The Wedding Planner

A wedding planned by Barness at The Rittenhouse Hotel in Philadelphia. Photo by Cliff Mautner Photography

Lynda Barness—an award-winning consultant in Philadelphia—shares some of the trends she’s seeing in the industry

By Sara Perez Webber

In Lynda Barness’s book, I DO: A Wedding Planner’s View, she describes a mother-of-the-bride who wanted a well planned social media campaign for her daughter’s big day. “Her idea was to ‘generate some more excitement’ about her daughter’s wedding,” writes Barness, a wedding planner based in Philadelphia. “She saw this as a special opportunity to share the news, with the main focus on Facebook.”

So Barness helped her find a public relations professional to take on the job. The “social media concierge” not only provided content for the bride to post on Facebook before the wedding, she was on site for the event, posting photos and content for 12 hours to Facebook and Instagram. Barness headed off potential problems by communicating the social media concierge’s role to the other wedding professionals and helping to define her duties. A note that Barness posted to the wedding day timeline, for example, noted that the social media concierge “will not shoot over the photographer’s shoulder using the same picture angle.”

The 2016 wedding was the first and only time Barness has worked with wedding clients who wanted a social media concierge, though weddings and social media now go hand-in-hand. “I now see wedding hashtags for almost all weddings,” she says.

Barness has witnessed many other changes during her 14-plus years in the business. Several are outlined in the book, which features a collection of posts from her popular blog. After helping to plan her elder daughter’s wedding inspired her to make a career change, Barness sold the family real estate and homebuilding business in 2004 and opened I DO Wedding Consulting. She has since planned around 200 weddings; been recognized as a Master Wedding Consultant by the Association of Bridal Consultants and an Industry Leader by Wedding Planner Magazine; written two books (the first, I DO: A Wedding Planner Tells Tales, was published in 2015); and had her work featured in such publications as Martha Stewart Weddings and The Knot magazine. She also planned her younger daughter’s wedding with a scant seven weeks’ notice—in London, no less. Catering Magazine recently caught up with Barness to get her take on wedding trends, and advice for how caterers and wedding planners can best work together.

Lynda Barness, owner of I DO Wedding Consulting in Philadelphia

CM: In your 14 years in business as a wedding planner, what are a couple of the biggest changes you’ve seen in weddings—and the way your clients work with you?

Barness: Without a doubt, technology has been the biggest change in the wedding world. It completely affects how my clients work with me.

When I started in the industry, iPhones, GPS, Pinterest, Etsy, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Skype, LinkedIn, texting, drones and more were not in existence or not in widespread use. Apps have also changed the landscape in the wedding industry by making it easier for planners to organize their work.

In the early years of the business, I spoke frequently to couples and families with whom I worked—over the phone and in person. Now, most of the communication is by email. Also, at the start, I reached those who might be interested in my services by advertising exclusively in magazines and by snail mail. Now, The Knot, Wedding Wire, Constant Contact and other online resources are available, and I have used those, too.

CM: How has the process of writing two books and self-publishing them enhanced your business, and do you find the process fulfilling?

Barness: There are probably over a hundred wedding planners in the Greater Philadelphia area, with more if you consider the South Jersey market. I knew when I started this career that I wanted to separate myself out from all of the others, which is why I achieved the designation of Master Wedding Planner from a national organization. I wrote two books to help others, which I think is a differentiator.

I have participated in book signings at a Barnes & Noble store in Center City Philadelphia, at industry events and at several bridal salons. Writing books is more complicated and time-consuming than I ever expected, but I am glad I did it, as no other planners in this market have published wedding-related books.

Also, I’m an instructor in Temple University’s Certificate Program in Wedding Planning and Consulting. I teach “The Business Side of Wedding Planning” and “Outdoor Weddings and Tents,” and I think the books are helpful for my students, too.

CM: Do you have any advice for caterers on how best to work with wedding planners?

Barness: Communication is always the key. We are all working for the same people with the same goal, so it is helpful if caterers share the details of the day with wedding planners. And it is very helpful to include the wedding planner at the menu tasting. We often all use this opportunity to go over the timing of the events of the whole reception, and with the couple/family, planner and caterer all at the table, we can have discussions and make final decisions together.

I compile a master timeline from information provided to me by all the wedding professionals involved in the day, and I share it with all of the professionals, including the caterer. In this way, we can all check and double-check that we have every bit of information we need.

CM: For the caterers that you frequently work with and would recommend to your own clients, what qualities do they have that make them reliable and trustworthy?

Barness: I am so happy to work in the Greater Philadelphia market with so many fabulous caterers. “Reliable and trustworthy” are key, and to me it means that they share information, and do what they promise! I can count on them to treat our mutual client the way I would.

CM: What are some of the wedding trends that you predict we will see in 2019?

Barness: I see large wedding parties on the horizon. And I mean large! I have started seeing this in 2018, and there is a trend to invite attendants from different parts of one’s life and have them all participate together.

Another trend that is on the way is the use of more creative escort card displays. Recently, a florist used a painted magnetic board on a huge easel. Magnolia leaves were hand-calligraphed with each guest’s name, a small magnet was glued on the back of each, and they were set on the decorated board. It was a real showstopper. I see the simple paper escort cards taking a backseat to a more significant design element.

I have seen the trend of personalization growing. Sometimes it is with a selfie-station backdrop, a deceased family member’s favorite song shared, a family recipe used by the caterer for dessert, a meaningful drink, a school banner, the couple’s favorite candy, how the hashtag is shared, a family heirloom, or something very particular to the guests or the locale.

There is clearly a trend for food allergies to be discussed with the caterer and the planner before the wedding. Allergies and food preferences are now being asked on RSVP cards, and this trend will definitely continue in 2019.

With photography and videography, I definitely see a trend in the use of drones. I have seen some amazing images and expect to see more in 2019.

And, last but not least, is the after-party. They are being held after almost every wedding, and they are becoming more elaborate: a DJ who is hired exclusively for this event, specialty foods (think donut or bagel walls), snacks particular to a location or city, and even special entertainment, like a college pep band!

For more information on I DO Wedding Consulting, visit idoplan.com