Extra Set of Hands, By Julia D'Agostino

In just a few short weeks our Summer Intern Julia D'Agostino goes back to complete her BFA in Photography and Journalism from Loyola University Maryland. Below is her Summer's end blog, that is enough to make me cry! She is always welcomed back, and speaking of which, we hope to see her still, virtually, this Winter season. Without further adieu.... "Extra Set of Hands"

Work. “An activity involving mental or physical effort done in order to achieve a purpose or result”. After this summer, I’m not sure how much mental or physical health I have left in me - and I’m only the intern.

Sometimes early mornings for me, always an early morning for my boss. Sometimes a late night for me, always a late night for my boss. I’ve contemplated and have tried to figure out when my boss has time to do her laundry if I can barely get to mine, and I’m only the intern.

Sometimes I’ll walk out of my other job and I’ll have a few emails to get to from the wedding planning business. I’ll have to keep up to date with what’s going on for wedding A and put together a contact sheet for wedding B while trying to keep straight who has what date at what location and what their husband or wife’s name is; yet I still can’t keep them completely straight until I write them down. My boss knows each of them and their details as if it’s knowing her left from rights.

In order to be a wedding planner, you have to be the type of person who genuinely cares. In a way, you’re a manufacturer to a wedding day. You create, build and design. But, in another way, you’re not a manufacturer. You don’t create, build and design the same way each time. You must cater to your client, to what they like, what they want, and what their needs are for their wedding day. You’re not just ticking boxes off to mark them completed. You’re creating a unique equation for others to scribble on, erase, adjust, and rewrite. And you create a unique equation that will be scribbled on, erased, adjusted, and rewritten, for every wedding.

I wasn’t sure what to expect on my first day of work. Due to timing, I wasn’t able to work in the office before getting out in the field. I got home from college on a Thursday, had my 24 hours of rest from finals on Friday, and was working my first wedding on Saturday. My first formal act of duty during my first wedding reception was to stand next to the escort card table, make sure they don’t blow around, stay looking neat and direct guests to their seats. My first question on the job was “what’s an escort card table”? I had a long way to go.

My new black dress that I had shipped to school, anticipating wedding season, hung on my shoulders and too below my knee. I made the mistake of not purchasing a dress with pockets. It was necessary to keep my black binder on me at all times with my phone and a pen while simultaneously having two hands free. Pockets would be handy.

Then the rain came. Rain? On a wedding day? This really happens?

Thank God for a tent.

That’s something I’ve learned the most about. Being prepared involves having a plan, having a back up plan, and having a back up plan for the back up plan. It involves taking the form of a florist when the florist leaves before their job is done, and making sure you have a full tank of gas to drive down the long road to grab a stain removing pen for the groom’s crisp white shirt that he spilled clam sauce on before the ceremony and because the one in the emergency kit was too dry. You are required to be in two places at once.

I didn’t get to see the ceremony on my first day of work. And that’s when I realized how many moving parts there are to a wedding. The day is sectioned off cleanly and precisely, but each section has its own subsection with even more detail beyond that. When one is making sure the music is cued and the bridal party walks correctly, the final band members are arriving that may or may not have been clued into the fact they can’t have sound check while the ceremony is going on even though you can’t see the ceremony from the reception tent, nor from the service road the band’s van came in on, and another has to check that the bridal suite is prepped for the couples alone time before they enter their cocktail hour, etc. Every detail needs to be taken care of or at least overseen by someone on the team and that’s where I come into play. I am the extra set of hands.

Office Work

Tying together a bag of five almonds with tool, crossing strands of ribbons on fans, placing exactly no less than three and no more than six wintergreen mints in each welcome bag to be delivered next week are just a few of the things done in the office.

The office is a simple place where complex work is created. There is always more than one thing going on at a time. Whether it’s three different weddings and two different inquiries, there’s usually a plethora of tabs opened up in my internet browser, dedicated to handling the pressure of quick searches and long research. While keeping priorities in check, our client comes first. There is always consistent confirmations and checking in with multiple vendors and having conversations with them such as when they can arrive and depart, where they can deliver, and how they need to be set up and organized at their designated venue. I am constantly in contact with so many different people throughout the day. And people wonder why Communications is my major! It’s something I enjoy investing myself in and a skill not everyone knows or understands. Staying organized while doing all of this communicating is another plus.

The amount of folders that have been added to my hard drive this summer is practically uncountable. I almost minimized this screen to check the count on how many folders I’ve created, but, I figured you can trust me when I say there are a lot. Each client has their own folder digitally, as well as a “hard copy”. This hard copy comes in an old-fashioned binder. A binder is this object that opens like a book and has three rings running down the center of the fold; one at the top, the center, and at the bottom. You then insert each client’s paperwork into a protective sleeve that is then hung around the rings inside of the binder. Yes, millennials, this is what a binder is. Binder holds paper - LOL. This is one of my favorite ways to stay organized in the office. Each binder ends up with around 100 pages of paperwork through the day-of the wedding. First, you have your nice and simple contact sheet with all of your go-to phone numbers and primary contacts for each vendor. After that, you take a deep dive into the world of wedding planning. Floor plans, contracts for each vendor, table counts, every guest’s name and where they sit, rental and delivery confirmations, escort cards, table cards, printed emails with important information, the timeline, etc. Yes, there is more beyond what I listed.

With the binder being my favorite way to stay organized in the office, the timeline is my favorite way to stay organized for the day of the wedding. Everything is accounted for on this timeline. Every-little-thing. It can be obnoxious. With this, we always have the answer to “what time is (insert wedding activity) going to happen?” It’s the most referred to sheet in the binder. We are constantly looking at it before the wedding day that during the day-of, we don’t even have to reference it. We’ve got it nailed by heart since we work with it that often.

Office work. It’s not just in the office. The office travels with us for tastings, floral appoints, and inquiries. Even though we may spend two hours on a Wednesday afternoon meeting with the mother of the bride discussing what types of flowers her daughter will like for her wedding day, there are still emails to be read and contact to be confirmed. Ashley needs to be on the road meeting new clients, seeing new venues, sometimes in places with little reception, and sometimes on the road for so long she looses priceless hours of computer time. This is where I come in….I am still the extra set of hands.

Self portrait by Julia D'Agostino - www.juliadagsphoto.com