From taking five precious minutes to yourself and guaranteeing amazing service, here's what the expert says you can do to make your day that much more special.

By Sarah Schreiber
November 11, 2019
wedding planner and event designer calder clark
Credit: Tec Petaja

If you're in the thick of wedding planning, you've likely already discovered the importance of prioritizing a select few vendors or details. This priority list, of course, varies by couple. The same is true for the vendors who actually bring weddings to life-they have priority lists of their own. The difference? Theirs come backed with years of industry experience. To help you shape up your own big-day musts, we've tapped the biggest names in the wedding sphere-from planners and photographers to florists-to share their three wedding must-haves. Follow along with The Insider to learn which wedding-related details professionals can't live without.

Calder Clark knows all about classic Southern hospitality—a tenet she's carried straight into every wedding she's ever planned and designed, whether those events take place near her home, in Charleston, South Carolina, or abroad. A mainstay in the industry for 20 years (she's been in the business since 1999!), Clark has a wealth of knowledge about what goes into a wedding that is both visually beautiful and a delight for couples and guests, alike—insight born out of her own career triumphs and bumps in the road. She recalls of one of her early mistakes, "As I lined up the wedding party for the processional, I had a brain freeze. I whipped out my Nokia flip-phone and called my husband. In a panic-stricken voice, I said, 'Please go get our wedding album and look at the picture of my Dad and me. On which side of him am I standing?'" she laughs. "Answer in hand, I flipped my phone shut and quietly moved the bride from the right side to the left side of her Dad. Decades later, I still laugh quietly to myself as we line up for processionals."

Ahead, Clark shares a few of her best tips and big-day essentials with Martha Stewart Weddings, so you, too, can plan a wedding that gets the Southern hospitality seal of approval.

Take five minutes.

"The best advice I ever received (in the middle of my own wedding!) is still the clutch piece we deliver to our very own clients: 'Take your five minutes,'" she explains, noting that your celebration will be a whirlwind, and that the only way to "slow it down" is to dip out for a bit. Ghost the dance floor, she says, to get your "moment in time." "Link arms with your new spouse, and peek back at your party. If nothing else, you'll never forget that precious sliver of time."

Invest in service.

Service is everything, notes Clark, which is why investing in incredible big-day staff will elevate your event. "It breaks my heart to hear people say they 'had lines' at their wedding, or couldn't get a cocktail, or couldn't find the sushi," she says. "There are simple tried-and-true ratios for beefing up staff so that your wedding is smooth sailing. Hire a next-level planner and a wonderful caterer and insist on heavy service."

Schedule the majority of toasts for the rehearsal dinner.

"Savor the toasts earlier in the game plan," advises Clark. The reason? "Perhaps it's our ingrained Southern hospitality, but we simply don't love an evening of record scratch moments. There is so much room and time for well-placed toasting throughout Friday night—why not leave Saturday night wide open for dancing and merriment?" That's not to say, however, that you shouldn't share a few words come the main event: "An appropriate welcome or perhaps a few sweet words from the groom are always tasteful, but a spate of 20 toasts really changes the energy of the main evening."

Consider the axial view of your party.

According to Clark, your celebration's axial view is simply paramount—so when you work with your own vendors on decorations, make sure to consider every inch of your space, from the floor to the ceiling. "Considering a beautiful party from every angle—and floor to ceiling—is such a joy for our team. What will draw guests into a 9,000-square-foot tent? What will catch their eye in the ceiling? What will pull them to the sides of a venue or a tent, pushing them to wander (and wonder!) Part of what we do is most certainly theatrical in the very best way—and that is immensely impactful."

You get what you give.

"Never has this adage been more lucid and relevant than before, during, and just after a great wedding," concludes Clark. "From trust given to your creative team, to kindness shown to your fiancé(e), to patience for the process, to turning on that megawatt smile for your photographer—it's all about giving 1000% so that the big day is a culmination of all that high generosity of spirit."


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