The Enthusiasts Guide from “Yes” to “I Do”

Host Leah Longbrake is pulling back the veil to bring you honest advice and creative ideas from those in the wedding industry. From the Engagement to the Honeymoon, get all the details you need from wedding and event experts on how to make it your best day ever!

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Where Do I Begin?! What to Do and Where to Start Once You're Engaged

Where Do I Begin?! What to Do and Where to Start Once You're Engaged

YAY! You're engaged!! Now what?! No need to panic. Melanie Tindell, owner of Oak + Honey Event Planning Co., shares her advice on when you really should begin to start planning the big day, and what in specific you should start with. She also breaks down the importance of budgeting and being sustainable.

Get to know Melanie:

Melanie Tindell founded Oak + Honey Event Planning Co. because she has a passion for planning weddings that are meaningful to our couples and their families, and that touch the hearts of everyone in attendance.

As a planner, Melanie spends her days taking care of the many logistics that will ensure your event runs seamlessly, and as a designer, she is always working on creative details that will speak to the couple's personal style. Melanie is passionate about using color, texture, patterns, and locally sourced materials to create an event design aesthetic inspired by you and your love story.

Follow Oak + Honey Event Planning Co. on Instagram and Facebook!

This has been a production of Evergreen Podcasts. A special thank you to Executive Producers David Moss, Gerardo Orlando, Production Director Brigid Coyne and Audio Engineers, Sean Rule-Hoffman and Declan Rohrs.

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Leah Longbrake:
Hello and welcome to Weddings Unveiled, the podcast for your wedding planning process. I'm your host Leah Longbrake. We know how exciting and stressful planning the big day can be, and we're here to help, providing you with information and advice from industry insiders and those with firsthand experience. On today's episode, we have Melanie Tindell, owner of Oak + Honey Event Planning Company who will share her insight on what to do once you're engaged and where you should start in the planning process. So welcome to Weddings Unveiled, Melanie. Tell us how you decided to get into event planning and start Oak + Honey.

Melanie Tindell:
So thanks for having me today, Leah. I started Oak + Honey Event Planning Company about six years ago. I used to be an interior designer and specialized in healthcare interiors. From there, I started to realize at the tail end of 10 years in the industry I was getting a bit burnout with the type of work I was doing. So I'd always thought about doing event planning, and once my husband and I had relocated back to Cleveland, I decided to start the business and just started adding weddings over the years and evolving the size. Then in the past few years, we've added in corporate and nonprofit work as well.

Leah Longbrake:
That's awesome. Full disclosure for listeners, you were my wedding coordinator and you guys did a fantastic job. What are the big focuses for your company? Something that I love is your sustainable practices. What made you decide to have such a strong sustainable focus? Were you seeing a lot of waste happening in weddings and events?

Melanie Tindell:
Yeah, so my husband and I lived in Denver for 10 years and we were so used to living green there that when we relocated back to Cleveland, we were still implementing things. But as I started thinking about starting this business, I thought there is so much waste that's happening, from food waste to floral to rentals, coming up with a way to reduce that impact on the environment. So I felt really strongly that we wanted to focus on that piece.

Leah Longbrake:
So tell us some of the ways you implement that.

Melanie Tindell:
Yeah. So when we always sit down with a client, we talk about that it doesn't have to be a zero waste wedding, of course. There are clients that would like that. But any piece that you do to reduce your impact on the environment is an improvement in my opinion. So talking about from food waste standpoint, if we're recycling, if we're composting, if the venues are on board and caterers are on board, that can really make a huge impact. Then also just things like sourcing things locally or flowers locally, or thinking about how much you're printing. Do you really need the menus the day of? What are those details? Really thinking them through.

Melanie Tindell:
So making them thought out, not just like, "Oh, everybody on Pinterest has this, or I saw so-and-so did this so I want to do that." Because I think that that is a lot of what happens with weddings. If you really think about what you want and what speaks to the two of you when you get married and what you enjoy, that's super helpful.

Leah Longbrake:
So you brought up Pinterest, which I know is probably taking over the wedding planning process. We can get more into that in a second, but for couples that just get engaged or newly engaged, do you start planning right away? Where do you even begin in the process? Or where should you begin?

Melanie Tindell:
Right. So I think a couple things, I think it's key to enjoy your engagement. Sit back and kind of bask in the glow of being engaged and then move into your planning. Do not feel like literally the next week you have to move in. Yes, the wedding world is crazy. You need to lock in a venue and all of these things, but it's stressful. So you want to make sure that you take that time and you really think about what the two of you want if it hasn't been a discussion. So upfront, I would say have did the most uncomfortable conversation which is the budget.

Leah Longbrake:
Oh, yes.

Melanie Tindell:
Honestly, that's where you need to start. You can't jump in, start looking at venues and then build your budget off of where you book, because potentially you could overspend on a venue and get into where you can't afford that space or can't afford the caterer that's exclusive there. So really thinking about that is key. You may have things that are super important to the two of you that you want to take that into account and not skip over those pieces. So sitting down, talking about who's contributing to the budget, who's paying for what, how or if the parents are involved, how are you receiving that money.

Melanie Tindell:
I always recommend to our clients, ask them for if they say, "Oh, we'll pay for this, this and this," just have them give a lump sum and put it into an account that then in turn you and your fiance can pull from. Because sometimes we've seen where maybe the groom's mom or someone is paying for the floral, could be an aunt even, and then they're super nitpicky and the-

Leah Longbrake:
Oh, yeah.

Melanie Tindell:
And they're like, "Oh, the quote is 4,500. No, I only want to pay 3,500." So it gives the couple a little more control in most parts. So I really think that that's key.

Leah Longbrake:
Do you see a lot of couples having to deal with those kind of circumstances where a family member or friend, especially a parent, wants to have more of their say?

Melanie Tindell:
We see it on and off. So a lot of our couples are paying for a larger portion of their wedding themselves, or their parents have said, "Here's your lump sum of money to do what you want with it. Don't spend it all and put it towards a down payment on a house or whatever." So we see it but it's not as frequent I think as some other planners may see. It just depends on the couple.

Leah Longbrake:
Do you find Pinterest to be kind of overtaking though in the planning process now, considering the theme, considering all these early stage things that they should be considering?

Melanie Tindell:
I think in some ways, yes. The downside to Pinterest is that you see something that's gorgeous, you have no idea how much it costs. I mean, floral is a perfect example of that. But I think more and more as Pinterest has been around, I mean, I've been married almost eight years and Pinterest started about the time we started planning. I mean, my wedding was Pinterest throw up. It was before I was a planner. I think now people, what we're seeing is everyone wants it to be personalized to them. So I'm starting to see things kind of trend away from Pinterest, which I like. Probably at least three clients we have don't have Pinterest at all.

Leah Longbrake:
Oh, wow.

Melanie Tindell:
So I think it's hit or miss. I think it also depends on the type of bride. There's people that say, "I never even thought about my wedding. I have no clue. I'm not worried about it."

Leah Longbrake:
What's the biggest mistake couples make when planning?

Melanie Tindell:
Honestly, it goes back to the budget. I think keeping the budget in mind and not overspending, and also using budget templates that are not realistic. So things like using [inaudible 00:07:45] where it takes it down by percentage or things like that. It doesn't take into account what the costs are within the market you live in because potentially you could live in California and what costs something in Ohio doesn't cost the same there. Or same thing with destination. When we do destination, the costs vary based on where we're at. So I think the biggest mistake we see is just not taking into account the budget in general, and really keeping that in your mind through the whole process.

Leah Longbrake:
Are there certain things within the budget that couples forget about or don't realize or think about? I know for me, I didn't consider the cost of stamps for invitations and save the dates and all that. Here I am spending $80 on stamps. I never considered that in my budget.

Melanie Tindell:
Yeah. I think stamps are key. I also think service charges. So based on if it's a caterer or if it's the venue, what those service charges are. Typically they range in any percentage from 20 to 25%. That's typically mostly an administration fee coverage. It's not like a tip for all the servers or anything like that. So I think that is always something that when they get the bill, they're like, "Oh my gosh, that's 25% of the whole bill." So I think that that's key too.

Leah Longbrake:
Absolutely. So as an event planner, why should couples consider hiring one?

Melanie Tindell:
I think it takes a lot of the stress off. Leah, you probably can speak to it a little bit more, but when I got married, I didn't have a planner, and this was before I was even in the industry, a week before the wedding, I was like, "I could really use a damn coordinator." Just to help things run smoothly. But I think having someone to bounce ideas off of that are not a family member, not in the wedding party can really help couples streamline what they're looking for. Also, have somebody to go to, say your soon to be mother-in-law is driving you crazy and you need a tip on how to get through it. I always joke that we're a little bit of therapists.

Leah Longbrake:
Yes, you are.

Melanie Tindell:
On top of helping with planning. But our ultimate goal, at least at Oak + Honey is to make our clients' lives easier. A lot of our clients have jobs that are very demanding. So we try to streamline and make the process as easy as possible. So I think having that planner that you trust and you can really kind of pass things off to is key for couples to kind of help them just enjoy the process.

Leah Longbrake:
I had to attest, you did do that. Because we didn't factor having a wedding planner in our budget. Thought I could just do it all. About six months before the wedding, I just had a breakdown, my fiance, and I'm like, "I can't also be a producer on my wedding day." So he's like, "Okay, we'll find the money." My husband, Patrick still says to this day worth every penny, best investment of the entire wedding. So aside from budget, what are some of the other key things that people should be considering? Once you had the budget, do you go right to the venue? Do you go to your photographer? What's the best order?

Melanie Tindell:
So I think having an open mind on dates is key. So your next step is always going to be going to look for a venue. But you need to keep in mind, you can't target one date. You can say, "We're looking at August and September," but you can't target one weekend for the most part because typically venues book up 18 months out and it really makes it hard for you to lock in a place. So thinking about what all those costs are at the venue, what their catering is, you really kind of need to study that. For us, we always look at budgets based on every single venue. So we give a client a large list of options and we say narrow it down to three or four, and then we'll run budgets on those so they can see the variation between each venue.

Melanie Tindell:
If the catering's different, if what they have in stock in house is different from rentals. But really you want to focus on the budget and the venue together in some ways. So we typically create budgets looking at both of those together and then start moving into your vendors. Of course, your photographer is going to be booked first. Catering, all of those. Think about what your priorities are. If your photographer is not a priority and floral is, then search for a florist first. But just keep in mind that you want to make sure you know what you want.

Melanie Tindell:
So from the standpoint of floral, you don't want to just say, "Here's my budget. I need flowers." You need to have a bit of a direction. So we always do a design packet with our clients before we even put them into floral discussions because they may not know what direction they want to go or what things cost. So we try to get through that hurdle first before really moving into quotes.

Leah Longbrake:
Yeah, because red roses are going to cost a lot more than carnations.

Melanie Tindell:
Yeah. You're [inaudible 00:13:08] a quilt all day long. So we try to streamline it, not only for the vendors, but also for the couples.

Leah Longbrake:
So what should a couple do if one of them is more into the planning process than the other?

Melanie Tindell:
So I will say my husband and I, he doesn't love weddings like I love weddings. What I would do is I would streamline what we were discussing. So he's still wanting to weigh in. I mean, we have all varieties of couples. So sometimes we have a groom that's super, or two men, two women, whatever, both parties are super involved. Sometimes we have where one is and one isn't. So the one that's not, I always say to the one who is really leading the show, present the options with a yes or no answer or three options so that they can easily make a decision.

Melanie Tindell:
We do see sometimes that maybe one is more focused on the budget and the other one's more focused on the whole wedding overall. So just trying to take that into account and reading the personalities. But I think presenting the options to the one that's not super interested is helpful to streamline it and get the feedback that you want. Ultimately, I think they still want to be involved. They want to have a say in their wedding day.

Leah Longbrake:
They just don't want to make all the decisions.

Melanie Tindell:
Right.

Leah Longbrake:
So what do you do if you start to get stressed out and overwhelmed with the planning process? Because there is a lot to it.

Melanie Tindell:
I think breaking it down month by month, knowing what you need to get through within that month is how you need to look at it. Don't think about, "Oh, I have to book 10 vendors right now." Think of it as, "Okay, I've got to get through these three this month and then this, another four the next month." We always have our clients book one vendor at a time so that way they're moving through and not just bombarding them with five different types of vendors, which turns into 20 some at a time that they're reviewing. So we won't move on to the next vendor until they booked the previous one.

Melanie Tindell:
But I think kind of just stepping back, taking a break from the planning if you need to. The world's not going to end. You can stop for a few weeks. Think about what the point of the day is. I think that's the biggest thing is really, it's about a wedding. It's about the couple and you can't just focus on all the details of the wedding. You've got to remember what the purpose of it is.

Leah Longbrake:
The linens are not going to matter down the line.

Melanie Tindell:
Very true. Yes.

Leah Longbrake:
What's one thing that you learned from having your own wedding that you have incorporated now in your career?

Melanie Tindell:
I think really making sure that the couple enjoys the day and takes a moment to themselves is key. Because you can get so caught up in the day and all the details, even with a planner, you're still... I have brides where they're like, "I need to do this. I need to do that." It's like, "We've already got it covered. It's fine." But stepping away and looking back on the reception, if you're outdoors or even indoors, just taking a moment, the two of you to take in what is actually happening because of the day does go fast. As you probably remember Leah.

Leah Longbrake:
Oh, yeah.

Melanie Tindell:
Oh, at the end of the night, you're like, "Oh crap, it's over and I want it to go another three hours," even though you're exhausted. So I think thinking about those pieces and trying to take photographs in your memory of what is happening throughout the day.

Leah Longbrake:
Absolutely. What is the one piece of advice you give to newly engaged couples and newlyweds?

Melanie Tindell:
So I think for newly engaged couples, it is key to remember that you're a team. So I always like to say, "Remember that it's the two of you, it's about the two of you. So focus on that piece." It kind of goes back to the same thing I just said, but you get caught up in so much that's happening and the politics and who's invited and [inaudible 00:17:10] that it takes away from the point of the day. Don't get me wrong. I love all the details. I love floral. I love design. But ultimately, it's still a marriage. It's not just a wedding. So I think that that's key for newly engaged couples to think about because you get lost in it.

Melanie Tindell:
Then for newlyweds, I really think taking the time for date nights is important. I don't like to do the saying of don't go to bed fighting. But I think it's key to still focus on the two of you even when you have kids, because when you have kids, it's crazy, or jobs that are high demand. You still want to make time for the two of you to make sure things... You're still on the same page and still dating versus being just married.

Leah Longbrake:
Any final thoughts about the planning process you want our couples to know?

Melanie Tindell:
Relax. It's okay. We really try to instill to our clients that it is supposed to be a fun, relaxing process. It does not have to be high strung. Just go with the flow. You'll figure it out. Probably, like you said, nobody will remember the linens. Nobody's going to remember if some minute detailed messes up.

Leah Longbrake:
It's all about the couple.

Melanie Tindell:
Yes.

Leah Longbrake:
Well, thank you so much for being on here, Melanie. Tell us how we can get more information on Oak + Honey.

Melanie Tindell:
Thanks for having me, Leah. So you can go to oakandhoneyevents.com and it's spelled out. We also are on Instagram, Oak and, spelled out, Honey Events, and Facebook as well.

Leah Longbrake:
Awesome. Well thank you so much, Melanie.

Melanie Tindell:
Thank you. Have a great day.

Leah Longbrake:
Thanks for listening to Weddings Unveiled. Make sure you subscribe to the show on your favorite podcast app so you never miss an episode. This has been a production of Evergreen Podcasts. A special thank you to executive producers, David Moss and Gerardo Orlando, production director, Brigid Coyne and audio engineers, Sean Rule-Hoffman and Declan Rohrs. Don't forget to enjoy the journey.

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