Gretchen Culver is a women who I've known for years in the wedding industry. A few years ago, she started her own company, Rocket Science Weddings and Events, and business is booming for this lady! One of the things I appreciate most about Gretchen is that she started her own company to really be different and challenge couples to take risks with their weddings. She's bringing out the fun and no idea is too crazy. Of course, Gretchen brings in her great taste and advice to the couples she works with as well, to ensure that their wedding is equally memorable and one great party! We interviewed Gretchen to see what makes Rocket Science Weddings and Events so different and how she just might be your perfect wedding planner.
Q. How did you start Rocket Science Weddings & Events and how long have you been planning /designing weddings?
A. Although I have been planning weddings in some capacity or other for ten years now, I only started my own company in 2009. It came from the desire to work more closely with brides and grooms, plus shake up the wedding industry a bit. I was tired of seeing the same old thing and I thought that I could bring a fresh take to weddings that people would respond to. I started the company out of my house with a shiny new laptop, website and two clients.
Q. What were the first steps a couple should take in designing their big day?
A. Have a glass of wine. Or beer. And then take a look at your surroundings. What is in your home? What do you wear? Are you drawn to certain colors, patterns, styles? Look for inspiration everywhere, not just in "wedding world". My best design ideas come from everyday life.
Of course I think it is helpful to have a professional designer/planner because I think they are a great collaborative resource for couples. They can refine and curate your ideas so that only the best ideas get implemented, but also bring ideas to the table that you may not have thought of that are brilliant. Additionally they will know how to find you the right vendors for your budget to execute your ideas.
Q. How do you help your clients choose your vendors?
A. I look for the right style in their budget and give them limited choices. No one wants to be overwhelmed and that can happen very easily in the wedding planning process. I also feel it is important not to work with the same vendors every time, because not all vendors fit every couple. The personality of the vendor and the client need to mesh.
Q. What kind of resources did you use to gather inspiration for your weddings?
A. You name it, I use it. The Restoration Hardware catalog is phenomenal. But I can find ideas anywhere, hotel lobbies, the sidewalk, shopping, watching Kung Fu Panda (there is some fabric on a jacket a goat wears that I love!)… art is a major inspiration for me too. Pretty much my client is always in the back of my mind and when I see something that works, I take a photo or tear the page out of the magazine to add to their idea board.
I rely heavily on my Pantone color swatches when creating the perfect palate. Of course I use wedding magazines, books, blogs and online resources like theknot.com
Q. Describe the difference between a wedding planner and designer? Where do you fall in this?
A. To over simplify, a designer makes things pretty, a planner makes things happen. I think I am an unusual balance of creative and logical, right and left brain. I love the creative aspect of colors, design, new ideas... but equally love making timelines and spreadsheets. I could never be a "designer only" or a "planner only", because I like to be in on the whole picture. By doing both I am giving my clients a better end product.
Although I really love the design aspect, I do sometimes collaborate with other designers, which is fun and takes some work off my plate. The result is a cool fusion of Rocket Science, the designer and the couple.
Q. What was your philosophy in investing in the details of your day (money wise)? What were the priorities for your clients?
A. I say pick three things that are important, invest your money there, and the rest doesn't matter. I heard a really good piece of advice a long time ago, I can't remember where I heard it even, but they said, "Go to a wedding as a guest and try to soak it all in. Then two weeks later sit down and write out what you remember from the wedding. Those elements should be important to you in your planning process." It is amazing what people don't remember, even two weeks later!
If I had my wish, people would ALWAYS prioritize photography AND videography. I hear all the time, "Oh I wish I had hired a professional videographer."
I am a big foodie so I think that good food and beverage are important, and of course the entertainment. Nothing kills a wedding like a bad DJ or band.
Q. Describe the perfect 'Rocket Science' Couple.
A. I had one client fill out on their evaluation (I make all clients fill this out prior to reserving my services) and in the "other comments" section they wrote: We are awesome!
That pretty much sums up my ideal client.
I enjoy working with people who are laid back and fun, that really want to do things differently and plan a memorable wedding.
Q. When it comes to choosing a venue, what are the most important things to keep in mind?
A. Choosing a venue is SO hard. There are so many things to think about. First, size. Will it fit your guest count. Many venues list their total maximum occupancy, not is what is actually comfortable for seating. If you don't want tables on the dance floor or your guests to be bumping elbows, you need to ask what the venue can realistically seat.
Second, does the venue fit within your budget and find out what the actual total cost is to have your event there. There are a growing number of venues that don't have on site caterers, so couples think they are inexpensive because there is no food and beverage minimum. Then they realize they are spending the venue's rental fee PLUS a huge amount on food and then they have to cut and sacrifice other elements of their wedding.
NOTE: you CANNOT venue shop without an accurate guest list and budget. Selecting the wrong venue for your size and/or budget is the most common mistake I see couples make.
Q. What do you, as a planner, want in collaboration with your vendors on a wedding day?
A. I want everyone to have fun. When all of the vendors work well together, the client feels it and can enjoy the day more. I think that lends to more successful end results for the vendors and clients, i.e. better photos, staying on time, etc. Also, I want everyone to be respectful of the others working the wedding. When everyone understands that their job will be easier and the client will be happier if they work together, the event is the better for it.
Q. What advice do you have for brides who are planning a stylish wedding that incorporates so many details?
- Hire a planner, obviously. But in all seriousness, sometimes it is better and more cost effective to hire a professional.
- Personalize and forget what everyone else does. If you like it, do it. Tradition doesn't matter anymore.
- If you have a lot of DIY projects, plan accordingly and don't procrastinate. And assign people small, manageable tasks to help execute your DIY ideas (or see #1). You can't rely on people to problem solve or take on a lot, even if they volunteer to help. Make sure someone is in charge of tearing everything down and it isn't you!
Q. What are some innovative trends in weddings right now?
A. This is always the toughest question! Are there any new ideas? I would really like to see place mats catch on. I also love pattern, I think pattern is the new monogram. I am hoping to bring in houndstooth to a fall wedding I am doing.
Q. Hiring a wedding planner and designer in Minnesota is a bit of a new concept. Why is this important?
A. When you hire a wedding planner, you are hiring an expert. You haven't planned a wedding before, they have. Their experience is invaluable. A good planner will save you time, money, and stress while taking your ideas and making them better than you ever imagined. The end result is an overall cohesiveness to your wedding visually (like you see on Pinterest or in magazines), but also in how you and your guests experience and "feel" the day. Every detail is thought through and executed like magic.
If you had to get major, once-in-a-lifetime surgery, you would want the best doctor… you wouldn't think of doing it yourself. Same goes for weddings. (This may be an extreme analogy, but I like it.)
You can also check out Rocket Science Weddings and Events on Facebook.