Ask the Experts: Problems Solved!

Sage advice from the pros to solve all of your wedding day conundrums.

Our outdoor ceremony is planned for 5 p.m. If the forecast calls for rain, I really want to wait until the last minute for Plan B. How long beforehand does the venue need to know?  

[sidebar]EXPERT: Tim Sweeney, event sales manager at the Villanova Conference Center’s Montrose Mansion in Radnor.  Start with prevention, says Sweeney. You should check that a venue is prepared for such situations and has experience quickly changing to Plan B if needed—and make sure such plans are specifically spelled out in the contract before you sign. That said, a good planner (who should have weather radar on his cell phone!) wants what the bride wants, and should be able to wait until the last minute for the switcheroo. “I’d wait until 4:30 to make the call,” he says, “and even if it was pouring, I’d offer to push the ceremony back to 5:30, if she wanted to wait and see if it cleared. It only takes 20 minutes to wipe off some chairs.”

I’m getting remarried, and my daughter is very involved in the planning. I’d also like to involve my soon-to-be stepdaughter in a way that makes her feel included, but doesn’t step on my daughter’s toes. How can I do that?  

EXPERT:  Melissa Brannon, owner of Philly’s Uncommon Events.  Offer your future stepdaughter a task of her own to work on, says Brannon, and then let her decide if that’s how she wants to be involved: “If you give her something such as tallying the invitations, this will bring her into the planning.” But she also notes that this may be a confusing time for her, so try to be open-minded about whether or not she even wants to take on a wedding-related job. “Offering her a specific task gives her the option to say no, but will allow her to contribute if she wants to.”

How does tipping work with all of my vendors? Should I be tipping everyone?  

EXPERT: Kimberly Fink, a wedding planner with Philly’s Innove Events.  When it comes to your venue and food-service staff, inquire as to whether a gratuity is included in the bill first, says Fink. If it isn’t, consider around $25 per waiter, and $150 to $200 for the manager. (Put cash into individual envelopes before the wedding for a planner or parent to hand out at the end of the reception.) “Tipping your photographer, planner or florist isn’t customary,” she says, “but if you want to let them know how much you appreciated their services, a gift certificate for a nice dinner is a great idea.” And, don’t forget the power of a handwritten thank-you note—especially one that can be used on the vendor’s website: “They are invaluable for showing future clients.”