Planning Your Wedding:
Top Tips from a ProI first met Valentina, the talented wedding planner behind the Stars Inside, when we were both attending the fabulous SNAP Photo Festival this year. We had a truly lovely chat and shared our thoughts on the industry. I was struck both by her genuine sweetness and incredible life story. No surprise then, I immediately thought of her for today’s interview. If you’re planning a wedding, I think you’ll find this interview extremely valuable and I bet you will sense Valentina’s lovely personality shine through her own words. You can follow Valentina’s inspiring work on her website or Instagram.
Hi Vale! Could you tell us something about you and how you ended up becoming a wedding planner?Hi Berni, thank you so much for having me! My journey to finding wedding planning isn’t a straightforward one, but I’ve learned so much from every single part of it. I started off my professional life in the sciences: I did a Masters in Physics with Astrophysics at the University of Bristol and went straight into postgraduate work with the Observational Cosmology group there. Had I stayed 4 years, I would have ended up with a PhD, but the universe had other plans – my mother suddenly started losing her battle with cancer, so I left work to go live with her in our family home in Italy, and nurse her through her last months. After the brain tumour took her, I returned to Bristol but found that I simply didn’t have the strength or passion to return to what I was doing before. It felt like something too big had happened for everything to simply return to how it was. So I quit the PhD and went in search of a vocation. I wanted to let my science brain rest a while, and nurture the artistic side of me – I wanted something physical, creative, and immersive, and found it in the most unexpected place: the circus. I joined a theatre and circus academy and became a trapeze artist for 3 years. I moved to London with my then-boyfriend and decided to find a “real” job that would allow me to start recuperating from the student debt – and still enjoy circus and performing as a hobby. I missed intellectual challenges, so I applied to all the places where someone with a physics degree might reasonably do so – and ended up working on the trading floor of an investment bank (stocks, bonds, etc). They found my circus background hilarious, I think! The role was fulfilling its purpose, but I could feel I wasn’t happy, or truly myself, in that environment. I started thinking about what I might do next… and then the most wonderful thing happened. My boyfriend proposed! So I decided I’d stay at the bank at least until the wedding, in order to save up money – and then figure out what to do. In the meantime, learning about the wedding industry was giving me a lot of purpose and happiness, and I started falling in love with everyone in it. I loved the creativity and passion of all these unstoppable small businesses and found it all fascinating and so gripping. We started working with a wedding planner, whom I now have the great joy of calling both a colleague and a friend. One day she said – Valentina, you’re really good at this, and you seem to love it – have you considered doing this for a job? I hadn’t – but after she said it, I couldn’t stop thinking about it! It was like the answer to a question I didn’t even know I was asking. I started an internship, and training courses, to learn as much as I could and prepare to launch my business in every moment of free time I had. Then, the wedding finally came around, so I quit my job, became a Mrs, went on honeymoon, and the day after I flew back to the UK, I launched The Stars Inside. Now, I know that everything that’s happened has prepared me for this, and there is nowhere I’d rather be.
When it comes to wedding planning, most couples don’t know where to start… What would you recommend to do to start on the right foot?I would say the most important thing to do as soon as you’re engaged is… be engaged! Enjoy the feeling, treasure every moment of this new chapter, and don’t let yourself feel overwhelmed by the pressure of starting to plan the wedding immediately. Give yourself as much time and space as you need. Once you both feel ready, I’d recommend sitting down with a glass of wine and your favourite music in the background – and discussing what you love. Think about what YOU want this to be a celebration of, and how you want to tell your story. Think about what means the most to you, and let it guide you in the allocation of your budget. The venue is the first checkpoint to book so that you can plan the rest of your team around the date and location, but taking a moment to step back and really assess your priorities will allow you to make decisions more naturally. Write down the words that come to mind, and look back at them when you feel like you might be losing your path. If you wrote “fun, laid-back, delicious food” – you probably want a flexible, chilled dry hire venue where you have full control over the schedule, the entertainment, and the food. And if you ever find yourself tearing your hair out over chair covers, take a deep breath, look at that list again, and remind yourself of what really matters to you.
What are the main difficulties people face when organising a wedding?I think there are two main difficulties that newly engaged couples have to contend with. The first is expectations, the second is decision fatigue. The first is inevitable – you’ve had family members and friends get married around you, and now you feel certain things are expected of you. A certain budget, a certain location, a certain guest list size, and a certain style… and so on. Planning a wedding should never be a box-ticking exercise -especially if you don’t even feel like you’ve labelled the boxes yourself. Honest communication with friends and family, flexibility, and a playful attitude can all work wonders for this – take the decision making process lightly, where you can, to try to lessen how much other people’s opinions affect you. Don’t be afraid to show everyone just how excited you are about the choices you’ve made, and be open about the reasons. If something matters a lot to you, but it’s not ‘conventional’, stick to it. You’ll be so glad when your wedding day is a wondrous reflection of who you both are, individually and as a couple, and every guest will enjoy it for that very reason. For the second, the best and only cure is taking some time off. Remember to be yourselves, and catch up on exciting news, hobbies, and passions that have nothing to with the wedding. That’s totally allowed, so don’t feel guilty when you need a break from wedmin. When myself and my husband were planning our wedding, he was a patent attorney and I was working in an investment bank, both of us with 14+ hour working days and our time off together was little, tired, and very precious. As much fun and exciting as daydreaming about your wedding is, it does burn energy, both physically and mentally. Listen to your body and mind, and take breaks when you need them. If your mind is filled with to-dos, empty it onto a physical list – then put it aside, go for a drink, binge-watch Netflix, go for a run, make out, and just generally remind yourselves of how and why you love spending time together. The wedding is just the pretty wrapping – it’s the marriage that you end up with that needs your full attention.
How can a wedding planner make a difference for the couple?Ok, so, I’m definitely biased on this one – but mostly because, having worked alongside a planner for my own wedding, I know first-hand the wonders that she did for us. I heard our married family members and friends telling us how fabulous she was on the day, and how they’d have definitely hired one in hindsight. I know exactly what the wedding planner job entails, how hard myself and my colleagues work, and how much it can give you as a couple. This isn’t a sales pitch for me, I promise – it’s a recommendation that you consider the option, and if you decide to go for it, that you take your time to choose the perfect planner for you. Wedding planners are not just for celebrities; they’re for everyone who wants to make that investment in the value of their time. There are planners for every style, every budget, every geographical region, and every personality, and I’m a very strong believer in being really picky until you’ve found exactly the combination of all those factors that fits you. Depending on size and complexity, a wedding can take anywhere between 200 and 400+ hours to organise (!). If you were involved in ANY other task that time-consuming, you wouldn’t hesitate considering asking for help. By hiring a planner you’re enlisting your very own expert whose sole purpose in life is to make your day awesome, save you time, and make the journey the most smooth, stress-free fun it can be. A wedding planner will help you make the most of the time you have to plan your wedding, while managing your budget, finding you the most highly-recommended suppliers that suit you, taking over the admin and legal concerns, unlocking your creativity, problem solving every obstacle, and being a touch point for everyone on the day itself. Our interests are entirely aligned with yours. We do this job because we love weddings, people, and their stories, and our most genuine reward for the hard work we do is seeing you smile, laugh, and enjoy the ride ♡
What are the main Dos and Don’ts of wedding planning?I think the wedding planning journey is different for every couple – which is part of what makes my job so fascinating. I don’t think any one rule works for everyone, but they’re definitely a few things which I’d recommend trying, in case they do resonate with you! Do – give yourself as long or a short an engagement time as feels right for you. Do – set up shared folders on your computers so you can keep each other in the loop, and feel ready for the admin. Do – have a to-do list, and think about assigning tasks to people/months of the year. Do – have a Pinterest board so you can guide suppliers, but keep it relevant. As soon as you start pinning every other image, the usefulness of it diminishes – and be realistic about understanding the budget involved in some of those images. Do – stay flexible, and consider alternative options where they exist. Nothing will “ruin” your wedding, as long as you’re happy. Do – communicate with each other always, and try to do so gently and thoughtfully. You may not realise how much something means to your partner until you discuss it. Do – invite as many guests as feels meaningful to you. Do – invest in a photographer and videographer. You and your loved ones will relish the fruits of that hard work and that expense for decades to come, and they will forever be little pieces of the world that make you smile whenever you look at them – no matter what is going on around you – so spend as much as you can afford on this. Do – take time off together, and remind yourselves of how much you can’t wait to be husband and wife.
Would you like to add anything from your experience?Only to say that – every problem has a solution, and every closed door opens another. Have fun while planning and styling your wedding, and try to remind yourself that, although your wedding is hopefully a once-in-a-lifetime event, that’s a reason to make the most of it, not make it a cause of anxiety or pressure. It’s one day to be justifiable, fabulously, extra YOU ♡
All photos by Rebecca Carpenter Photography, unless otherwise stated