By Dawn Duncan 

The world of weddings has changed drastically. From sites such as Zola, where a bride realizes she registered at the same department store her mother did 30 years prior and that she overpaid for invitations, to the infinite inspiration realm of Pinterest, the options for how to plan the perfect day are endless. Brides and grooms are flooded with ideas but as the excitement builds, this can also lead to feeling overwhelmed and a bit lost.

Enter wedding planners. Although this profession has existed, perhaps originally without formal title, for years, it is no longer reserved for only wealthy, socially elite families; wedding planners today work with couples of all types and from all socio-economic backgrounds. True, the shoestring budget weddings may not lend to hiring a planner, but options from full wedding consulting to day of assistance exist, making support services accessible and appealing for many.

The service levels and options that wedding planners and their companies provide are specialized to each professional and their own skill set, preferences and network. However, there are similarities across the planner arena, including a desire to become the buffer between a couple, their family and wedding party, and the vendors, venues and options that are available. Designed to cut through the chaos and the unknown, wedding planners develop honed networks of vetted professional vendors in order to best serve their clients. They know the best caterers, reception locations, outdoor areas, officiants, printers, tailors, florists, musicians, makeup and hair professionals, and how to locate obscure resources.

Photo by Sean Lara Photography, courtesy of Mountainside Events.

Photo by Hutch and Futch, courtesy of Jolly Events.

Planners can access the right contacts quickly and ensure that commitments will be upheld in the manner they have been contracted. If anything goes awry, a wedding planner and their team are there to communicate with the vendor and solve problems, usually without having to involve the wedding party at all. This is perhaps the foremost reason to hire a planner. No bride or groom wants to be thinking about if there’s enough red wine stocked in the bar or if the violinist will make it to the venue on time to perform. These are details planners are accustomed to handling, along with much more dramatic scenarios.

Taylor Strope, owner of Mountainside Events, has owned her business for four years. Operating out of her native Fort Collins, Strope started her wedding planning career working with couples getting married at The Mishawaka, the historic riverside venue in the Poudre Canyon, which serves as the backdrop for wedding ceremonies big and small. From there, Strope expanded her reach and now works throughout Colorado, including several of the mountain areas.

Strope is known best for her outdoor ceremonies and receptions, often with true Colorado flair and infusion of the beautiful landscape the state offers. However, she works with all types of celebrations, including at traditional venues. “The main thing I focus on is helping people bring their unique ideas to life,” Taylor states. “I love helping them locate vendors who will work well with the theme for the wedding and make their big day really special.”

In 2019, Strope’s company handled 25 weddings; each year since 2016, the company has added an average of five weddings a year, and this is in addition to numerous private and corporate events the company is hired to execute.

“I feel that I do have somewhat of an advantage in that I am from Fort Collins, born and raised. Being a native sets me apart, and people love that I know the area well. I’m connected with vendors all around Colorado and that has proven to be helpful in the planning process,” Strope says. “The better your network is, the more people like working with you, the better you are at putting out fires,” she adds. “I can be behind the scenes, making sure my clients can focus on having fun and enjoying the special moments of the biggest day of their life. I bring a sense of calm to the experience and my personality is relaxed. I don’t get rattled easily. I just let my clients be themselves; there’s no right or wrong way of doing things.”

Strope, like all planners, has experienced humorous and nearly unbelievable occurrences at weddings.

“You can plan all the details and things can still go haywire,” she states. “Weather (especially in Colorado) and people are unpredictable and sometimes the vision someone has gets altered by things beyond anyone’s control.”

One example of this happened when a couple Strope worked with wanted a live hawk to fly inside the wedding venue to the ceremony altar carrying their wedding rings. The hawk had been trained to fly from its post to the altar area and deliver the rings. However, when the hawk received its cue, it flew around the venue, high up in the rafters, and swooped down to the attendees, including Taylor. “The hawk came extremely close to me but I stayed calm,” Strope laughs. “Eventually the rings were retrieved from the hawk by its handler, but it was definitely one of those unique ideas that didn’t quite work the way it was intended.”

Photo by Sean Lara Photography, courtesy of Mountainside Events.

Photo by Sean Lara Photography, courtesy of Mountainside Events.

For Courtney Cyr, owner of Courtney Cyr Design & Events, the experience of planning her own wedding was what inspired her to become a professional planner who helps other brides and grooms understand the life-changing event they are organizing.

“My wedding was such a huge turning point, a new identity in my life. Sometimes the planning felt heavy. Everyone asked me about my plans, but no one really asked about the transition I was experiencing. I am sensitive to that and want my clients to walk through the experience understanding everything that is happening; I want them to enjoy the process,” Cyr says.
Cyr and her husband were originally planning a wedding of 150 people. It was to be held in Windsor and include traditional, classic details. About halfway through the process, her husband, who likes smaller events, told her he’d rather size down the event. He wasn’t excited about a big wedding and so everything changed gears.

“We ended up doing more of an elopement. We had a ceremony in my mom’s backyard. It was in July and then we held a reception in September. It was perfect and I felt empowered that we took control of our day and made it authentically ours,” she adds.

Cyr’s services run the gamut, from Month of Coordination, Partial Coordination and Full Service Coordination. The packages are designed to meet budget needs and the level of assistance needed; some couples prefer to be involved with many of the details, while others would like a professional to coordinate every step.

With the larger packages, couples hand all details to Cyr and her team. “We handle everything and set up a timeline immediately, informing all involved of exactly what will happen, with whom and when. We use our deep relationships with vendors to find exactly what is going to work the best for the particular event,” she says. “We select vendors and then we always have a backup plan, too. You never know what can happen on the wedding day; people can get sick, delayed, in accidents. We’ve heard of everything at this point, and we always want to know there is someone available to fill in during an emergency.”

“My big goal is to create a space where people feel comfortable, where they can just live in the moment. I want people to also concentrate on the marriage being even more beautiful than the wedding. This is just the beginning,” Cyr adds. She is known for a distinct style, a very Instagram-focused aesthetic that is modern, on trend and utilizes stylists, florists and team members who understand her vision.

“All weddings are unique, but I do love working with certain vendors who really stay contemporary in their approach. Lace and Lillies is a floral service I’ve worked with since I started my business. I immediately connected with the owners, Lacey and Lisa, as fellow young female entrepreneurs. They share the idea that details make people feel loved; details are like a love language and flowers are one example of that type of conscientious planning that really has impact. I have also worked with Clancy James Creative extensively for style shoots and design,” Cyr says.

Emily Jolly, owner of Jolly Events, has been in the wedding planning business for the past six years. “I enjoyed several years of creating experiences for a corporate hotel and wanted more creative freedom; that was what inspired me to create weddings. I wanted to do a new type of event,” Jolly says.

“It’s incredibly important for me to know the couple’s story and build a relationship with them,” she adds. “I like to know how they met and their engagement story. I love the little details that will make the wedding ‘them.’ This way, I can help choose the right professionals to tailor the wedding experience.”

Jolly says that working with a planner allows couples and their families to be more present and know they are not alone in the journey. Every client has different needs, from décor to etiquette to needing someone to calm their jitters, and this is where planners can be ultimately effective. Jolly offers day of planning and full event timeline assistance as well. “We prefer to offer full-service planning due to the amount of time, effort and love we put into our work,” she says.
Tara and Lexi are sisters who married their long-time beaus within two years of each other. Both had outdoor Colorado weddings and chose not to use wedding planners.

“We saved money in the process, but there were definitely things that would have been better handled by a professional. Without a planner, you do get pulled into the details a lot,” Lexi says. “We didn’t have planners partly to stay within our budgets, but also it’s sometimes hard to choose someone. The good companies are definitely out there, and their work is reviewed. Reviews are important to show how planners work with their clients, what their personality is like and how they helped the process. There are definitely reasons to hire a professional,” she adds.

“We both have event experience to some degree, so we were probably more comfortable in the planning than someone inexperienced might be,” adds Tara. “Planners definitely calm nerves when they’re good at their work.”

Whether a couple chooses to use professional planning services or not, communication remains the key to having a successful event. “Authenticity should always be supported,” Cyr says, “and when people communicate respectfully, success happens. That includes with vendors as well as the wedding party and guests.”
Jolly adds, “With an experienced team, we connect with couples and they focus on the wedding experience, the feelings, energy and adventure of the day. We ensure harmony through handling the logistics.”