Coast during college. She eventually answered the call to turn her organization and creativity into a business, Now That’s a Party, wherein she coordinates weddings primarily for Catholic couples.
Today, we’re excited to share with you an inside look at a wedding coordinator’s responsibilities--and how you, as the bride, can have the best experience with your coordinator, if you’ve chosen to hire one, and to anticipate the details that make for a smooth wedding day. Read on for Andi’s testimony, her advice for a joy-filled marriage--the fruit of 10 years with her husband, Matt--and the #1 piece of information to share with your coordinator.
You've loved weddings and had a creative streak for a long time! How did you get started in the wedding industry?
I've been planning parties since my fourth birthday, when I told my parents we were having it at Chuck E. Cheese! Each year my parties got increasingly complex. My parents were very supportive of my ever-growing love of crafts, taking me to the store for classes and demos and letting me take over a cabinet (then a closet) for all of my supplies.
Then at 15, I saw the movie The Wedding Planner. I had no idea people could earn a living getting to help others with parties! This is long before Pinterest, so I’d save my allowance to subscribe to any bridal magazine I could get my hands on, then cut and paste together mock weddings.
In college I worked at Mon Amie, the largest bridal store on the West Coast. I learned so much about the wedding industry and even got to model dresses on the weekends.
When my husband proposed, we came up with a budget and I finally got the chance to learn exactly how to put together the ideas I’d been reading about for so long. After our wedding we were blessed with a bunch of babies (and lots of birthdays to plan!), and I would occasionally help a friend with her wedding.
Soon I was being asked to essentially coordinate these weddings. I felt a pull towards making things official with a name, website, and branding. Then came networking and coordinating styled shoots, where I could meet other local vendors and build a relationship.
Do you work mostly with Catholic couples, or with others, as well? What, to you, sets a Catholic wedding apart?
The majority of the couples I work with are Catholic, and I would really enjoy that being my focus. I still work with secular couples, but they are mostly family friends or referrals.
Jesus Christ is what sets a Catholic wedding apart! Having the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of our Lord truly present at a wedding is just beyond phenomenal.
Do you have any stories of seeing the faith come alive in the couples you've worked with?
I arrived to the church an hour early before one wedding and prayed in the Adoration chapel until the wedding party arrived. At that time, I noticed the groom was nervous. I told him to go and sit in front of our Lord for awhile, and it was beautiful to see him, his brother, and their friend in prayer.
Now That's a Party offers services from basic wedding day timelines to full-on coordination from start to finish. What aspects of wedding planning are your brides most surprised by?
I think the biggest surprises are the little details that can easily be overlooked--like ordering meals for your vendors, packing an overnight bag if you're staying with your new husband in a hotel, and designating plans for cleanup and taking gifts home.
Here’s an example of unexpected details it’s important to plan for: one wedding I did was in a park overlooking the ocean, and the bride had ordered rose petals. I had her look over city regulations, pack a rake for after the ceremony, and schedule the petals into the timeline.
Brides have so much access to visual inspiration, message boards, and dozens more resources when planning their weddings, often before they even meet their vendors. As a coordinator, have you noticed pros and cons to this?
Pinterest can be an awesome tool to visualize your ideas and discover what trends you’re drawn to. On the flip side, it can make everything seem overwhelming; almost paralyzing. The biggest downside for me is having clients say, "Sorry, this isn't really going to be Pinterest-worthy wedding," as if that were the goal.
Becoming a Pinterest trend or getting featured on a wedding blog should never be your focus. Viewers will care about it for a day or so, then move onto the next thing. But the man you're engaged to wants to be your husband for the rest of your life.
Another disadvantage of inspiration overload is that so many wedding images on Instagram, Pinterest, and blogs are simply unattainable to the average couple, yet it can tap into our vanity because we want to fit in. Few wedding blogs feature simple receptions in church hall, yet I've happily coordinated those; and truly, the couples are so filled with the grace of the Holy Spirit from their wedding. It is just beautifully infectious to all their guests.
What's the most helpful thing a couple can do for you, as their coordinator, before and during the big day?
Hands down, send me copies of every single signed contract and give me contact info for each vendor, friend, or family member who will be there for setup, as well as emergency contacts. Once I have all of that info, I can contact each vendor and helper so I know what to expect and can construct a timeline for each person involved, so we are all on the same page. That timeline is gold on the day of!
We’d love to hear stories from some of the weddings you've worked on! Are there any particularly profound moments that stand out to you? Any funny or otherwise memorable ones?
One of the most fun moments at a wedding was when a bride and groom surprised their families with a belly dancing ensemble. One of the groom's cousins came out and played drums with the drummer, and everyone there was really into it. They even danced with swords! Another couple went all out smashing cake into each other's faces. That was rare for me; in my experience, most couples are nice and don't want to make a mess.
Does being immersed in weddings and, by extension, marriage, influence your relationship with your husband and family, and vice versa?
Yes! A big trend I've seen in the past several years is elaborate, showy proposals. They are featured on blogs, go viral on YouTube, and are all over Pinterest. Though I, of course, cherish my husband, he absolutely did not stage a "dream proposal," and I've had to try really hard to develop humility, accepting the reality of what happened and growing in gratitude for who he is. A proposal is all of five minutes, but having someone by your side, someone who constantly chooses to love you in sickness and in health, in bad times and in good…well, that's real love.
Lastly, what distinctively Catholic planning secrets can you share with brides-to-be?
First, before booking any vendors, book your church. Many dioceses require 6-9 months of preparation before the wedding. Second, develop an openness to Natural Family Planning. For many couples, it's their first time delving into the technical aspects after years of just hearing about it. No matter where you’re coming from, learning about the body God gave you is truly empowering.