20 Questions with Liz Coopersmith

LA’s winningest wedding planner reveals how to make your big day stress-free

Welcome to the very first episode of our new 20 Questions with an Expert series *cue confetti and cheering*! In the coming months, I’ll be interviewing some of the most popular and experienced wedding professionals around to find out how their best-kept secrets can help make your wedding day even better. <!–more–>

First up is the incomparable Liz Coopersmith, wedding planner extraordinaire and proprieter of Silver Charm Events, located here in Los Angeles. I first met Liz when she started writing fabulous guest blogs for our friends at The Broke-Ass Bride. She turns out to be one of the most knowledgeable, warm, professional planners I’ve ever met. The really special thing about Liz is that she truly loves what she does, and makes each bride and every wedding a priority, whether the budget is lavish or relatively modest. Here’s what Liz has to say about choosing a wedding planner, working in LA, and finding the best deals on absolutely everything:

Liz Coopersmith and another happy bride and groom at a wedding she planned. Left image, B&G Photogpraphy; right, Sundance Photography

Liz Coopersmith and another happy bride and groom at a wedding she planned. Left image, B&G Photogpraphy; right, Sundance Photography

1. What is the very first thing that a bride-to-be should do after she says “Yes!” to a proposal? After calling her parents and close friends? Sit down with her fiancé and figure out a wedding date. And then a budget, keeping in mind that the average cost of a wedding in the U.S. is $25,000, and a little bit higher in metropolitan areas, like L.A.

2. What is the single most important thing that a wedding planner can do for a couple? Allow them to not have their wedding take over their lives. Instant delegation, and a resource encyclopedia for anything you need. You’d be surprised how quickly people get used to it!

3. What’s the best question a couple should ask when considering hiring a wedding planner? It depends on what’s most important to them, and why they want a wedding planner in the first place. Are they just too busy, or just too overwhelmed to even know where to begin? Are they afraid that they’re going to be running around all day at their wedding and won’t be able to enjoy it? Whatever is most important to them is where that question should come from. A wedding planner should be able to answer by walking the couple through how she (or he) can provide the solution. That’s what I do, and if they don’t ask the question first, I always ask what they’re concerned about the most.

4. Would you, or have you, ever said “no” to a couple who wanted to hire you? I haven’t, but there have been times when I’ve come close to wishing that I had! Let’s just say that I now make it rule to get hired by the bride, NOT by the family.  It’s a chemistry thing. Brides need to work with vendors that they’re comfortable with, or else you’re just going to be fighting with them about everything, which makes things…harder. Plus, you shouldn’t pick any of your vendors with a shrug.

5. Weddings require stamina! How do you prepare yourself for the long day of the wedding? I’d say by getting a good night’s sleep the night before, but that would be a lie! Before we head over to a wedding, I treat my assistants and myself to the traditional Awake Tea latte (with vanilla, of course!) at Starbucks. No matter what time of day, that gets us going.  I also spend the next day in bed, no matter what. Okay, there was that one time I had to fly to Italy the next day, so I spent the next day sleeping on the plane!

6. What’s the biggest mistake that brides make on their wedding day? Two things: Trying to do everything themselves. And not taking a minute or five to just look around and appreciate that all the people that they love and who love them are all in one place. It doesn’t happen every day.

7. Is there an etiquette guide or resource that you abide by when helping couples make decisions about their guest lists, seating, etc? I’ve been using Google docs for the past couple of years to present venue and vendor choices to my clients, and to construct day-of timelines. Since the document is online, every one who needs to can look at it and even edit it. Totally beats emailing documents back and forth, because you can track whose been editing, and when.

8. If you could plan your own wedding all over again, is there anything you’d do differently? I might have bought my dress instead of renting it, I think. I say it all the time – now I don’t have anything to clean the kitchen or drink beer in my living room in! I still stand by renting as a valid choice, because I saved a ton of money, and really didn’t care at the time about keeping it. It was that episode of “Friends” that ruined it for me! But other than that, my wedding was EXACTLY what I wanted it to be. Which is what every bride deserves.

9. On average, with your clients, how involved are the grooms in planning? About as involved as they want to be. The funny thing is, with the last two couples that hired me, it was the groom who found me! I haven’t worked with a lot of couples where the groom is completely hands off, and I make it a point at our initial meeting to find out what he wants, too. They always want something, and they love being asked what it is.

10. How do you keep a bride or groom from becoming a bridezilla/groomzilla? I always say that a woman with a wedding planner doesn’t become a Bridezilla, because she knows she has back-up and someone to get her what she wants and needs when she wants and needs it. I haven’t really run into any “Groomzillas”, yet, although there are sometimes conflicts between what she wants and what he wants. In that case, I sit them down, present their options and possible compromises, and give them a deadline to get back to me with their decision.

11. Does the person who’s paying for the wedding also have the right to make wedding-related decisions? Ah. Parents? Tricky. They certainly have a right to be consulted as to where their money is going, yes. But, again, in the face of a conflict, compromise is key. I have a wedding coming up next month where her parents are paying, and they want a traditional wedding cake, and the couple really doesn’t. So, they’re having both cake and pie. Most things can be worked out, you just need to be willing to try and work them out! It’s good practice for when you’re married, trust me.

12. What’s your number one money-saving tip for brides on budget? Rent a reasonably priced venue. That and your reception catering are going to be half your budget.

13. What are your favorite easy and affordable eco-friendly elements to incorporate into a wedding? I LOVE the idea of recyclable and plantable invitations, and there are some very cool email invitations out there these days, too. Plus, pre-owned wedding dresses, of course.

14. Favorite colors and trends for Spring 2010? I’m digging the retro/vintage trend that’s going on right now. And wedding dresses that have an element of color in them, or are just some color other than white or ivory. And I love that serving a dessert other than cake is becoming more popular.

 

15. What’s the best part about planning weddings in LA? There are so many wonderful wedding sites in this town, and I hear about new ones all the time. So many wonderful vendors, so many wonderful options. If there’s anything you want for your wedding, how you want it, it’s here in Los Angeles. Plus, you can’t beat the weather, right?

16. Do you have a favorite secret or little-known LA venue or ceremony site that you’d like to share with Recycled Bride Blog readers? We promise not to tell. I’m coordinating a wedding in August at the Hotel Maya in Long Beach. It was fully renovated last year into this hip Mayan wonderland. There’s even a fire pit outside in the cocktail area, and it’s gorgeous. Their customer service is very good, too, which is important. How people treat you before your wedding shows how they’re going to treat you during, remember that.

17. We know lots of aspiring wedding planners. As someone who’s turned that dream into a hugely successful reality and now even trains other planners, what do you think are the qualities that an aspiring wedding planner should have or cultivate? Don’t get into this business if you don’ t want to do the work, and by that I mean the research and the follow through to get your couples what they need. You need to be able to keep the wedding day in mind at all times, what it looks like, what needs to get done in order for it to look like that. You also have to be able to stay calm and focused when everyone around you is losing their damn minds! Mad people skills are in order. But, most importantly, if you can’t smile at the thought of the look on the groom’s face when he sees his bride for the first time, then you’re in the wrong business. It’s all about the two of them.

18. You always know about all the best wedding deals in LA. How do you find ‘em? Oh, I can’t tell you that! For one thing, we’d be here all day!

19. Must there be a rehearsal? It seems like walking down the aisle is something that’s pretty easy, yet many coordinators and planners that I know insist on having a rehearsal. Yes, definitely. It’s the difference between saying, “I want the bridesmaids and groomsmen to walk down the aisle”, or something, and actually seeing it in action. Letting everyone know what their cues are. Also helps if the kids know beforehand who they’re coming after or before. And the rehearsal is where you can go over a time line for the whole day, so everyone knows what’s going on and when. I feel it’s essential, even if you can’t do it at the venue itself.

20.  Silver Charm Events has been called “The best wedding planning service in LA”. Tell us what sets you apart from other planning services, and why you’re so darned good at what you do. I won’t stop until I get my couples the wedding day that they want. They know that they can depend on me to follow through when I say I will, and that I’m open to whatever suggestions or questions they have. If something isn’t going to work, I’ll tell them, and I’ll tell them why, and then I’ll find something that will work. My clients know that I am on their side, always. But, I’m not the girl who can move a centerpiece counter-clockwise one inch and change the whole room. I’m the girl who will send you to five people in this city who can, though. Plus, I love what I do, and I think that comes across pretty well. I’m constantly looking at weddings online and wishing I could have been the coordinator! It all looks like so much fun…

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