The Big Day on a Plan

The idea of planning a wedding is enough to make one’s head spin.

Where do you start?

The flowers, the food, the dresses, the venue, the guest list, the music, the seating chart – each is part and parcel of making that big day one to be remembered and cherished for a lifetime. All of those variables must come together like a puzzle, and who is better to put those pieces together than a wedding planner?

Niki Lannigan of Manheim, owner of Niki Lannigan Weddings, Events & Design, has been overseeing weddings and events in Pa. and Cape May, N.J. for more than 15 years.

After being employed with an airline company in her early 20s, Lannigan discovered that she was bored and yearned to do something exciting and meet new people. She began working for a company where she planned and executed major events in the fashion and cosmetic industry, which gave Lannigan the opportunity to work with celebrities and use her people skills.

Economic changes served as a sign to Lannigan that she, once again, needed to shift gears. She became certified as an international wedding and event planner.

“Now, my love and excitement of events in the fashion and retail industry can be maximized in the always-interesting world of wedding planning,” she says. “I love helping a couple make their dream wedding come true.”

That dream wedding can take the form of partying inside a glorious venue to exchanging vows on the beach – a particular favorite for Lannigan as her own wedding took place on Philadelphia Beach in Cape May.

Couples have a choice of different wedding-planning packages that suit their needs and pocketbooks, from several hours of consulting to having a planner be there for you before, during and after the event – five separate planning packages in all, which detail different aspects of the wedding and reception.

For the “before” events, Lannigan and her crew plan and coordinate the engagement party, the bridal shower and the rehearsal dinner. They help with budgets, style, color schemes and vendor referrals, making sure that the best service and price is received.

They assist with the seating chart, the selection of invitations, keep track of RSVPs, choose linens and even give etiquette advice. They’ll even arrange accommodations for out-of-town guests and have welcome baskets ready and waiting for them upon arrival.

During the wedding, they are there to make sure the wedding ceremony and reception run like clockwork and that the wedding party and families are transported safely and on time to and from the venue. They’ll make sure that selected dances and music aren’t omitted by the D.J. or band. They even provide a wedding-day emergency kit.

After the wedding is over and the bride and groom are enjoying their honeymoon, Lannigan and her staff follow up with organizing the mandatory thank-you cards.

“I do it all, from attending the rehearsal, to the ceremony and finally the reception,” Lannigan explains. “I attend all meetings with the couple and the wedding vendors leading up to the big day. I have packages to fit everyone’s budget and will even customize a package to suit a couple’s needs.”

No matter how etched in stone wedding plans may be, Lannigan has discovered that, every so often, some crazy surprises pop up. Lannigan recalls how one groom was diabetic, so he wanted her to carry his insulin around and, as it turned out, he did need it at the reception.

She also remembers a mother and daughter that started fighting while they were getting ready in the bridal suite; another occurrence was a wedding at the beginning of last summer that had the misfortune of being smack in the middle of a storm so severe that tornadoes were sighted.

While wedding planners can’t control the weather or even family relationships, they can relieve most, if not all of, the stress that tends to accompany one of the most important days of one’s life. The bride, her groom and their respective families should be able to enjoy their day, take it all in and let the memories take hold.

“I honestly do believe that hiring a planner is money well spent when it comes to making sure your day comes off without a hitch,” Lannigan says. “The couple shouldn’t worry that the flowers are running behind, or the oboe player is upset because he is standing in a puddle of water, or the toilets in the bathrooms aren’t flushing.”

One of the major bits of advice Lannigan offers to brides and grooms – no matter what sort or style of wedding is being considered – is to give yourself time to bring together all of those pieces of the wedding puzzle. Only then can that dream become a reality.

“Give yourself enough time to plan, but also enough time to enjoy it,” she says. “It’s your day…it should be savored.”