ASK A WEDDING VENDOR: BLUSH + BOWTIES
We chatted with Alexandra McNamara, Owner and Lead Planner of a team of 10 at Blush + Bowties, a Toronto based boutique-style wedding planning company. We asked Alexandra some commonly asked questions among soon to be married couples and wedding vendors alike.
Photos by Nikki Mills
What are the benefits of hiring a wedding planner? A full service wedding planner is there from the beginning to end, from inception to execution and present in all the in-betweens. A planner provides direction. We aren't there to hijack the process, rather provide a focus for our client's vision. A planner then takes a couple's vision and makes it a reality. It's one thing to be able to dream up a beautiful vision, it's another to make it happen, and that's where an exceptional planner comes in. We ensure our couples hire the most amazing vendors to support their wedding day. After 10 years of planning weddings, the vendors we work with have become like family and we know they will always bring a level of experience and expertise to our couple's wedding day. Ultimately, it's peace of mind. One of the best compliments I have ever received was from a past bride who expressed that she was able to sleep soundly the night before her wedding because she knew our team was there to handle everything and completely take care of the day.
What services do you offer?
We offer full planning, month of coordination plus design, and month of coordination. We also offer destination planning.
What's the difference between day-of coordination and full service wedding planning?
A lot! I also advocate calling it month of coordination VS day of coordination because we work with our clients for the month (or month and a half) before their wedding. In order to offer a comprehensive service of value, I feel a planner needs at least a month to put together a thorough schedule, assess and confirm all the final details, reach out to all vendors, and ensure every logistic has been dealt with. A good way to look at month of planning is that we handle the schedule, manage the final logistics with the vendors, and then run a seamless wedding day.
Full planning is much more involved. We are often working with our couples for a year to a year and a half before their wedding. We cover budget preparation and management, venue recommendations and attendance at site visits, vendor recommendations, managing communication with all vendors, complete design of the wedding along with managing the schedule and all logistics.
What does your booking process look like?
When we receive an inquiry, we begin with a questionnaire to gather information and details about the couple. It’s important to us that the couple’s we work with are a good fit with the Blush & Bowties vibe (not just for our sake but also for theirs). At B & B, we focus more on venues with character, and don’t typically take on banquet hall weddings. Nothing against a banquet hall wedding, it’s just not where our skills lie and we think it’s important couples book planners whose experience suits them best. From there, we set up an initial meet and greet and go from there!
How do you help your couples choose their other wedding vendors?
There are three ways we help narrow in the right vendors to recommend to our couple; budget, aesthetic and personality. For example with a photographer, we’ll narrow in on the couple’s budget for this category and make sure we recommend vendors to suit their budgetary needs. From there we ensure we understand the couple’s preferred aesthetic. Do they like a more light and airy style of photography, more contrast and mood, or something in between? Finally we analyse who we think the couple will vibe with based on personality. Some couple’s want an energetic photographer who will really get them pumped up during their day. While others might prefer someone who is more chill and has a more “fly on the wall” approach.
What's the biggest benefit to having a large team at B+B?
Having a team allows me to focus on the big picture and to be the creative director of my business. I realized that as a business owner, I needed to focus on the big picture, lead my team and put my creative energy into developing B & B and other labours of love. I’ve learnt that if I want to grow my business, I have to delegate and learn to rely on a team.
Tell us about Watson, the office Manager!
Ohhh Watson! Well he is the love of my life (other than my husband Adam) and brings such immense joy to my life. He is a cockapoo and just turned 8. With working from home the last year, he really is just a delight to have on my lap as I work away. He also ensures we get out for a daily walk and get that much needed fresh air!
Where do you draw inspiration from when designing a wedding?
I draw a lot of inspiration from Europe. I lived in England growing up, and spent a lot of time in Europe as a child. There was a simplicity and sense of slow living ingrained in me during these impressionable years. I was inspired and moved by the raw nature of England, the history and detailing of the buildings and the emotion of the landscape. I believe this is why environment is so important to me as a wedding planner, and why I’ve chosen not to plan banquet hall weddings, but instead weddings taking place in unique environments.
Spending time in Europe exposed me to the concept of slow living. Taking time to connect over meals, savouring a special conversation, setting a table with intention and purpose. Slow living is a constant source of inspiration for me as a wedding planner. I focus on designing weddings that encourage conversation and that never feel overworked or over stuffed.
What was the most unique wedding you've ever planned?
Oh so many! The first that came to mind was our couple Cassia and Val’s wedding. They were from LA but their family lived in Ontario. Their wedding was at a hidden art gallery in the west end of Toronto. We converted the parking lot onsite into a ceremony oasis with string lights and tons of colourful flowers. Hunt and Gather (their florist) created this amazing focal wall with giant floral pieces. The party kicked off with a hora under the stars and an Italian inspired family-style dinner catered by Gusto 54 Catering. It was definitely a unique celebration! (see photo above!)
What advice do you have for planners looking to grow a team?
I think the first big step to consider if you are thinking of expanding to a team is to look at the areas of your daily work life that consume you most, bring you the least amount of fulfillment, and could easily be done by someone else. For example, before I had a team and hired help, emails controlled my day. I would receive about 150-200 emails a day, which meant, it’s pretty much all I did. Emails dedicated everything for me. So I think step number 1, is to identify the time sucking tasks a team member could easily handle with the proper training, so you can refocus your energy into running your company and applying your greatest assets back into your business.
My other big piece of advice for planners looking to expand to a team is to systemize your process so training is a breeze. The moment I dug in and systemized every inch of my business, was the moment I realized it didn’t have to be me doing everything, because now I had a blueprint and clear process for training. That is actually a big part of why I launched my online course, The Modern Wedding Planners Collective, where I cover how to streamline your system and establish your process. The course provides over 100 email templates and checklists, along with a full system essential for running a wedding planning business. Getting a system in place means setting your team and new hires up for success.
What has been your most memorable moment as a wedding planner?
Oh wow so many memories. But one of my most memorable moments as a wedding planner was the end of my couple’s wedding and the bride, groom and I ended up in this massive never ending group hug. There were lots of happy tears and the love I felt in that moment is something I try to tap into on the regular to remind myself of how lucky I am to run Blush & Bowties and be a wedding planner.
What has been your favourite celebrity wedding?
The first that came to mind was Hilary Duff’s wedding! Her dress was so contemporary and chic. The vibe was modern and organic which I am all about! It was also quite understated and welcoming with a focus on family and meaning. I am not into the over-the-top stuffy hoopla style of wedding - for me it's all about taking care of the guests versus trying to impress them! Experience VS spectacle is what I always come back to.
This past year has definitely resulted in smaller celebrations. How do you make intimate ceremonies/elopements feel grand?
I think for us it’s less about weddings feeling grand, and more about focusing on the why behind the wedding. For us it always comes back to the word experience. The food, atmosphere, flowers, company, music all play a part in this experience - big or small.
What's your favourite part of the wedding planning process?
The people - both our clients and the amazing people in the wedding industry. It’s pretty darn special to be invited by our couples to be a part of such a momentous occasion in their lives. I also just love a wedding day. It’s incredibly rewarding to see all our plans come to fruition on the actual day of and see the joy and excitement in our coupe’s eyes.
What's the most challenging part of being a wedding planner?
The pressure! Wedding planning requires juggling a lot of balls at once and expectations are high. There are a lot of moving pieces and every wedding is like it’s own unique puzzle. We hold ourselves to high standards, which can mean we are pretty hard on ourselves! But we’ve learned to look at every tough scenario as a way to grow and learn.
Thank you so much for chatting with us, Alex!
To view more information about the offerings at Blush + Bowties, click here. We highly recommend visiting their website to view more examples of their beautiful work! You can also head to their instagram, @blushandbowties for more incredible wedding inspo!
Tale of Tulle, Canadian Wedding Magazine