For the last 18 years, Marsha and Lucky Gliddon have been helping brides who don’t have time to search for caterers, florists and photographers.
Weddings To Perfection, the Gliddons’ wedding planning business that started in Alexandria before moving to Mount Vernon, has been hired for weddings up and down the East Coast.
“We used to do more than 150 weddings a year,” Marsha Gliddon said. “Now, we have downsized a bit but can still accommodate everyone regardless of the size.”
They help take the stress out of preparing for the impending big day, she said, keeping track of caterers, florists and anyone else providing services for the reception.
“We worry about the caterer showing up on time with the right food, and make sure that the baker and the florist get there at the same time so that the flowers end up on the cake,” said Marsha.
They carry some weight, because caterers, bakers and florists know they will see the Gliddons at other weddings. “For the most part, these are people that we deal with all of the time,” said Marsha Gliddon. “Any event works best when the people doing the work have been a team before. When we sit down to plan a wedding, we give the bride choices but those choices include people we know and trust to provide excellent service.”
WHAT DOES a wedding planner need to know to help a bride make her wedding perfect? “I ask the bride to tell me her dreams and then to tell me her budget,” Marsha said. “We help brides to be realistic and still have a wonderful wedding.”
They have dealt with budgets that run the gamut from frugal to expensive. “We have planned lovely weddings for $2,000 and lovely weddings for $250,000,” said Lucky, who works out the budget details with the bride. “Fifty to 80 percent of that budget is going to be spent on food, so thinking about the menu is important.”
Liquor can bump up the price of the reception, too. Lucky Gliddon said that weddings that buy liquor from the bar of the hotel or reception hall end up spending more than weddings where the bride, groom or family provide their own.
“If you have to purchase from the hotel or place that you are holding the wedding, expect to spend $30 to $40 per person,” he said. “If you are permitted to purchase your own liquor, you can cut that price significantly.”
Then there’s the cost of entertainment, whether a DJ or a live band. “Good live bands are going to start at between $1,500 and $1,800,” Lucky said. “A good wedding DJ will cost about $200 an hour.”
But if they are good at working weddings, he said, they’re worth the cost. “You don’t want a club DJ who is there to be the show. You want a wedding DJ who is there to provide a backdrop for the bride and groom.”
One couple went well above the $1,800 average price for their band. “They hired the G Street Band and I would guess they paid around a quarter of a million dollars, plus expenses,” he said. “They didn’t book them through us, so I don’t know all of the details.”
WEDDING DRESSES CAN also mean a significant expense, or they can come cheap. The Gliddons don’t usually take part in the selection, but they will give some pre-shopping counsel.
“I will give them advice about where to go and where to avoid, depending on their budget,” said Marsha. “I have seen gowns as inexpensive as $199 and knew one bride who spent $15,000 on her dress. That was one of our more extravagant weddings at Belle Haven Country Club.”
Flowers can also be costly. “There are brides who want daisies and carnations,” Lucky said. “They can spend less than $1,000. However, if you want gardenias and Calla lilies, it gets more expensive. One bride that we worked with spent over $14,000 on her flowers – that’s more than some brides’ entire budgets.”
Finally, there’s the cost of the wedding cake. “Once again, there’s a huge range,” Lucky said. “For a really good cake that the guests really eat as opposed to politely nibbling and throwing away, plan on $3.50 per person. I have seen cakes that have cost well into the thousands of dollars. It all depends on what you want.”
USUALLY, IT TAKES between three months and a year and a half to plan a wedding, the Gliddons said. “One of the hardest things to do in this area is to book a prime location,” Marsha said. “Some of those are booked a year in advance.”
But they have planned weddings in as little as two days. “One couple called us on Saturday and told us that they wanted to get married the following Monday,” Marsha said. “They were with Cirque de Soleil and were leaving town. We made it happen.”
They work with all types of budgets as well. “We can offer many things, such as invitations, at a discount and can get our regular vendors to give couples a good deal if they are working with a limited budget,” Marsha said. “We got in this business to make sure that people are happy with their event. We do have an upfront fee, of course, but that is negotiable as well.”
Marsha, Lucky and their six consultants see a bride through from beginning to wedding day. “We try and stop by all of the weddings just to make sure that everything is going well,” Marsha said. “After all, that is why the bride hired us: So that we could worry about the details and she could have fun.”