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Acadiana Lifestyle

The Wedding Planner

08/10/2012 04:14PM ● By Aimee Cormier

Another Important Commitment For The Big Day

By Jeanne Claire Solis & Erin Brooke Daigle / Photos by Jason Cohen Photography

“Yes” is the tiny word that launches grand celebrations of the powerful phrase, “I do!” Recent movies like “The Wedding Planner” and “Bride Wars” have provided humorous insight into the ups, downs and all-around issues of wedding planning.

In Acadiana, more and more couples are investing into savvy wedding consultants to provide time-saving and stress reducing services for their big day. Valerie Metrejean Woerner, an Acadiana area wedding planner, says, “Even if couples believe they have the time and ability to organize a wedding, designating a wedding planner to handle details ensures that the couple has more fun on their big day.”

Pointers For Perfection

“I wish I had a professional wedding planner,” is a sentiment many former brides share, says Woerner. While well-meaning mothers often want to help their daughters with planning, an objective wedding professional can provide the impartial vote that is sometimes needed for deciding time-sensitive details.

Woerner believes that all couples deserve to have the wedding of their dreams without sacrificing sanity, style or budget. She advises clients to meet with more than one planner to ensure compatibility in the planning partnership. Getting personal, like helping a bride slip on a fancy garter, or helping a groom plan honeymoon surprises, can be part of the planner’s role!

Referrals and references to reliable wedding planners can come from a variety of sources.Through Facebook connections, Mallory Comeaux was referred to a fellow alumnus of St. Thomas More high school, Lindsey James, who now specializes in wedding coordination but worked in the events rental industry for years. Within a few discussions, Comeaux felt the connection with James that convinced her to outsource select support services to Swanky Productions for Comeaux’s wedding last winter.

Amid elegant holiday décor and the music of a vocal, brass and string quintet, Comeaux wed Daniel Hutchinson at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Broussard on Dec. 30, 2011. Immediately following the ceremony, a reception party was held at The Madison, a special event facility in Broussard. Entering from a draped and twinkle-lit courtyard, reception guests enjoyed creative activities like a photo booth with costumes and props, a choreographed entry dance by the entire wedding party and an artist at his easel painting his interpretation of the celebration as it occurred. The more traditional aspects of the reception included a bouquet toss, catered buffet meal, beverages, cakes and a live band.

According to Comeaux, the decision to hire a wedding planner was the right choice, and took unnecessary stress from the couple for their big day. Swanky Productions helped Comeaux to select her dress, plan the timing of the celebration activities, confirm vendor services during the wedding week and handle special details, like moving gifts to their house and packing snacks in the newlywed’s limousine.

As a result, the Hutchinson’s wedding seamlessly blended traditional and modern aspects of a southern Louisiana marriage celebration into a fun, memorable event. The compatibility of the couple’s style and values with the wedding planner’s role was essential to the event’s success.

Paper, Planning & Personal Style

Kallie Landry, a personal fitness trainer and bridal consultant based in New Iberia, also offers sage advice to brides. She says all brides should follow the ‘Rule of 3’: accomplish three things each week related to the wedding. Landry, a four year veteran of the wedding and event planning industry, has worked the plan with brides while she’s working out with them. She recalls leading exercise sessions with a mother and daughter duo where discussions focused equally on exercise, healthy living, and important wedding details.

Landry stresses the importance of getting into “fitness mode” many months before the actual wedding for two main reasons: to look your best and to reduce stress. Looking your best in your dress can include guidance from a personal trainer to improve body tone that will be highlighted by a wedding dress, such as arms, back and waistline.

“No fad diets before the wedding!” says Landry, since they are unhealthy in the long run and can add to the stress a bride is already feeling around wedding time. Brides and grooms can get in shape for their big day at Kallie’s fitness studio, Muscle and Bustle, in New Iberia. Their website at has information on boot camps, fitness classes and personal training sessions.

After several years in the business, Woerner is transitioning from wedding planning to focus on a line of special event paper products, called Val Marie Paper. It will debut this fall. Woerner emphasizes that paper products are a simple way to personalize the wedding theme, while remaining on a budget. “When you think about it,” explains Woerner, “opening a wedding invitation is the introduction to the spirit of the wedding event!”

In Acadiana, more couples are leaning toward creative theme invitations than formal, traditional paper stocks, Woerner says. The paper design helps to unify the decorations, accent colors, music and season of the wedding. Woerner’s products, wedding ideas and inspirations are featured on her website at, or on her Facebook page at Southern Fete Event Planning.

Then & Now

Back in the day, wedding festivities were also an event to remember, no matter their size or location. Lafayette resident Shirley Bremer Solis and Pierre Part resident Roberta Breaux Daigle were both brides in the 1950s. They had very different celebrations, yet timeless wedding traditions prevailed with the help of family and friends as planners.

Shirley and her husband John “Red” Solis were married in a Catholic church in metropolitan Chicago,attended by many guests. As a professional caterer, Shirley’s mother was familiar with formal event planning and assumed a lead role in coordinating the event hospitality. Guests received formal printed invitations. Their reception also featured a full bar, live big band music for dancing, and traditions that stemmed from her groom’s Polish heritage. Most memorable was placing a satin and lace apron over the bride’s dress, representing her transition from“blushing bride” to “housewife,” Solis recalls.

In contrast, Roberta recalls a more intimate celebration for her marriage to Alger “Pip” Daigle, planned with help from her mother and future groom’s siblings. In the months prior to their wedding, the Daigles spent Sundays together visiting family and friends to extend their wedding invitations by word of mouth. They were married in the Catholic Church in the rural Cajun community of Pierre Part. Their reception included a small gathering of friends and relatives near the bride’s home with local delicacies and cakes contributed by the families.

In the urban north in the 1950s, tuxedo rentals for groomsmen were readily available. In the secluded bayou communities of the south, Sunday suits were the norm. But north or south, big or small, celebrating wedding traditions with personal style has stood the test of time into the 21st century.

Getting Return On Investment

Couples often spend considerable sums of money to ensure their wedding is organized as perfectly as possible. According to the Association of Bridal Consultants (ABC), there are over 2.4 million weddings each year in the U.S. alone, resulting in a $165 billion industry. Wedding planners handle a lot of work behind the scenes, so the bride and groom can focus on celebrating their new commitment with family and friends. Like other services, it comes with a price tag. Planners generally charge either a percentage of the total wedding cost, or a flat fee. ABC estimates that in the U.S.the planning fees typically range from $1500 to $5000, but can be much more.

While Daniel Hutchison is a self-confessed “tightwad,” the couple was still able to find a wedding planner to fit the bride’s wish for stress reduction, and his wish to maintain the budget. The Hutchinsons trimmed the planning contract costs by choosing select services from a long checklist during an initial meeting with Swanky Productions. The rest of the list was theirs to handle with help from vendors, friends and family.

“Get it in writing” is another piece of advice from clients and planners. Discussing options and finalizing decisions and fees in writing is just smart business. Especially when choosing out-of town and beach resort weddings, a locally-based wedding planner can be a vital connection to a smooth event. Just agree to the responsibilities and fees in advance to avoid wedding-day surprises.

From the selection of invitations to a fitness regime, and all the details in between, saying “I do!” to a wedding planner is another important commitment for the wedding day.

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