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Advice From the Pros: Sasha Souza

We have a new feature here on EAD – a little thing we like to call “Advice From the Pros”. Each week, we’ll be featuring one of the greats of the wedding industry and they will answer some of your most burning questions!

Our first pro is the incomparable Sasha Souza, owner of Sasha Souza Events, writer of the Sparkliatti blog, fire fighter, therapist, accountant, and all-around amazing event planner! Sasha is located in Napa and Beverly Hills, CA but has planned events everywhere from Tokyo to the Bahamas. She has been honored as one of the top three event designers in the country by Modern Bride magazine and has been featured on television shows and segments such as “Whose Wedding Is It Anyway?”, Eye on LA, and the CBS Evening News. We are so thrilled to have her stop by Elizabeth Anne Designs today!

EAD: What is the single best piece of advice you can give to brides and grooms as they begin to plan their event?

SS: There’s a lot of pressure with reading all the blogs, magazines, books and talking to friends. Just remember that a wedding is a very fluid and the planning won’t last forever. Things change – styles, guest counts, size & shape of bridesmaids…try to take everything in stride because you can make yourself crazy pretty quickly. The more flexible you are the more you’ll take everything in stride and enjoy your wedding planning.

EAD: If budget is limited and there was one item that you advise splurging on, what would that be?

SS: Such a hard question and I guess it’s determined by the expertise of the person you’re asking. I wanted to say photography, but if you don’t give the photographer anything to shoot…then you’re in trouble with that one.

For me, it’s the tabletop hands down. People spend a large amount of the event sitting at the dinner table, so it should be finished and well done. I think that the dining table is the center of the festivities and who doesn’t love to sit down to a beautifully set table? That can be as formal or informal as you choose, but should reflect the overall event style & theme. All pieces of the event converge to that one place, think of it as the core of the party.

sasha souza events tablescapes
Sasha Souza Events work as published in Better Homes and Gardens

EAD: Which decisions do you advise a bride and groom to make early, and which should they consider closer to the event?

SS: Book vendors which are a finite resource meaning, they can only take one event at a time…typically that will be location, coordinator, photographer, band, videographer (if the owner is the one shooting), officiant. Caterers can sometimes take one more than one event per day and while they are EXTREMELY important, I consider them to be a second tier decision.

EAD: Do you have any inside tips for cost cutting?

SS: I don’t know if I have any secrets, but here is what I tell my clients.

CUT YOUR GUEST LIST. Number one, numero uno, #1. Don’t complain that you can’t afford your party if you keep adding guests to your wedding. Not everybody needs to bring a guest and if you wouldn’t have them over for Sunday dinner at your house, why are they invited to your wedding?

Put money into things people will notice. They will notice if the food is good, hot and there are enough staff to properly man the event. They will notice beautiful flowers (even if they don’t’ know what they are) and nice linens/fabric napkins. They may not notice, however, that you could have hired a band vs. a DJ or that you could have had a chocolate fountain or dessert buffet. They don’t know what you chose to forgo for cost.

Favors are always the first to go for our clients, leave them out if you don’t have the money to pay for your flowers or chairs.

Serve a wine/beer/champagne/non-alch bar only. It’s too bad if Uncle Charlie can’t get his scotch & soda. He’ll survive for 6 hours without it – and if he won’t, maybe you should consider getting him into a program with the money you saved.

Buffets, done well, are actually better than a seated dinner served slowly with too few servers. If you’re on a time constraint, a buffet is your friend.

EAD: Are there questions that brides and grooms should be asking you before signing a contract that they generally don’t ask?

SS: Most of our clients are pretty savvy business people so they ask all kinds of questions. But you really have to trust that the person you’re hiring is telling you honest answers. You can ask them if they take kick backs, but honestly would somebody who took them actually tell you? Most likely they would not because then they would just charge you a service charge to take care of the items and be done with it.

I always like it when people ask me about my failures. I think that’s pretty tricky. :) It’s a good barometer to tell you if the person you’re working with is telling you the truth. Anybody who says they only work stress free events probably doesn’t have a lot of experience or they’re not very truthful.

EAD: You’ve clearly been exposed to a lot of weddings – what details do you tend to remember?

SS: I tend to remember the funny moments, those that happen in the back of the house with the staff. Other than that, I remember the toasts – especially those that are irreverent and funny and sometimes a little raunchy. I remember lighting and linens also. But I hate to say it I mostly do remember the staff interaction and all the crazy that happens backstage. The diapers left on the table, the cake that bulged in the heat, the 45 servers moving 350 ceremony chairs in the rain uphill. Those are the things I learn from.

EAD: Do you have any other comments for our readers?

SS: Remember that it’s not the most important day of your life, but one of the most important days of your life.

EAD: What are your favorite sources of wedding inspiration (other than EAD of course!)?

SS: The runway shows for both bridal & fashion and home/style magazines do it for me – I can see a vase and design a party around it.

sasha souza events
Sasha Souza Events work via her blog, Sparkliatti

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4 comments on “Advice From the Pros: Sasha Souza

  1. Obviously, it depends on the guests in attendance, but I’d have to disagree on what guests will notice first. Yes, of course first and foremost, they’ll notice the quality of food, but from weddings I’ve been to, I don’t think flowers and nice linens are what is most memorable. Personally, I think a great band makes a wedding that much more fun. Now, if your guest list doesn’t like to dance — obviously — it would be a waste of money. But there is a HUGE difference between a band and a DJ (really, there is) and thinking back to the last 5 weddings I went to other than my own, I couldn’t tell you what types of flowers or how the flowers were arranged (aside from my own wedding, of course) or anything at all about the linens (if they were standard white linens, upgraded, etc), but I CAN absolutely tell you if the couple went with a band or a DJ, and if it was a great band, an acceptable DJ, or a crappy DJ. And every single wedding that I’ve been to with a live band has had WAY more people out on the dance floor having a great time than a wedding with a DJ. In fact, the band vs. DJ is probably the MOST noticeable part of the reception, at least amongst my group of family and friends.

    Obviously, it all comes down to personal preference. But when we planned our wedding, we did it from the point of view of a guest — if I was attending my own wedding, would I rather a) sit at a table with fancy linens or b) sit at a table with normal linens and have a great band to dance to all night? I don’t guests will notice if you use the standard white linens and regular chairs instead of upgrading to chivari chairs if they are up on the dance floor all night!

  2. We’re trying to do the best with what we’ve got. Our budget isn’t very big, but we do want a bar…. so we’re doing beer and wine. We MAY (if I can squeeze out some more money from somewhere!) have champagne too…. we’ll see.

    I think you should throw your wedding as one you’d like to go to. If flowers are really important to you, then cut your budget someplace else. But we’re using candles for our centerpieces – which is saving us some money.
    I know bands make such a big impression on weddings, but we didn’t have the budget for a good band, so we went with a good DJ instead. Not a cheesy bad DJ, but a good one who’ll play good music that we like.
    And I agree with Sasha on food – people will definitely notice if it’s really bad. It would be better to just have cake and hors d’oerves vs. a bad meal. I will always remember a certain wedding where we served ourselves from the buffet with our fingers (no serving utensils), and they ran out of cold-cuts for the make your own sandwiches. (Seriously).

  3. I appreciate Sasha’s honesty in wanting to say that photography is the most important area to splurge on, but at the same time, that might be a bad idea if the look of the wedding is being sacraficed.

    From the standpoint of a photographer, I think the portraits of the couple together are the most important ones and you’ll definitely want to make sure you hire someone who is good with those.

    Great article, really excited to see you having other wedding professionals writing articles and sharing their wisdom and knowledge.

  4. I agree photography is something to focus on. In keeping with that, you’ve got to have the right hair, makeup and jewelry so that you can enjoy the photos. A little help has arrived in that area, called the Bridal Mini. It looks like the top half of a wedding gown. Brides wear it to their trials, take a photo of the results, and can select their wedding day look with confidence. I know I wanted my gown with me for those decisions and wouldn’t risk staining it before the wedding. The Bridal Mini is the perfect practice garment.

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