Picking wedding planners/coordinators here in Manila was actually a fun albeit time consuming task. There are quite a few out there and if you care to go through the listings try looking through the supplier’s list of Wedding Essentials magazine (and check out the January – June 2007 issue here; it’s fat and chockfull of ideas/images/inspirations) or scroll through weddingsatwork.com’s listings (click here for directory). What I did with the listing was that I chose the names that sounded mildly familiar from other ‘real’ Manila brides and I googled them; then I read through features and blogs that mentioned them, which revealed quite a bit of information.
That was Step One.
The next step was to go on referrals from other brides and other people in the wedding industry (designers, make-up artists, florists). Out of 7 referrals, I decided to narrow it down to 3. Mostly because after the third one I couldn’t fathom sitting through another first-time meeting with a planner, who will likely explain to me (roughly) the same things. All three were highly recommended by both brides and their fellow industry peeps so I thought that I would be lucky to get any of them. And when it came to picking between the last 2, Jay reminded me that it was actually a good sign that I was a bit torn.
1) JP MONTILLA of Complete Work, Inc. JP was the one who planned both Monica and Eri’s wedding (both of whom are in my entourage), so my parents, who were sponsors in both, gave their stamp of approval for his work from the get-go. He is known to be a stickler; especially when the bottom line is concerned, which is especially great for those of you who want to make sure that wine bottles aren’t being opened when there are still opened ones to be consumed, that kind of thing. Also, my friend said that he is quite good with dealing with emotional family members (a result of the panic leading up to tying up loose ends days before the wedding) and that he handled tricky situations quite well. He answered my texts promptly and was very professional about what his role was when we met in person.
The only thing that stuck-out in my meeting was that I wasn’t able to take home the contract that I was supposed to sign (to be able to discuss with Jay and my mom), which meant that I had to memorize it quickly and make sure that I got everything before I left. I know that there are copyright issues to be dealt with (with younger planners ‘stealing’ templates, etc.) but at the same time, I was uncomfortable with not having a hard copy of what I was supposed to invest P55,000 in. But aside from that detail, he gets a 4 out of 5 stars from me.
2) NENITA ZAGALA of Celebrations Events Specialists. I met with Nenita at the
Peninsula’s lobby and I liked her immediately as she graciously let me stuff my face with two gargantuan lumpias (eat breakfast, people! I didn’t that day) while she went through every single bullet point on her 3 (or was it 4) page contract and job list. My first impression of her was that she is thorough, detail-oriented, simple yet stern (in a good way, the kind that you’ll need for your wedding day), and that she will not leave anything to chance. I also looked through WE’s Beautiful Weddings and one of the weddings that caught my eye was coordinated by her. She comes at a whopping price of P80,000 (and at this point I thought, wow, I should seriously quit my day job and become a planner after this experience…), but if you pro-rate that to 10 months (which is our countdown to November), that’s actually just 8,000/month, which is minimum wage. And that P80,000 is supposed to be spread out amongst the 4 other coordinators that she’ll have at a wedding of roughly 375-400 ppl (our invite count, for now).
She was also candid in saying that her and JP are friends and that they are both part of the Philippine Association of Wedding Planners (PAWP), so it was good cos I was able to share with her that I was canvassing still and that I had in fact met with JP a couple of days before.
Nenita gets a 4.5 out of 5.
3) CHINKY UY AGREGADO of Metro Eventscape Planners. Chinky was a bit late (15-20 mins) to our first meeting because she had an event/meeting in the morning and was literally running on empty by the time she got to me (Rockwell Starbucks). But as soon as she was settled and in planner mode, she went through her checklist bullet-point by bullet-point. Her list wasn’t as long as Nenita’s, but she said pretty much the same thing. She was also extremely warm and relatable, and she answered all of my text queries within 5 minutes after I sent them (which is to me a big deal).
After she had gone over who she would suggest for me (only to have me say, yes! I was thinking of them too while I was doing my own research!) for each supplier, I got this feeling that we saw eye-to-eye on how Jay and I want our wedding to be. She also had this thing on her client info sheet that asked not only for the color scheme/motif but also for a ‘mood’ and I’m all about these details… cos I was still on the fence about our ‘motif’ but I definitely have a mood in mind. And the mood is more important than the motif, if you ask me…
Coincidentally, the ‘Beautiful Weddings’ (a mini-mag insert that came with the latest WE; features real Manila brides and has first-person accounts and a complete suppliers list per wedding) had a testimony from a real bride about Chinky, calling her ‘warm’ and ‘friendly’ and that she was all about what she CAN do for you, not what she CANNOT do, or what wasn’t covered in the contract (which she did talk about, but she wasn’t militant about it). Perhaps the most important detail is that she told me that since I kind of have an idea already of what and who I want, and that we had already booked our church, reception venue and designer (3 very important and time intensive details), it would be unfair to charge me the full-price (P85,000).
So in so many words, I’m going with Chinky🙂 The decision was a gut instinct, but it also helped that she had other real brides giving positive testimonials of her service.
My tips for those of you meeting with planners here in Manila:
1) go with your gut instinct (read Malcolm Gladwell’s ‘Blink’)
2) ask for referrals from other brides
3) ask your designer, friends, and even other planners who else is out there or if they are ‘friends’ with other planners, and they’ll be candid about who they associate with and for what reason
4) read through Wedding Essentials and scour the real bridal testimonies because more than likely you will find something about their experience with the planner that they chose, which is as good as any other referral
5) if you’ve already done a lot of the work (like, say, contacted and made a decision on 5 suppliers: photographer, printer, designer, church, and venue) then ask for a mid-way price that is not quite full but not day-of. Or just go ahead and pick the day of plan/package because at that point all you really need is execution
6) i’m going to lift this piece of advice from WE mag: ask yourself if you want a dominator/controller (someone who will really manage, manage and micro-manage), a maid (someone to execute what you want and who has your interest in mind, not hers), or a partner (someone who is aware of her expertise in the field and won’t be ashamed to call you on a few things, to suggest her own input) in your planner. i want a mixture of the maid and the partner, a helper who won’t be afraid to call me out on things and to take charge when the situation calls for it, but at the same time, knows that at the end of the day, it is our vision that needs to be executed.
7) if you are going to be hands-on throughout the wedding, as in you want to be the one to pick the flowers, photographer, etc. – and not your mom or another family member – then you should meet up with the planner on your own first. i think, just as with any kind of work relationship, chemistry is important, and the planner may get along with your mom, but (s)he might not get along with you.
Chinky gets 4.75 out of 5 stars from me.
Image taken by Madge Lejano