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The wedding planner

A comforting presence on your busy day

Posted

Hilary Smith says planning a wedding without a wedding planner is like building a house without an architect. She runs her own company, H. Smith and Co., in the Catskills and Poconos area. Since the inception of her company three years ago, she works with couples one-on-one to tailor-make wedding plans and make their visions come true.
The services she offers are either a whole wedding plan or “day-of-coordination” services. For the first option, her involvement starts about one year in advance, and she works on finding the venue to the caterer to the flowers and everything in between. For day-of-coordination services, she steps in only on the day of the wedding and helps things run smoothly. In addition, H. Smith and Co. can rent vintage china, silver, props and decor for any event, not just weddings.
Smith has been in the wedding planning business for a long time, earning her chops with a wedding planner in Litchfield, CT. “I worked for a really exclusive wedding planner. That’s where I learned [the business],” she said. Now Smith brings her skills to our area, as well as her many friends and connections. Couples can choose their vendors and bring them in from other places, but Smith knows people with exceptional services in the area. For example, she often works with Earth Girl Flowers to make flower arrangements and bouquets. “Up here we have a huge community of what I like to call ‘frienders.’ They’re people in the community who are working at a reasonable price, who are great at what they do, and we all know each other and work together.”
Many people might wonder, “Why do I need a wedding planner?” Saving on time and money is what a good wedding planner should do, Smith explained. “I know where to spend, where not to spend, who’s reliable, and who’s a good value.”
The process of hiring Smith as your wedding planner starts with a free consultation. Simply contact her through the website (https://www.hsmithandco.com) to set up a meeting. From there, the next step is to agree on a proposal. After that, the real planning begins.
Smith works with the couples on their vision and budget, and “melds them together.” The hardest part of wedding planning can be staying on budget, and that’s something that Smith helps with. “People look at Pinterest and all these things, and they don’t realize that that picture, just that picture, costs someone like five grand just for that beautiful bar scene,” she said. “So it’s not always realistic. I go over with them: what do you love, what are your non-negotiables, and what can we do with the budget?” One money-saving tip she gives people planning their wedding is to hold it on an “off-day,” not a Friday or Saturday, and during the off-season, like a winter wedding.
The next steps include seeing the site and creating an outline and timeline. Smith works both with weddings held at venues or at a home. She said that a common misconception is that backyard weddings save money. “They can be so magical, but you’re building your own venue, just for 24 hours, which can get expensive,” she said. “So I’ll come out and I’ll look at your house or property and say if I think it’s doable and what would work. Because not everything will work on every property. I’m happy to go out and see everyone for a free wedding consult.”
She then works on getting estimates from all the vendors, collaborating on the concept of the wedding and designing the ceremony. “There’s so many different ideas, from the traditional religious wedding, to a Quaker circle, to their shamanic friend declaring them married.” After that she does a walk-through of the venue and maps out where everything will go, and talks with everyone to go over who is doing what and the timing of everything. “How long the photographer is coming dictates when we need to shoot photos,” she said. “Once I confirm everyone’s roles and time, then I do a master timeline of the day. It starts with hair and makeup, all the way down to the next day when people are coming to take their stuff back, the breakdown.”
Two weeks before the big day, she confirms with all the vendors on date, time, location and directions. And she offers knowledge to people who are coming from out-of-area. “You might want to download directions if you’re going to Long Eddy or Tyler Hill because you won’t have cell service, and you won’t be able to call me to tell me you’re lost.”
She’s there when the tent is being installed. And on the big day, she says she is the first person there and the last to leave. She does everything from set-up, to managing the timeline, and overall making sure the day runs smoothly, including “cajoling, bribing, yelling—although sweetly—all behind the scenes to make sure it all goes the way they had wanted it to go,” she joked.
In addition to the standard wedding services, she will go above and beyond for her clients. She will help guests find accommodations and plan events, such as a post-wedding brunch. She even found a dog-sitter for a couple who wanted their dog to be the ring bearer. This summer she’s organizing a kayaking trip for the wedding guests. “That’s probably my favorite part of it, getting people out and seeing where we are, which I love, I love where we are.”
The wedding season is from June to October, and she does about one or two weddings a month. Most of her clients are from out of town, so for them it’s a destination wedding. She likens it to the popular farm-to-table trend happening in restaurants. “I feel like we’re the farm-to-wedding movement out here,” from the barn or farmhouse venues, to florists growing their own flowers, to a locally curated bar. “I love showing off our hometown,” she said.

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