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It’s said that brides plan their weddings their whole lives. But even if you can imagine every last detail—from your bridesmaids’ signatures on the bottom of your shoes to the pearl monogram on the top of your cake—you still may harbor a touch of insecurity about planning the big day. A wedding planner helps you avoid nightmare scenarios, but what if you’re arranging your wedding on your own?

For some friendly advice, we turned to John Hosek, owner of Surroundings Events and Floral in Verona, Wisconsin. John has coordinated about 50 weddings hosted at Monona Terrace.

Monona Terrace (MT): Everyone talks about planning ‘the perfect day.’ Is there such a thing?

John Hosek (JH): Well, yes and no. Usually everything in the bride’s mind is perfect—she been imagining it that way forever. But the event will be perfect only if she and her partner have realistic expectations. That’s where a budget comes in. Estimate the dress. The headcount. The flowers. See if the totals are fitting within the budget. If they don’t, eliminate or change things so that the numbers work. Staying true to the budget helps you avoid disappointment and get closer to perfection.

Download a budgeting checklist here

MT: Is there one area where you shouldn’t skimp?

JH: You can trim back just about anything. In some cases, enhancing simple ideas makes them look more special. For example, maybe your budget allows for only one single red rose bud per table. Instead of just sticking a flower in a vase, you could cut the stem short and float it in a bowl surrounded by a few tea light candles. That’s a simple yet beautiful look—and inexpensive.

MT: Besides minding a budget, what’s the most important piece of advice you can offer brides who are in planning mode?

JH: I’ll answer that question by telling a story. I was helping a friend with a wedding and the bride insisted on an outdoor ceremony. But she refused to have a tent as a backup in case the weather turned—it just didn’t fit with what she had imagined throughout the years. Partway through the ceremony, you guessed it. The skies parted and the rains and wind came. Flags were blowing horizontally and so were her and her bridesmaids’ dresses. Surprisingly, she didn’t move. But most of her wedding party and the guests sure did—and fast, too, because they were running for cover. Some people laughed, but a lot didn’t, and her dream turned into a nightmare.

MT: Moral of the story: Always be prepared for the unexpected.

JH: It’s the single most important thing. When we plan weddings, we create a line-by-line, blow-by-blow timeline of what is supposed to happen and when, and a back-up plan in case things don’t go perfectly. Most of the time, if something goes wrong, it’s just because people haven’t thought everything through.

Download a wedding day itinerary guide here

MT: What do you tell your brides as they’re planning their event?

JH? Make it different. Make it unique. Make it you.

MT: And what do you tell your brides when that big day finally comes?

You’ve been looking forward to this day a long, long time. It will be wonderful. These are the memories you’ve been waiting for.

For details on wedding services and coordination, contact Breanne Chase, Social Sales Manager at Monona Terrace, at 608-261-4093.

Photograph courtesy of Maison Meredith Photography