A wedding day where everything falls magically into place – that’s the power of a great wedding planner. In this month’s episode of The Feel Good Wedding podcast, Sarah Johnston from Girl Friday Weddings pulls back the curtain on hiring a pro for your big day.

With over 15 years of experience, Girl Friday Weddings opened its doors in 2009. This award-winning Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane boutique wedding planning agency offers services ranging from full planning to day-of coordination. Founder Sarah Johnston has built the business around helping couples create their dream wedding, whether that’s an intimate elopement or a grand affair.

In this episode, Sarah shares insider tips on how locking in a planner early on can be a game-changing move. She provides a behind-the-scenes look at the strategic decisions that elevate your celebration while keeping it budget-conscious. You’ll learn Sarah’s approach to assembling a dream vendor team and avoiding common pitfalls and overwhelmed feelings during planning. She also shares advice on crafting a wedding day that feels effortless, seamless and completely you.

In this chat, we discuss:

  • The benefits of wedding planners
  • What is an in-house planner vs an external wedding planner?
  • How can you choose your wedding vendors wisely?
  • The value of relationships in weddings
  • How to beat overwhelm and prioritise what is important to you
  • The “wedding” word budget myth
  • How to make the most of your wedding budget and figure out what’s important

If you’re looking to better understand the role of a wedding planner and how they can help craft your perfect day, don’t miss this episode!

Links & Vendors Mentioned:

Girl Friday Weddings

Celebrant Kate


Find Sarah & Girl Friday Weddings

On Polka Dot Wedding: Girl Friday Weddings

On The Web: Girl Friday Weddings

On Facebook: Girl Friday Weddings

On Instagram: Girl Friday Weddings

On Pinterest: Girl Friday Weddings


Find Dorothy & the Polka Dot Wedding team:

On Instagram: @polkadotwedding

On the website: polkadotwedding.com

This podcast was produced by Polka Dot Wedding

The Polka Dot Wedding team is honoured to conduct our work on the land of the BoonWurrung, WoiWorung, Eora and Kuring-gai people. We honour the traditional Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders custodians of the land and pay our respects to Elders past & present.

Episode Transcript

Dorothy:  You’re listening to the Feel Good Wedding podcast, a podcast by Polka Dot Wedding. My name is Dorothy and I am the founder and editor of Polka Dot Wedding, and I have been writing about weddings for over 16 years, in fact. I love them. I love everything about a wedding, but I know that a wedding is beyond the pretty. I know that so much goes into every single one of those details that are chosen, the tips and tricks behind it, the couples stories and the vendor that brings it all to life. And so the Feel Good Wedding podcast was born because we thought these are stories and conversations that we want to have, and we’re really looking forward to having them with you as our listener, can’t wait to show you what we have in store.

The Polka Dot Wedding team is honoured to conduct our work on the land of the BoonWurrung, WoiWorung, Eora and Kuring-gai people. We honour the traditional Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander custodians of the land and we pay our respects to elders, past and present.

Our episode sponsor today is the wonderful Celebrant Kate. Kate is a Melbourne-based marriage celebrant who blends meticulous planning. She’s never going to leave you at the altar. With her years of experience to craft really beautiful, authentic stories. She has a range of packages to choose from, from legal only ceremonies right through to the full kit and caboodle and along the way you get all of her amazing support. You can find Celebrant Kate over on celebratekate.com.au or head to our show notes because we have all the links on how to find her. Welcome back to another episode of the Feel Good Wedding podcast.

Now, if there is a wedding service that I’m a huge advocate for – which is silly because I’m an advocate for hiring amazing professionals all across every element of your day – it is a wedding planner. We talk a lot about wedding mental bandwidth and a wedding planner can really lift that off you and really help you out and make sure that your day is enjoyable for you and you’re not thinking about all the stressful elements. So today we are chatting wedding planners and our very special guest is Sarah Johnston, long time Polka Dot Wedding member and owner and founder of wedding planning coordination business Girl Friday Weddings. Now Sarah has planned with her team many, many weddings and she has seen every little part of stress that you could imagine. So, of course, who better to talk to about planning your day, the ins and outs of wedding planners, what you need to know before you hire one, the pros and cons and everything else that a wedding planner can bring to your day, than Sarah herself.

If you are in the midst of planning your wedding day, this chat is going to be really, really useful, and I can’t wait for you to hear it. So let’s get started.

Hello Sarah, thank you so much for joining us today on the Feel Good Wedding podcast.

Sarah Johnston: It’s already great to be here.

Dorothy: We are so excited to talk to you about wedding planning today and wedding planners, because there are so many myths and mysteries and thoughts that are not necessarily true about wedding planners, and you are going to clear them all up for us. So tell us how you got started with your business Girl Friday Weddings and tell us all about you.

Sarah Johnston:

Well, a bit of a story, not really, but I used to work in sales and marketing, so I’ve come from a marketing background. My last job was at BigPond and I felt pregnant with my first child and I just decided that that was a good opportunity to kind of have a think about how I can make work fit in with my new life, as it was changing rapidly. And so, yeah, I really loved planning events and I thought that, being a wedding, that most of the work would happen, a lot of the work would happen on weekends and I could kind of manage out of hours. So I just really ran with it. And Girl Friday Weddings was born about 15 years ago, so yeah, it’s been a while.

Dorothy:  You must have seen a lot in those 15 years too.

Sarah Johnston:  I’ve seen a fair bit. Some of it I can talk about openly. Some of it will go with me to the grave.

Dorothy: The good story, the good and the bad, the good and the ugly.

Sarah Johnston: The good and the bad and super interesting.

Dorothy:  So wedding planners, so you’ve decided to get married and suddenly wedding planning is like this enormous, gigantic task ahead. What is the first thing a couple needs to think about and plan and get clear in their brains before they actually get into the pretty and the aesthetic and all the fun stuff?

Sarah Johnston: Yeah. So I actually think, with my hat on, as someone that would be getting married, first thing I’d be is completely overwhelmed, because I guess when you’re planning a wedding, the most important thing to do is to do a work back, and by that I mean you really need to know how much money you’re comfortable in investing in the event, and then work back through all the steps, all the items you need to book, all the vendors you need to book – wedding gowns, suiting, attire, all of that sort of stuff, put a dollar amount next to everything and then work out where your reception and ceremony are going to be held. So that can be really overwhelming, primarily because if you’ve never been married before, or even if you have been married before, it’s really hard to know how much you’re going to spend.

Dorothy:  I was going to say because how do you if you’re sitting there going “Oh look, I’d be comfortable spending $500 on photography”, but actually, let’s be honest, finding a wedding photographer for $500 is pretty impossible. How do you set that budget when you really have no idea of costs.?

Sarah Johnston: Yeah, that’s the difficulty and that’s why a lot of people seek out professional advice at the start, which is always smart. But if you wanted to do it yourself, I think a really good way of doing it before committing to a venue is to actually put the feelers out there to some suppliers just to gauge cost. Because what I see a lot when couples come in is they have a budget. They’ve kind of grabbed it from a website which has a suggested amount next to it, so they’ve gone along with whatever that pre-filled amount is without knowing what the true cost is of that supplier in your particular area. So that’s the difficulty.

So I really think reaching out to some key suppliers before you commit to your venue is really key just to do the homework on how much money realistically you’re going to need to outlay. So things like I think the biggest spends generally when it comes to booking a wedding will, aside from the reception, would be photography and floral work – floral and decor. So, generally speaking, those items if they’re important things to you, they can cost a lot of money and they’re the things that you really need to sound out first before committing.

Dorothy:  And venues.

Sarah Johnston: Yeah, venues, obviously I’d say with the venues, once you know all of your suppliers cost, you can work out whether a venue is something that you know the right venue is something that you can afford.

And by that I mean you know going into, say, say, couples approach me with like a town hall idea. You know they booked this hall or an empty space, thinking that it’s going to be cheaper for them to, you know, just book an empty room. They can control catering, they can control alcohol, they can control decor. But actually when they start planning and they start booking their caterer and florist and all that sort of stuff, what sometimes can happen is you know you have all these unexpected costs that you don’t usually think about when you’re booking an empty space, like refrigeration, lighting, you know cutlery, like glassware, all that sort of stuff. So you really need to know how much the bulk of your vendors are going to cost before committing, I think, to your reception venue, because you know that’s where you can feel like you’re hemorrhaging money towards the end of the planning process if you don’t get that very first critical decision correct.

Dorothy:  Yeah, yeah, and is that what you would suggest in order to kill that overwhelm from the beginning?

Sarah Johnston: Definitely, you know, overwhelm can happen for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, when you’re going into the unknown, it can be overwhelming just with the amount of decisions you have to make. But you know, and also I think, that nowadays we’re spoiled with a lot of choice and that really can, you know, be a blessing and it can be the biggest curse ever because you’re constantly second guessing yourself on the decisions that you’re making.

Dorothy:  So maybe get off Instagram and get off Pinterest for a bit and figure out a vision.

Sarah Johnston: Maybe. I mean, look, they’re all great tools and you know I use them with planning every day. But having unrealistic expectations about what your wedding is going to look like with the budget that you have can sometimes be the most unhelpful thing ever.

Dorothy:  Yeah, one of the earliest decisions talking of decisions might be can we afford a wedding planner or really, can we afford not to hire a wedding planner? So what questions should we be asking ourselves when it comes to should we or shouldn’t we when it comes to wedding planners?

Sarah Johnston: Yeah, look, I think affordability is a big thing. Obviously, not everyone has super deep pockets, but a lot of wedding planners, like ourselves as well, you know you can kind of arrange a consultation just to gauge whether that wedding planner is right for you and then work out some of the bigger questions when it comes to booking your larger items.

They might be able to help you, save you some money and steer you on the right path before you go down this rabbit hole of you know, something that you really can’t afford, you know, ultimately. So you know, I do think there are a lot of planners now that have something for everyone in terms of packages and services. A lot of couples are happy to do a lot of the legwork themselves. So you know they may say, ok, we’ve set aside a smaller budget and we’re happy to do the legwork, but have someone there on the day just to tie it all up in a nice little bow. Because you know, when it comes to execution, the reality is you’re going to be hiding with your friends and not really worried too much about what’s going on for setup and all that sort of fun stuff. So I think you know it comes down to peace of mind really. Just….

Dorothy: Yes, and how much by the sound of it, how much capacity you have in order to do the work.

Sarah Johnston: Definitely yeah, because I don’t know, I don’t know. My experience is a lot of our couples are going through major life decisions when they’re getting married as well. Like a lot of people are either studying undergraduate, postgraduate, they have busy careers, they’re buying homes or they’re having babies. Like there are some really big things that we see all the time. Couples that walk in and just are so completely frazzled by all the other life happenings.

Dorothy:  Let alone planning a wedding.

Sarah Johnston: Yeah let alone planning a wedding. So you know, it’s just kind of meeting in the middle of somewhere, of matching what they want to spend on budget as to you know what we can help them with.

Dorothy:  And something we see a lot of is “Oh, I don’t need to hire a wedding planner, my venue comes with a wedding planner”. And I feel like there’s a lot of confusion when you’re planning a wedding about the differences in the titles. So what is a wedding planner versus a wedding coordinator versus a ‘day of planner’ versus a ‘venue wedding planner’? Because they’re all different and they all do different things.

Sarah Johnston: Yeah, 100%. Great question. So a wedding planner when someone comes to ask. But someone comes to us and asks us for wedding planning, we would consider that to be a planner that would work from the very start of your event to the end. So you come to us, you may or may not have booked a venue, and then we’ll work from there and we’ll do everything from flowers, styling, hire, decor, all that stuff right until the wedding day.

Now, sometimes that planning service can come in a variety of different like, can look like a variety of different things, just depending on. You know we may say, okay, the client is happy to do their own, say, invitations and arrange their own hair and makeup and a couple of other things. We can kind of come in and take everything else off their desk of you know, vendors that they are not interested in booking, so that can look like a couple of different things, but ultimately it’s you know, it’s planning early on until the end and then, as I mentioned, a wedding coordinator is usually just interested in that period on the day. So you know that week or two before the wedding to plan for the execution of the event actually on the day.

Dorothy:  Yeah, it’s similar to ‘day of coordinator’, right? That sounds like the fancy thing, yeah.

Sarah Johnston: Yeah, some ‘day of planners’ can be very, maybe even come in closer to the wedding day, depending on how you know they present, like how the wedding planner is kind of pitching their service. So day of planners may involve less logistics in the lead up.

Dorothy:  And also I see some of them are also more stylists in some ways.

Sarah Johnston: More stylists? Yeah.

Dorothy:  They’ll put the stuff together on the day rather than actually do the planning part.

Sarah Johnston: Yep, so, like for our coordination services, generally speaking, we there’s a little bit of brief writing or a lot of brief writing in the lead up just to make sure that we can execute, but some of those ‘day of planners’ may do less brief writing and just execute on the day itself.

Dorothy: Yeah, okay, yeah,

Sarah Johnston: In-house wedding planners. Now it’s really important not to get in-house wedding planning mixed up with like an independent wedding planner or coordinator, because they’re different, different things altogether. So an in-house wedding planner will – is representing the venue and really looking after, to make sure that the venues wants and needs are met, and specifically this relates to suppliers that will be working at the reception on the day or at the ceremony on the day of the event.

So, they’re not really interested in things like making sure you know you’ve got enough time for hair and makeup or making sure that your cars are going to arrive to pick you up on time. They’re not really fussed about the details of flowers per se, depending on the venue or, you know, any of the decoration. They’re really just there to make sure that the suppliers that you’ve filled out on your wedding checklist which you usually have to do before your event, arrive on the day they show up, the wedding cake’s delivered, the tables are set, the place cards are out. So they’re very kind of single-minded in that respect.

Dorothy:  Yeah. So what exactly does a wedding planner do? Obviously they do the bulk of the tasks, or they can do the bulk of the tasks, but how can they actually help us? And what is the advantage of hiring someone to do that beyond what we obviously know and have already talked about? That we haven’t thought of.

Sarah Johnston: Planning a wedding is probably the biggest amount of money you’re going to spend on a party right? It’s a lot of money, and I am reminded of this every time we sit down to plan a new event. You know you’re investing a lot of time and money. You want to make sure that you’re investing in the right areas, so I think the best thing I can say is that you should be thinking of planning a wedding as building a team. So every supplier that you bring into your event you kind of need to trust, and sometimes, if you’ve never done it before, it’s really difficult to know and to build that team, because on the day of the event, all of those suppliers have to come in, work together and execute. Now it’s really difficult to yeah, it is really difficult to know what that team should look like, and a wedding planner can really be a benefit here to help build that team for you.

Dorothy:  And on top of that, I know that when we got married, we used the wedding planner to do things like manage budgets and follow up suppliers and do things that were like the mental bandwidth we just didn’t have or didn’t know we had to do. Yeah, because we’ve not been married before.

Sarah Johnston: Yes, yeah, that mental bandwidth can be really tough. I would be planning – we plan, obviously, a lot of events at one single time, but the difference is that we do it many times and we kind of understand how to do things very efficiently. But if you’ve never done it before, even making decisions can be really just so burdensome, and just the amount of choices.

Like I mentioned earlier, it’s really important that you are able to make decisions well by establishing criteria just to help really hone in on that perfect choice so you’re not sitting in limbo land for too long, because what happens is when you’re in that state, not only is it you know, it plays on your mind and it takes up that bandwidth in your head, but actually, as you get closer to the day and you haven’t made the choices that you needed to make three or four months ago, that’s when things start to become really expensive, because what you’re doing is you’re feeling rushed into a decision and sometimes those decisions can have a cost impact as well, by doing things at the last minute or just taking, you know, the scraps that are left – not the scraps, but you know like you’re needing to do things like pay rush fees or instead of having five vendors to choose from, four of them since booked out, so you’ve got one left.

It’s that sort of stuff. So you know, if you can set yourself a criteria for each supplier and as long as you can kind of come up with options that meet like 80% of the criteria, let’s say you know you might say, okay, this is a rule. If I can find suppliers that meet X, Y and Z, then they hit a very short list and then you end up deciding. You’re able to decide between one or two suppliers, as opposed to 50 different photographers that you’ve seen on Instagram.

Dorothy:  So when should we look at booking our wedding planner and what are the things that we should look for when it comes to qualifications the red green flags because there are a lot of people out there now that are wedding planners and it’s really hard to know where to start.

Sarah Johnston:  Yeah, yeah, because wedding planners can come from you know whole variety of backgrounds. I think that if you go through that whole budget process at the start of your wedding planning journey, in other words, do lots of information gathering on some of the vendors that you want to book in, you’ll probably find some things you can be flexible on that you’re not fussed about, in particular, and other vendors that you have really strong opinions on, like getting the right photographer, and you’re happy to spend more money on that particular supplier. So I think once you can do that, you can set yourself a clear budget. I think that’s a good time to have a consultation with a wedding planner just to talk about what your ideas and your budget are before you commit to a reception venue and then from there, like that could only look like a one hour session with you know, with a wedding planner, but from there that will give you confidence to start locking some things in. And then, once you get going with your planning and you have an understanding of your budget, you may decide yes, this is, I feel like I need more help and this is how much we can afford to spend on planning. Or you may decide that you know we can take on some of the work ourselves, but we would like someone to get involved a little bit closer to the day, just to tie it all up for us and execute. So I think you know, before you make too many decisions, it’s good to speak to a planner, because they can kind of steer you in the right path.

It’s really hard to fix problems that you’ve already committed to if that makes sense.

Dorothy: Get out of contracts and such.

Sarah Johnston: Yeah, get out of contracts, especially with like, like I mentioned before, you know, hiring a blank canvas venue where you have to bring in a lot of suppliers. You know, they’re probably the biggest events that we do, and I think what a lot of couples don’t realise is that they go off and they book. They might book a half a dozen different suppliers to execute on the day of their wedding, but actually those suppliers may have, they may be able to deliver a couple of things that the other suppliers have on stock, and by that I mean, like your cutlery and glassware. You may have hired someone specifically just for your cutlery and glassware, whereas the person that you’ve hired the tables from also had the cutlery and glassware that you needed, and so that’s when you know you just waste a lot of money going down a path and then, once you’ve committed to those vendors, it’s really hard to undo that work.

So I think you know, a consultation at the start is definitely a great idea. And then you know like trying to find the right wedding planner is just a case of finding someone who has experience, perhaps they’ve worked at the venue before you know check their reviews, like I know that couples talk a lot out there online. So I think you know fact checking amongst you know other people getting married is also a really good thing. So you know red flags for wedding planners may be, like you know, obviously negative reviews don’t reflect favourably. But anyone with maybe a smaller portfolio or someone who’s disorganised may not be a great start. I think when people don’t respond to you, when you’ve sent an inquiry out and there’s no response and you have to chase them for things also probably not a good sign. So, yeah, I think just do your homework.

Dorothy:  And how long should we wait for replies? Because I know it’s varied. I know some people get very frustrated if they’re not getting a reply the same day, but let’s be honest, you’re probably not necessarily going to get one the same day. So, what is the slow reply in the wedding industry?

Sarah Johnston: Honestly, from my experience and having dealt with many different vendors before, it just depends on the industry. Like I know, like musicians, they’re probably the worst, but they, you know, they stay up really late at night. They’re not online at nine o’clock in the morning logging on from the office. Like they’re just getting home at three o’clock having bumped out a huge eagle whatever they’re doing. So I think you have to be a little bit flexible. I would say, generally speaking, you know, one to two days for responses.

Dorothy:  Bearing in mind that if you’re doing it on weekends, they may be working, and if it’s peak, season, they may be sleeping.

Sarah Johnston: That’s exactly right. So, for example, you know we are online a lot but like I don’t try and email me and expect a response on a Friday, Saturday or a Sunday, and then you know a lot of suppliers have Monday off. So really like, especially, like you said, in spring and summer, things take a little bit longer.

Dorothy: Yeah, okay. So do you need to hire a wedding planner for the full service, or? I know there are ‘day of coordinators’, but can you hire planners to do chunks of tasks or for a certain time?

Sarah Johnston: The answer to that is yes. That’s something that we do because we try to be a little bit flexible and accommodate a lot of different budgets. So I would imagine that many other planners like us would be the same. So, yeah, a lot of end-to-end planning is definitely not a cheap thing to do. It’s really. You’re really. Basically, if you were to think of yourself as a business, you’re hiring an event manager, like you know, as a full-time employee because really, you know, you’re working every day, potentially on an event that’s going to happen in another 12, 18 months. So not everyone can afford that, understandably. But I think the key is just to picking the things that are going to drive you crazy when you try to do them yourself and just getting rid of the things that you don’t want to do. So you know it’s gotta be fun. Wedding planning has to be fun. It can’t be something that is laborious for you.

Dorothy:  It’s very stressful enough with relationships and guest lists and all the fun stuff, isn’t it?

Sarah Johnston: Totally. You know, I’ve had couples in the office a couple of days before their wedding. Sometimes there are other things as well putting extra pressure on them, like pre-nups, you know, mental health issues or anxiety issues and just really melting under the pressure. Because, if you think about it, that week before the wedding there usually are a lot of moving objects, there are relatives flying into town, there’s lots of rehearsals and you know parents particularly can be asking questions, and you know that anxiety, I guess, can rub off on you as well. So, yeah, it is stressful. I think if you can afford it, I think at the very least to coordinate on the day is a really sensible path.

Dorothy:  And I feel like you’ve covered this. But one of the things that we think from our wedding and looking back is that hiring a wedding planner was the most or the best decision that we did, because our wedding venue shut down a couple of months before our wedding and, luckily, we had a wedding planner who went into the venue and knocked on the door and said, oh, hang on, what are you doing here? Like they went into bat for us. So what are those unexpected things that a wedding planner can do? Because I certainly didn’t hire a wedding planner thinking that they were going to go and talk to my venue about the fact that they’d left us high and dry. So what is that surprise element that they can help with?

Sarah Johnston: I actually think it’s about relationships. So if you have a wedding planner involved in your event, or a wedding planner is referring you to other supplies that they’ve worked with before, they can lean on those relationships if they need to, when it comes to getting something extra or fixing a problem or troubleshooting on the day in particular.

So you know, I’d say that’s really the value that you can’t put a price on, because if there are supplies that we’ve never worked for, am I going to a wedding day coordination job? You know you do feel a bit nervous, you’re not sure. People say they’re going to do something, but obviously it takes a couple of times until you have that trust with someone and so if someone fails you, you know you kind of thinking about backup plans and you can only really have a backup plan when you have other suppliers that are there to pull together and rally for you as well. So it really comes back to what I was saying before about on the wedding day itself is you coming together as a team for that particular event and even though it’s not your job to do something, you really need suppliers that go out of their scope of work in the best interests of your client to get the best result for you.

Dorothy:  And I suppose that’s another benefit of the wedding planner is that you can use those relationships in a way that we can’t be in couples that have never worked with these vendors, because you know that vendor works best doing this, this and this. Oh, and they’ve got that perk that you didn’t know about and they don’t tell anyone because it just doesn’t occur to them or whatever. You know all that stuff.

Sarah Johnston: Yeah, and you know, with suppliers we’re obviously repeat customers for our vendors, so we will give them work if they make our clients happy. Ultimately. And that looks like a variety of different things, but and you know, there are suppliers that do a great job regardless of that as well, don’t get me wrong. But when it comes to stretching outside your scope, I see many times people aren’t prepared to kind of go outside of what the contract says that they have to supply. That they signed up to months earlier. Yeah, so it’s tricky.

Dorothy:  Yeah, what are the behind the scenes things that a wedding planner does that we don’t think of, cause I know we often see the wedding planners like walking around in the wedding deck with their little headsets, looking like efficient, awesome and all that stuff it’s like Jennifer Lopez movie and all that kind of thing.

What are those little behind the scenes thing, or the mental bandwidth stuff that you carry, that we don’t really think about, just I guess just making sure you know.

Sarah Johnston: You really it’s kind of like you know when you would curate a blog post, for example, and you’re making sure all the images you know make sense and in a particular order and the copy is correct. It’s really like you’re curating an event when you’re walking through it from the start to finish. So making sure that things make sense, making sure you know if the client has briefed you to do something, that that makes sense as well, ’cause sometimes the things that we get asked to do don’t make sense and we need to, kind of, you know, just put things in the right place or make things work properly, you know, in terms of making sure the photographer is not standing where he shouldn’t be and the videographer isn’t kind of getting in the way, and making sure the furniture is placed out correctly and there’s no rubbish in the line of bride or the groom or, you know, the party getting married. So it’s really just the small, tiny details where you can often come unstuck and there’s always someone in the background wrangling to get something done that does make sense.

Dorothy:  And wedding planners do a lot of it to help keep to that timeline as well, don’t they?

Sarah Johnston: Definitely. But you know, timelines are that magical beast. Yes, you know, I we do many different run sheets and we always try and stick to them. But I think every supplier knows that, like, the reality of sticking to a run sheet when you’re dealing with people is very difficult, because people talk, you know, make speeches longer than they’re supposed to. Things just, things just happen, like after a ceremony, once the couple is married, people mingle, people want to have a drink and, you know, take part in all that. And sometimes you know that delay has a bit of a knock-on effect. But that’s where your planner can kind of in the background, make up time and change things around on the fly just to make the event flow better as well.

Dorothy:  And something I want to ask you that I haven’t even put on our questions before, is the ‘wedding’ word myth. As a wedding planner, I feel like you do this a lot, but does the word wedding add more to a wedding budget and how do we deal with that if it does?

Sarah Johnston: So does it add more to a budget? If you were booking a, if you were going to a cake shop and ordering a chocolate cake, it’s probably going to get it cheaper than if you ordered it from a wedding baker that you were ordering it from – you know a wedding supplier that makes a wedding cake for a living. So I think the difference is the amount of time and preparation that you would expect – rightfully expect from that wedding supplier, as opposed to Michel’s Patisserie if you’re going to buy a chocolate wedding cake from you know. Yeah, something like that. So the service that you’re getting is very different and you would want it to be different because you’ll be emailing this person, you’ll be wanting them to respond to your emails and you’d be wanting them to respond to your phone calls as well. So I think that it’s a very different service and couples need to kind of go into it thinking that it’s a very different service as well, then something that is going to pull off the shelf and buy.

Dorothy:  Yeah, and you want to start your relationship with a vendor that’s, you’re not going to lie about this and say, oh well, it’s not a wedding, I’m just going to order a normal cake and then have them show up and it is a wedding. Yeah, you want to start, I suppose, your marriage on the right foot and not sort of like. These are small businesses you don’t want to have to lie to them in order to get a better budget.

Sarah Johnston: Definitely it changes the way a vendor will approach your work Like they approach weddings very differently than they approach like a birthday party. You know, I really think you know things like, for example, cars is probably something that you can just book if you wanted to. But you know, wedding cars as opposed to an Uber, they’re very different products. Like a wedding car service will make sure the car is absolutely immaculate. They’ll make sure the tyres are clean. They’ll make sure there are umbrellas in the back. They’ve got all of that stuff covered off right.

So when you’re getting out of your car on your wedding day, your, you know your wardrobe isn’t going to be dirtied on a disgusting tyre that’s been, you know, that’s filthy, and they’re the expectations that you have when you book someone for a wedding as opposed to an Uber. You wouldn’t have that same expectation, you know to just be like well, that’s on me. You know my wardrobe gets dirty, that’s on me. So, I think it’s really important to have realistic expectations about what you’re going into and making sure that you know you fully brief your suppliers and what your expectations are as well.

Dorothy:  So it’s the time, the budget, the approach that they take with you, the level of service, everything is polished, every T is dotted and I is ……..

Sarah Johnston: Yeah, T is dotted.

Dorothy:  T is crossed and I is dotted. Clearly, my T’s are dotted.

Sarah Johnston: With little red love hearts. I think my approach – if I was planning my own wedding again, I would set myself an amount of money and I’d say, right, I would like the best of what I can afford for this amount of money. These are the things I’m not fussed about. These are the things that I feel really strongly about. And the things that I feel really strongly about I’m going to do like 100%.

You know the best of what you can afford, right, and the things that don’t matter to you, you know, can fall by the wayside and you kind of just, you know, are meeting a budget like picking a supplier that meets your budget and basic criteria.

Dorothy: Yes, and this is what we talk about a lot – is the wedding mission statement of sitting down with your partner at the beginning and saying what, as you said, is really important to us? And what do we not care about?

Sarah Johnston: Yeah, exactly, because there’s nothing more worrying when we see couples that really, really really hemorrhage money due to unexpected expenses right before the wedding. It’s really, it’s super stressful, like spending you know, overspending thousands because of things that you really didn’t consider or think about.

Dorothy: And not only that. By the sound of it, sometimes, things that you didn’t necessarily want, like if you’d made that decision in the first place, you could have then found a cheaper option or have done something different for that. But because you haven’t thought about it, you’re stuck.

Sarah Johnston: Yep, definitely, and feeling stuck is just, you know, can be paralysing sometimes as well. So make the decision early on, you know, get your decision rules in place and work out what your criteria is, and you just kind of just do one vendor at a time, otherwise everything else could be really overwhelming. Don’t try and plan your event in the space of a week, because it takes us months, like anyone planning or wanting to do it in the space of a couple of weeks is just you know is putting a lot of pressure on themselves.

Dorothy: And is that your best advice to give to couples to help them enjoy and get out of that stress of it, apart from hiring a wedding planner, (which I also advise)?

Sarah Johnston: I think, look, my best advice is you’ve got to have fun, right? Yeah, like I said earlier, it’s a lot of money. It’s probably the most money you’re going to spend other than you know, probably buying a house or sending kids off to private school. You’ve got to have fun, you’ve got to enjoy it. You both have to enjoy it. You both have to be doing making those arrangements, booking people that you love, right? You can’t go and spend all that money and not have fun. It’s just, it’s crazy. It’s crazy talk.

Dorothy: Do it your way. Yeah, you don’t have to do it, whether you love tradition or not, because I know tradition gets a lot of hate. Like, if you want the tradition, go for the tradition, but it has to be what you want.

Sarah Johnston: Yes, totally, and you know everyone has an opinion and people will be sure to give you their opinion when you’re planning a wedding. Yes, take my word for it, (wait until you have kids). But you don’t have to take their opinion Like you don’t have to take it on board. You can listen, you can be respectful, you can say thank you for sharing that, but just take what you want on board and the rest of it you just have to let go, because that opinion will be coming to you like from the minute you get you know, from the minute you get engaged right through to the rest of your married life. So you just need to learn to let stuff go and not feel like that opinion is becoming too much of a burden.

Dorothy: Yes, so what’s something fun to finish this off? What is your favourite moment of a wedding?

Sarah Johnston: Definitely, definitely, I’d have to say, right before the couple walk down the aisle, like the anticipation, oh my goodness, I just like whenever, whenever I see someone get out of the car, you know, just, you just feel those the, the butterflies. You see that wedding car approach and you just get butterflies in your stomach and it’s just like making sure that they’re happy and that, you know it can be quite emotional, like those few minutes just before you walk down the aisle, the photographer’s there and getting photos and you know you can see, you can see the bridal party composing themselves and just it’s just very emotional. Sometimes there are tears…

Dorothy: From you? I would cry – I would imagine, I would.

Sarah Johnston: I do get teary actually, and especially the music. Once the music kicks in and, like you, you’re behind the bridal party just making sure everyone gets down the aisle, it’s just like, oh, I just I feel like for me that’s job done. You know, everyone’s happy walking down the aisle. That’s the most amount of pressure usually that couples will feel on the day once that over they, you know, you can see. You can just see people exhale and just take a breath and….

Dorothy: It’s that build up and that is the moment. It’s all about that – the ceremony.

Regardless if you have a first look or not.

Sarah Johnston: Definitely definitely, and because all eyes are on you, right? Yeah, all eyes are on you when you’re walking down the aisle, and most people aren’t used to that and that can be really, really daunting, you know. But all you need to do is just focus on the other person at the end of the aisle, unless they’re walking next to you. You just focus on holding their hand and how that feels, and that usually is enough to get you through and get you started through that ceremony.

Dorothy: And if you cry, embrace it.

Sarah Johnston: Embrace it, embrace it.

Dorothy: I sobbed. I did the ugly cry down the aisle and it just happened and that’s the way it was.

Sarah Johnston: Yeah, dresses with pockets, or you know pockets – awesome, just for a little tissue…

Dorothy: And waterproof mascara if you’re wearing mascara. I love that.

Sarah Johnston: That’s the best.

Dorothy: The best photos are those unexpected ones of ugly cries.

Sarah Johnston: Oh, ugly cries  – the best and photographers capture that ugly crying so well, as you know.

Dorothy: Exactly. Have you got any last words of advice when it comes to wedding planners, wedding planning and weddings?

Sarah Johnston: Oh, I just think you know, like I said, just have fun, just go with the journey, go with the flow, don’t take it too seriously. Just, you know, take it all in your stride and you might have your sanity by the end of the process.

Dorothy: Fingers crossed, because then you get to enjoy married life and if you haven’t lost every sense of being in the process, it will be actually quite fun.

Sarah Johnston: 100%. You really you’re planning for the rest of your life. It’s not just about one day. Yeah, it’s really a celebration to mark, you know, a new stage, and I think that’s what you need to remember as well. You’ve still got the actual marriage that you need to work on.

Dorothy: You know you need to get to in one piece.

Sarah Johnston: Exactly, the wedding is just one day, yeah.

Dorothy: Well, thank you so much for sharing so much wisdom around the myths and the confusion around wedding planners. I think there’s so many amazing bits of information in our chat today and I was thrilled to be able to chat to you again.

Sarah Johnston: Oh, thanks, Dottie. It’s great to be here and, you know, maybe one day I’ll release a tell all book about all my stories. That didn’t make it to air.

Dorothy: I’m just kidding, I would read it. I love those wedding books. I would read it. Make it anonymous.

Sarah Johnston: Totally no. Look lots of you know. I think the best thing is just meeting awesome people like your lovely self and you know, it’s a really lovely community of fellow teammates, I think virtual teammates- that I would work with.

Dorothy: Wedding pros are some of the best people.

Sarah Johnston: Oh awesome, we’re just great fun, no vices at all.

Dorothy: They love a good party and they know how to do a good party.

Sarah Johnston: Exactly, exactly, thank you. Thanks for having me, Dottie.

Dorothy: A big thank you to Sarah for joining us today. If you’d like to find out more about Sarah and the Girl Friday Weddings team and what they can do for your wedding, head on over to WeddingPodcast.com.au. We have a full episode guide over there, including all the links and a full written transcript of today’s show.

The Feel Good Wedding Podcast is built for you, and we want to make sure that we’re creating content that you love to hear, so we would love to hear your reviews, we would love to get an email from you in our inbox, and we would love to know what you think. We can’t wait to see you then.