Insider Tips From Our Planning Experts || Shannon Lepard and Julie Butkus

Behind every well-executed wedding day is an accomplished bride and her wedding planner. Who, incidentally, is triumphantly holding a completed list of tasks that once seemed utterly endless.

It can be daunting to enter into planning a wedding alone. Which is exactly why our planning experts love helping brides-to-be know what has to get done and the best way to get there. We caught up with our very own Shannon Lepard and Julie Butkus to help unveil a bit of the mystery of having a smooth wedding day and the secret sauce for creating an unforgettable event.

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The Laurel: As experts in the events industry, you’ve seen it all! What are your favorite parts of planning weddings at The Laurel?

Shannon Lepard: I love bringing new ideas to the table. Since we know our space so well, we are able to suggest options that perhaps a bride hasn't thought of. Seeing the excitement on her face makes it so much fun and keeps it challenging.

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(cont.) I also love soothing their nerves. It seems all brides and families worry about different things. So, I enjoy telling them it will all be taken care of — then the relief they feel keeps the process moving along smoothly.

Julie Butkus: My favorite part about wedding planning is getting to know the bride. I truly enjoy forming a relationship while diving into the planning details. I like to learn more about her style — i.e. what aspects of the wedding are important to her, how does she envision her wedding day.

The Laurel: What are the most common challenges you run into during events?

SL: Some brides want to be in full control and it only makes the day stressful. Helping a family and bride/groom let go and enjoy their day is one of the biggest challenges, but also the best reward when they see we have it all taken care of! That being said, let us handle it.


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JB: A common challenge I run into is working with vendors who have not been in our space before. If a vendor isn’t familiar with The Laurel or our logistics, things may not flow as smoothly. The flip side is that I am able to fully trust those who are familiar with our space, who I have recommended to clients and who have proven themselves to be of high quality and expertise.

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The Laurel: We can all agree brides have a lot on their minds! What have you seen most brides overlook in their planning?

SL: I don't think many brides have an appreciation for all the effort and time that is put into a large event such as a wedding — both from a vendor’s perspective as well as the bride's. Plan to have some down time during the day or even the few days leading up to the wedding! Enjoy what you have been waiting so long for and let your vendors do their job — that's why you hired them!

JB: I have found that brides will think of the big picture but may forget about some of the smaller details. We hold planning sessions to go over many of these items and that is typically pretty eye opening to the bride as she now has a new list of things to work on.

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The Laurel: When making decisions for their weddings, brides often seek expert input. Why should a bride trust your input and take your recommendations?

SL: I feel the toughest thing is when a bride books a vendor that may be the least expensive but has no idea how they will perform the day of. We enjoy giving referrals of the vendors we have had GREAT experiences with. It makes everything run smoother when we can depend on each other.

JB: This is what we do for a living. We work weddings every week so we know what works well and what doesn’t. We also have relationships with some of the best vendors in the business. We want our clients to have an incredible wedding that they will joyfully look back on for the rest of their lives, so we want to give them our honest opinions, expert advice and refer them to DFW’s finest vendors!

The Laurel: What do you believe to be the secret sauce for creating an unforgettable event?

SL: Smile, never stop trying and don't put your feet up until the guests are all dancing! Ultimately, there is no secret sauce, but you do have to love all of it to be a part of such a HUGE day in someone's life. I still love watching the bride walk down the aisle or the parents tear up at speeches — there is nothing like a wedding!

JB: We work hard to create an unforgettable wedding by focusing on the client and making sure all vendors are on the same page. We truly care about our clients so we do everything in our power to make this day special for them.


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(cont.) As for the client, we want them to think about their guests as well. For example, what type of music will get your guests out on the dance floor? Are there specific things you can incorporate in the wedding that your guests will enjoy: late-night snacks, special treats or favors, a photobooth?

When you put both of these together, the perfect wedding just comes together!

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The Laurel: Having had past experience planning events at high-end venues, what do you think makes The Laurel so unique?

SL: I love that there is a beautiful outdoor location with a beautiful inside back-up. This is rare! I also love that you can have an indoor/outdoor reception with the use of the patio. It covers it all!

JB: We are more involved in the wedding planning process than other venues. Though our role is technically described as a “day-of coordinator,” I begin working with my clients months out in order to make this day perfect. I want to be fully aware of the wedding details so I can work with all vendors to ensure a seamless event.

When it comes to the wedding day, we only host one event per day in order to give our clients the best experience possible. We want our full attention to be geared towards this one wedding. This day is all about them and we want them to truly feel it

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The Laurel: The event industry is ever-evolving, how do you stay connected to the best vendors and up with the latest trends?

SL: All the planners at The Laurel are members of the best networking groups in DFW. We attend monthly meetings to expand our education and stay current with the hottest vendors in the industry.

JB: We attend various networking events and education seminars where we interact with and collaborate with the top event professionals in the industry.

The Laurel: You seem to genuinely enjoy the role you play at the Laurel. Any final thoughts as to why that is?

SL: I feel we have such a great structure to lean on, but have the flexibility to be very involved with our clients and our events. I have heard of other venues that do not promote these relationships and I can't imagine not being close to the families we work with!

JB: We have a wonderful team who makes going into work each day fun. We care genuinely about our clients and we care about each other. The Laurel is truly a special place!


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