“Jumping The Broom” is a how-to wedding column for Black brides in need of information, organization and inspiration for their nuptials. Follow ESSENCE senior entertainment editor Joi-Marie McKenzie as she plans her August 2019 wedding, and what she learns along the way from experts, wedding planners and vendors that you should try.
It’s true. You need a wedding planner. In fact, it was the first thing I decided to secure when planning my wedding.
Nope! I don’t care if your cousin is used to planning elaborate parties, or that you’re super handy and have already saved a Pinterest board filled with DIY ideas. A wedding planner is not to make your wedding beautiful. Anyone can do that. Instead, a wedding planner is your savior, your sanity, your go-to person on the “day of” to ensure that your day goes smoothly, your vendors show up (on time!) and that all you have to worry about is being a bride.
For my August 2019 wedding, it only took one conversation to know that Yodit Gebreyes Endale, owner and principle at Favored by Yodit Events and Designs, based in the Washington, D.C. area, was my top choice. She’s been planning weddings since 2012 and even planned the high-profile wedding of Prince Yoel of Ethiopia — the great-grandson of Haile Selassie, the last emperor of Ethiopia — to Ariana Austin. I mean, the girl has got royal receipts!
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You might be wondering why I already have a planner nine months away from my wedding date. But Gebreyes Endale told ESSENCE that most couples should secure their planner 18 to 12 months out “to make sure that there’s enough time to really fluctuate all those ideas and all those budget concerns.”
I sat down with her to find out why a wedding planner is necessary — even for the Black bride on a super tight budget — and what to look for in a planner to ensure your big day is special.
Why do I need a wedding planner, seriously?
Gebreyes Endale said it all comes down to “time and money.” It also helps to have “that professional expertise,” she said.
“A lot of times this is the first time a bride is getting married and you’re jumping into something where there’s so many different options and vendors,” she continued. “The planner is really able to cut all those options down to a feasible size so you don’t get overwhelmed. They also help you save you time by canceling out different options from the get go.”
It’s true. When looking for venues, Gebreyes Endale was able to list a few venues that could accommodate 150 guests within my budget, knocking many venues off my list even though I adored their aesthetic.
She also gifted us a “client profile,” which is a super fancy way of saying an amazing Google document that organized the entire wedding. It also included a timeline, checklist, reminders and suggested language for save the dates, invitations, and our wedding website. It even had suggestions on how-to ask our bridal party to be involved in our nuptials.
Terri Baskin Photography
What should I look for in a wedding planner?
“Style is really key. Of course budget is important too,” Gebreyes Endale suggested, telling brides that you should really pick a planner based on their judgement so “you don’t have to worry about them referring a vendor that’s not your style.”
Other important aspects of a wedding planner are professionalism and the “understanding that you’re not hiring someone because they’re your friend, but also because they know what they’re doing.”
It’s also smart to investigate if you’re compatible with your planner. While some wedding planners aren’t flexible to communicating via text, for example, you may want to look for a planner who doesn’t mind your random requests via smartphone.
Gebreyes Endale agreed, saying: “I know some planners, [who say], ‘Oh no, I don’t give out my cell phone number to clients. They’re very stuck in their ways and that deters a lot of clients who need accessibility.”
Other planners won’t plan a destination wedding, while others are up to the challenge. Ask those important questions during your vetting process.
And for your sanity, I suggest doing tons of research on Instagram, which has become a great resource to investigate style and vendor choices. Then reach out to three planners to see if they fit the bill, eventually narrowing it down to one.
Terri Baskin Photography
What if I’m on a budget? What’s the cheapest way to utilize a planner?
Gebreyes Endale said if you’re on a budget, don’t worry. “There’s different levels to a planner,” she said.
If you’re a budget-conscious bride, consider hiring a day-of coordinator instead.
“Brides put the work in by reaching out to vendors,” she explained, “and then the day-of planner will work with those confirmed vendors to make sure the day goes on without a hitch.”
Gebreyes Endale, who plans at least 20 weddings a year, said there are also “month-of coordinators,” who help brides finish planning their weddings six to eight weeks out.
After securing your planner, the next step is securing a venue. We’ll go over what I learned after narrowing down four venues to one unique space perfect for our literary-themed wedding in my next column.
Joi-Marie McKenzie is ESSENCE’s senior entertainment editor. She’s also the author of her debut memoir, The Engagement Game: Why I Said ‘I Don’t’ To Marriage and ‘I Do’ To Me, out now.