Introducing our “Ask the Expert” column, featuring Vancouver wedding planner Genève McNally. Watch for Genève’s outspoken, real-life advice on a new wedding topic each month.


Image by Daniela Ciuffa

Isn’t it wonderful to be surrounded by creative and kind individuals willing to roll up their sleeves and pitch in with some of the wedding planning and on the big day itself? Or is it?


Whether you’ve chosen to bring on “Friendors” (a.k.a. family or friends substituting for professional vendors) to help reduce wedding costs or simply to get them involved in the festivities, follow these five important rules and you’ll increase your chances of a harmonious and happy ending for everyone involved:

1. Understand what you’re getting yourself into.

Be realistic about your expectations — just because a floral arrangement or cake design looks simple doesn’t mean it will be easy to recreate. Often what you love about a particular element is the magic that it exudes in its entirety (i.e., the freshness of the flowers, size of the arrangement, intricacy of the icing detail, etc.). But when recreated, it often won’t end up looking exactly like the original. Be prepared to accept your Friendor’s version of the original idea — who knows, it might end up being better than you imagined!

2. Communicate, communicate, communicate!

This one is huge. Never assume that a Friendor understands what you mean unless you have specifically discussed and planned it out together. Better yet, create a mock-up of your concept and test-drive your plan of action so everyone understands exactly what is desired and expected.

3. Ask for a solid and sincere commitment.

Make sure your Friendors understand what they are committing to. Often, family and friends will agree to help with the best of intentions. But when the time comes, they may not comprehend the importance of their role and can often be found to be unaccountable — if they’re tired after a fun pre-wedding night party, they’ll assume they won’t be missed and will “forget” to show up for a task or activity. Or they won’t bring the right tools to get the job done, or they’ll show up with no sense of urgency about getting it done in time.

4. You can’t just fire or critique a family member or best friend.

At least, you can’t do it without compromising your relationship. So be sure the risk you take in appointing a Friendor to any particular role won’t be jeopardized if a flower arrangement looks wilted or puny, the cake tastes awful, or the first dance or ceremony processional song is wrong or doesn’t start on cue.

5. Don’t forget: what goes up must come down.

This point is often overlooked and can turn what might have been a terrific DIY success story into a stressful end-of-the-night expense and/or headache. Most venues require that all décor and personal items be removed from the property at the end of the event, but those wonderful Friendors who volunteered their time and energy in getting everything set up are likely now exhausted and perhaps tipsy. They’ll be in no state to spend one or two hours cleaning up and tearing down. The best way to prevent this common problem is to assign a separate Tear Down Team to disassemble and pack up all those fabulous bits and pieces (i.e., emptying the water from the vases, wrapping and packing them, stacking rented chairs, etc.). This team should ideally consist of two to four members who have preferably refrained from drinking and are revved up and enthusiastic about working the “graveyard shift.”


Genève McNally, principal planner at DreamGroup Productions Inc. Wedding & Event Planners, began her career as catering manager for one of Vancouver’s most sought-after wedding venues. In 2004 she joined forces with good friend Sarah Shore to found one of Vancouver’s longest-running and most-trusted wedding planning companies, DreamGroup Productions. With her in-depth knowledge of the industry and candid communication style, Genève enjoys giving back to the industry with several ongoing blog features and through the professional wedding planning classes offered through DreamGroup’s dg Academy.