The wedding 'closers': Say Less planners specialize in Big Day details
Working behind the scenes like magical pixies of diplomacy, planning and punctuality, these "11th hour" wedding coordinators ensure the right flowers are transferred from the church to the reception hall, the tables are decorated according to the bride's vision and the groom’s notoriously rude uncle can’t get near the microphone during the wedding toasts.
FARGO — We’ve heard of wedding planners and wedding coordinators.
Now meet the wedding closers.
Kelsey Raftevold and Stephanie D’Ambrosio, co-owners of a new Fargo business, Say Less Events, LLC, are like the anchor leg of a couple’s wedding-planning marathon. They swoop in for the 11th hour to make sure that the day’s itinerary and details move forward without a hitch. Working behind the scenes like magical pixies of diplomacy, planning and punctuality, they ensure the flower arrangements are transferred from the church to the reception hall, the tables are decorated according to the bride's vision and the groom’s notoriously rude uncle can’t get near the microphone during the wedding toasts.
At any given time, they will act as the spokesperson for the newlyweds, conveying the couple's expectations to vendors, based on earlier meetings with the couple. They also might be traffic coordinators, quality-control specialists, errand-runners, itinerary keepers and points of contact for anyone with an issue involving the day's events.
"We would be that crisis communicator, the resolver of any problems," Raftevold says. "If a vendor is supposed to be there at noon and it's 12:30 and they're not there, we know where and why and what we need to do about it."
In the process, they are like an extra layer of insurance, in that they guarantee the happy couple’s months of planning result in a day that flows smoothly and beautifully, with any last-minute cancellations, hiccups or snafus quietly handled behind the scenes. This leaves the bride and her beloved to relax and enjoy the day.
"I'd almost refer to us as their best friend going through the wedding with them, but someone who can just take their wants and needs and execute on them without their having to worry about it," says Raftevold.
That idea — that the newlyweds don't have to spend their day answering questions from vendors or asking the caterers if they remembered the vegan option — inspired their business name.
“The name 'Say Less' is kind of a play on, 'Say less, we've got this. You don't have to worry any more. We'll take it from here," says Raftevold. “We'll leave the ‘I do’s’ to them and we'll do the rest.”
Apparently, Raftevold and D’Ambrosio are onto something. After announcing their new business venture at the end of July on social media sites, including the networking site Ladyboss-Fargo-Moorhead, they received dozens of comments from other women who thought it was a great idea. One bride remarked that simply knowing two professional planners were in place to deal with any contingency would give them peace of mind.
Within a week, Say Less Events had booked their first wedding for late September and had already started booking weddings into 2022.
Just say 'I do.' We'll do the rest
A natural organizer with event-planning experience, Raftevold (then Kelsey Helland) felt perfectly at ease planning her own wedding to Austyn Raftevold last Aug. 29. A late afternoon ceremony, followed by a reception for 250, was planned at the Vintage Garden in Barnesville. Kelsey meticulously tracked every detail, from the cake and flowers to the seating charts and menu in anticipation of the event.
But as Aug. 29 drew nearer, she wondered who would ride herd on all those details on the actual day. She didn’t want her mother or mother-in-law to be burdened with that responsibility. She didn’t want the people in her wedding party to have to worry either. Finally, she decided to approach a trusted co-worker and asked her to coordinate the day. The colleague agreed and was instrumental in helping the day’s activities flow as elegantly and smoothly as the silhouette of her classic, A-line bridal gown.
The experience made her realize there might be a real demand for day-of wedding-coordination specialists. "I kind of sat back and thought, 'Gosh, this is a niche ... there is a huge role that that person can play and I don't know why that couldn't be me,'" she says.
During a happy hour at Luna Fargo with her good friend D'Ambrosio, the two began discussing the potential for such a service as they sipped on glasses of Sauvignon Blanc. Before long, they'd hatched the idea for a day-of-wedding planning service.
"We got to talking about this idea that we both had thought about, but didn't really know how to execute on, so by joining forces, it was a little less intimidating to start a business," Raftevold says. "We figured why not? We both have the detail, the communication skills, the organization that would be required of this role, and an eye for design, planning and execution, so that's where it blossomed from."
Raftevold's marketing background also formed the perfect complement to D'Ambrosio's extensive experience in planning events of all sizes. Their day jobs also had helped them build numerous relationships with the same types of vendors that were needed for weddings, so they would know who to contact if issues needed to be hammered out or special requests were made.
The two friends suspected their type of service was needed, but conducted market research just to make sure. They gathered wedding data locally, in Minneapolis and in the greater North Dakota area to determine how their services could fit in with what currently exists.
They learned that, while there are certainly other wedding planners out there, they seemed to be the only ones who specifically specialized in day-of-event services.
Satisfied they were on the right track, they became a registered LLC and set up a website and social media. They also consulted with lawyers and an accountant to make sure their contracts were in order and their business plan was financially sound.
Keeping track of all the details
While doing their market research, the partners learned the average cost of a wedding is $20,000 to $30,000. Weddings have also become increasingly more specialized and complex, with elaborate themes, bridesmaid proposals, personalized signage, snack carts, photo booths and dozens of other touches.
The DIY movement has definitely influenced the wedding industry, creating a generation of brides who like to incorporate personalized crafts and details into their decor.
When factoring in the growing price tag and layers of complexity, the presence of a coordinator who understands the couple's desires and vision seems especially important, Raftevold says.
Say Less services start at $1,000, but that's a small price to pay for peace of mind, they say. "That's a drop in the hat compared to what your whole wedding is going to cost you," Raftevold says. "So to have us there to make sure everything goes off perfectly is almost like the best money you'll spend.
While engaged couples will want to reserve Say Less's services as far in advance as they would any other wedding vendor, their first face-to-face meeting will take place about two months before the wedding date. "We'll make sure they're on board with things they have done, are doing or need to do, and make sure everything is lined up for the big day," Raftevold says.
They'll also check that the schedule flows well, and has adequate time slots for activities such as the bridal party getting ready or set-up and decorating time.
Closer to the wedding, the partners will meet with the couple for a final walkthrough of their venue, "so we can see the space and we can see how they envision it looking for themselves," Raftevold says.
They may also meet one other time to hammer out final details, make sure the day's timeline is in order and to determine if they would like the Say Less coordinators to take over all communication with vendors at that point.
In between, there will be unlimited phone and email communication between them and the couple to ensure everything is on track and the bride and groom feel comfortable with how plans are going.
Raftevold says there are "add-ons" to this basic package if the couple requests a little extra help with activities like the wedding rehearsal or post-wedding tear-down.
"We're flexible. Our aim is basically to accommodate the bride or groom's stress points and to make sure they feel really good about everything," she says. "We just want them to have a fun, perfect, beautiful day."