Atlanta’s top wedding consultant gives us the scoop on how to tie the knot efficiently, regret-free, and happily ever after!
Planning a wedding is no easy task, no matter how big or small. And planning a wedding in the midst of a present-turned-post pandemic isn’t any easier. From setting the guest list to choosing a venue, to picking napkin colors, the process behind the celebration can be strenuous yet rewarding, and a big part of the latter is who you have on your team. We caught up with Atlanta’s top wedding consultant, Ms. Lillee, she believes that planning a wedding should be an exciting time, and having a professional to help guide you along the way can do just that. Ms. Lillee talks about her life as a wedding consultant, wedding trends, and hacks you should know before tying the knot.
Tell us about yourself and the bridal services you provide!
I have been in the Atlanta area for over 20 years now. I’m a former Fashion Fair model, and I worked in the fashion industry for well over 20 years. I have just recently over the past 8 years been involved in the wedding, love, and bridal industries. My background in fashion had me dealing a lot with couture gowns, so it just felt right when I was introduced to the wedding industry. I spent some years working with some of the largest wedding industry corporations, where I started out as an image consultant. I basically worked with corporations on everything from their image for the business all the way to working on sets for commercials, advertisements, and branding. I got such a great ride out of it, and I then went into my own business and incorporated bridal services within that. It just felt natural when I started working with brides, and I fell in love with it. I love to see brides in their happiest nature, while also looking good and feeling good. So, now, I consult on all areas of love, wedding, and bridal, and that can be anywhere from brides to corporations. I just worked with GoGo Party Bus and they are the industry leader in the wedding transportation business. We’ve been partnering a lot with weddings, bridal parties, bachelor/bachelorette parties, and anything that needed transportation concerning weddings.
You’re a wedding consultant, not a wedding planner. Can you give us a breakdown of what your job entails?
As a consultant, I add all of the pieces to the puzzle together. Some brides can handle their weddings on their own, and some brides cannot. Whatever the bride needs help on is where they hire me. As a consultant, I’m not held to a box of what I can and can’t do. I have an overall view of the entire industry. Some brides have no fashion sense whatsoever, so they want me to come in with my expertise and help get everybody’s looks together. In other instances, brides just want a wedding planner who makes sure everything runs smoothly on the day of their wedding. Some people want destination weddings, and need someone to totally take care of that. Even with everything involved prior to the actual wedding itself, from the engagement party to engagement photos, to the bridal shower, to bachelorette party, I can take care of. It just depends on what they want, and that is what I’m able to consult on. Sometimes I’m here to point them in the right direction or I have services of my own that I can offer. I’m always open to a consultation. You’d be surprised at the different things that people call me with.
And this doesn’t just pertain to brides. I also assist on a business level as well. I have companies that want me to come and consult whether they’re trying to break into the wedding business, or they have a portion of their company that services to the wedding industry. I’m on the ground with the brides learning about the trends, seeing what’s changing, understanding what brides want, and they need that expertise on the set of whatever project they may have.
Why is it important for couples to hire a wedding consultant?
By investing in a person like me, I’m able to identify the bride’s vision. I can then provide consulting and refer the bride to people to help with her vision, as well as bring her down to earth about how much it may cost. So, the really important part of the planning process is getting with someone that can give you exactly what it is you’re looking to have at your wedding.
What kind of packages do you offer?
My packages are based upon how involved I’m really going to be with the wedding. It just depends on what the client really needs, and I usually can get from our basic consultation what exactly it is they will need. I have packages that range to a basic consult fee, all the way up to $15,000.00 to begin with.
Planning a wedding is a big deal, and there’s so much to do in those first few months of the journey. As a bridal expert, what should be the first step of the wedding planning process?
Some people want to be very hands on with the wedding process and there are others that have no idea what to do and how to do it. First, a couple should ask themselves and answer these three questions: ‘What exactly are we going to need?’ ‘How involved are we going to be?’ and ‘What is our budget going to be?’ That’s the main thing, then they can move on from there. Once they determine these with each other, then they should reach out to me. I can pretty much get a synopsis based upon what the bride and their spouse have agreed upon, and then I can maneuver within those boundaries.
What are some of the biggest mistakes that people make when planning a wedding?
Not gauging your time correctly. Couples planning too far ahead or not giving themselves enough time is one of the biggest mistakes. Couples should try not to go past a year, but I would say 6 months to plan, at the least. Also, a lot of people miss out on the experience. They get so caught up in the fast paced movement of getting married that they miss the little moments. You plan for so long, for it to go so fast. You’re creating memories with the love of your life, and the last thing you want to do is to not be present in the moment. So, make sure you have plans in place that allow that!
What are some hacks couples can do to lower their wedding costs?
Don’t underestimate research! By not doing your research, you’re losing a lot of money. If you’re not someone who likes to research, put someone in place who does. If saving money is what’s most valuable to you right now, then you must put someone in place to help you do so. And when you have someone like myself do that for you, you will essentially be making the best decision as far as money is concerned. I’m paid to watch all the trends and the hacks, and I’m consulting on these very things. When I find out what your budget is, then my job is to make sure that you stay within your budget. Most people don’t really have a plan for the fast movement or the excitement of planning a wedding. It begins to get real fast before you realize it! And that’s how you lose so much money.
Do you service outside of ATL?
I certainly do! I just did a destination wedding to Las Vegas and they were all from New Jersey.
So it doesn’t matter where you’re from, I travel all over.
Is there such a thing as the best (or worst) month or season to have a wedding?
Couples get married in either Wedding Season or Bridal Christmas. Here’s how the wedding industry calendar works: Bridal Christmas is anywhere from October all the way to Easter. And then the wedding season officially starts at the end of April or the beginning of May consisting of spring, summer, and fall weddings. Bridal Christmas is the slew of holidays starting in October, all the way to April which is typically when everyone is proposed to. It never matters when you should get married, that’s always up to the bride and groom. People have different reasons for when and why they want to get married, so there is no really great time to get married. The slower season, however, is during Bridal Christmas. But you should really book your venues and everything a year out before the wedding season itself actually begins.
What wedding trends are you forecasting for the next few years?
One of the trends that I’ve seen is brides wearing anything, as long as it’s the color, and not necessarily being conformed to a specific type of bridal party. For example, the groomsmen can wear jeans and maybe a bow tie. Also, since Covid, things have changed so much, but a lot of great trends have come forth as a result. Because people were not able to celebrate love for the past couple of years in the way we’ve always known, people have been a lot more creative in doing so. I’ve seen an influx of people who are going to stay with the intimate weddings, and some having the ceremony and dinner together. At the same time, larger weddings are going to be normalized again, as it’s becoming more allowed. We have a lot of secret proposals and secret weddings coming out of nowhere. We’re also seeing more destination weddings. So, now, it definitely serves a purpose to sit down and talk with someone about what your plans may or may not be for your wedding.
What do you love most about the work that you do?
My favorite part of the bridal experience is seeing families get together, celebrating the bride and loving one another. The family traditions that I’ve seen across cultures are amazing. Different cultures celebrate love differently, and I’ve enjoyed every last one of them. They all end up in tears. There’s a lot of crying involved in my job, but they’re happy tears! Just seeing the happiness in the family dynamics is great. I love that. Everybody becomes family and it’s such a beautiful bonding experience.
For more information on Ms. Lillee’s Bridal Services, visit her site at mslilleescloset.com, and follow her on Instagram @mslillee.
Photo provided by Dream Multimedia Group