By Shelley Hill Young
Carri Tanner says she was a little surprised at how big a production Charleston weddings are and how many vendors are involved when she started her wedding planning business with one of her best friends five years ago.
Now, Carri has learned exactly which vendors to call when she needs to find just the right piece of lounge furniture or chandelier to set the mood the couple envisions for their big day. She knows the catering company to call when the bride and groom want to serve traditional Indian food and the entertainment company to call when they want one string quartet for the ceremony and another for the cocktail hour.
Vendors appreciate Carri’s extreme organization, often referring clients to her. And her clients, who are busy couples with long to-do lists? They appreciate her organization and attention to detail, too.
“My goal is always to manage my clients’ stress,” Carri says.
Carri exudes a calm, easy confidence. It’s hard to imagine her stressed out. Her business plans 40 to 50 weddings a year. She has a 7-month-old daughter, Caroline, and she just recently took over her partner’s share in the business, making her the sole owner. She says she’s determined to make it work. “I’m determined to find that balance.”
Carri says she tries to manage her clients’ expectations from the get-go. “I’m a good listener. A lot of it is getting to know my clients and asking them the right questions.”
Carri starts working with couples, many of whom are from out-of-town, as much as a year in advance and has had some brides call her two years in advance. She says Charleston is such a popular wedding destination because the bride and groom “want nice weather and they want to get married outside.” They’ve also heard about or sampled the delicious food the city has to offer.
One of the first big decisions the couple must make is the guest list. That number is the biggest factor in determining the budget. Couples can expect to pay at least $75,000 to $100,000 for a wedding with 100 guests.
If a couple’s vision doesn’t match their budget, Carri says it’s her job to be straightforward and honest with them and to find alternatives that are inspired by their idea but within their budget.
Carri says couples are looking for ways to personalize their big day. She’s used beer growlers to identify tables for seating assignments, and she’s had a couple order New York bagels for their late-night snacks.
Carri has also learned to be patient. “They are making such big decisions,” she says. “This is a big day for them.” Her best advice for the couple on their wedding day: “Try to enjoy it and don’t get stressed out about the little things.”
As for Carri, she says she has an incredible staff, which means she no longer has to attend every wedding her company plans. So lately, her Saturdays are spent with her daughter. “My Saturdays are nonstop,” she says. “It’s more than a wedding.”