Have you ever tried to control a room full of elementary students? It’s like herding cats, except you also have to teach the cats math and they all have cell phones. Jen Goetz of Styled4Bliss was a teacher for two decades, so she learned how to maintain total control over a complicated, social situation. That’s why she is now a damn good wedding and event planner.

Throwing a wedding reception is also like herding cats, except those cats have heightened emotions and access to wine. It’s good to have someone like Jen to count on every step of the way, who can navigate everyone’s expectations for the event while ensuring that only her clients’ vision is fulfilled. “I prevent the ‘too many cooks in the kitchen’ problem from popping up,” said Jen. “When the bride has me take care of things, it’s the bride who is in charge. That way she can enjoy her big day without having to do any of the legwork.”

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“When I first sit down with a client,” continued Jen, “I help them decide what kind of feeling they want at their wedding. For many brides it might be a small, intimate gathering that focuses on the decor and her dress. Others want a huge fairytale wedding. It’s important to establish that vision early on, because it determines everything about the way I plan, including the venue.

“The venue is the first real decision in the wedding planning process. If you have a very firm date in mind for the event, then it may become harder to find the right venue as time goes by. Following that, you need to line up the other components you want in your wedding — the florals, the color schemes, all of that good stuff. A planner who has worked with so many local florists, rental companies, and caterers can really help to streamline that process. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that your venue’s event coordinator is going to handle that for you. While they may control the venue itself, everything that makes a wedding unique is up to the planner and her clients.

“Your menu selection might be limited by your choice of venue. You can try to pick something safe that everyone will like, but I often recommend that couples serve their favorite food so the reception better reflects their personalities. On top of that, a secondary vegetarian option is crucial to making everyone happy. Whether you want to have a cash or open bar depends on your budget. Also, a wedding with an open bar tends to turn into a certain kind of party later on. If you’d like to have a more reserved atmosphere, then it might be good to only have an open bar during the cocktail hour.

“The wedding itself is a lot of moving parts, and absolutely everything needs to run smoothly. My job is to shelter the couple from any bump in the road that might come up. It’s a stressful enough day for them as it is without their having to worry about keeping the party on track. Deliveries, setup, the venue, the flow of the reception — if someone’s uncle has had one too many Wild Turkeys, it won’t become the couple’s problem.

“Always keep your timeframe in mind! Anything shorter than six months becomes more difficult to manage, especially when it comes to finding a venue. Stationary and invitations need to be ordered six months in advance as well. The bride’s and bridesmaids’ dresses should be fitted at least four months prior, but men can be fitted for their suits a couple of months out. You can get away with lining up things like florists and bakeries closer to the big day.”

Planning a wedding takes a lot of work, to be sure. I know, because I watched my ex-wife do the whole thing by herself. If you’d like to focus on the real reasons for the celebration — love, and hors d’oeuvres, in that order — then you really ought to engage a planner like Jen who’s so invested in creating relationships with her clients and seeing that their dreams come to life. And weddings are far from the extent of her expertise! If you’ve got anything coming up where people need to celebrate in the same space, then Jen’s the best friend you could have in the world. See more about Jen and her work on styled4bliss.com!


By David Scheller