Holly Gray wouldn’t describe herself as a typical wedding planner. She’s bright and bubbly but she also she tells it like it is. And Holly isn’t looking for couples who describe themselves as typical. Through her wedding planning company in Los Angeles, Anything But Gray Events, Holly works with couples on their unique ideas for their wedding… even when their loved ones don’t share their vision.
Maybe you’re planning an atypical wedding and your family and friends aren’t exactly on the same page. Maybe they’re really vocal and pushy about getting their opinions heard. Maybe they’re bankrolling certain parts of your wedding, which can make things even more complicated.
In this interview, Leah and Holly discuss how to navigate family dynamics and difficult conversations when you’re planning a creative and highly personalized wedding. Here are some of Holly’s best tips for navigating the wedding planning process.
Consider all the details when you’re venue shopping.
Many couples Holly works with are interested in venues that have never hosted a wedding. “I turn into the stage manager,” Holly says, a nod to her work as an improv actor. She says non-traditional venues can freak out the couple’s families, but breaking down what’s possible and what’s not at the venue can get everyone on the same page. Here are the steps she suggests when looking for a venue.
Look for a place that feels like you as a couple. As tricky as it was to pull it off, a couple that Holly worked with got married in a natural history museum because they loved dinosaurs. They just had to find out what they could and couldn’t do there.
Hire a wedding planner. Wedding planners have years of experience with various venues and can do the research for you. They know how to get you the answers you’ll need.
If you don’t hire a wedding planner, be committed to doing the research yourself. Come to each venue prepared with a list of questions to ask, and don’t forget to ask about things like kitchen and bathroom setups.
Remember that your expectations have to fit your budget and your budget has to fit your expectations.
Talk openly about your budget from the beginning.
This is the first topic Holly brings up with any couple she works with. “Even the richest people have budgets,” she notes, and having open communication about your budget with your partner and your family is key to keeping things moving along smoothly. She even suggests asking anyone who is financially contributing to the wedding what strings are attached with their support.
If your parents are contributing money and think you’ll get married at the local church, and then you break it to them that you’re getting married downtown, it can cause unnecessary family tension. It’s best to have these conversations early on.
Difficult conversations will happen… try listening.
In the wedding planning process, you might have to have awkward conversations with people you love. It can be tempting to just try to ignore these conflicts, but Holly says listening is the key to easing tension.
Holly uses this herself when her couples’ family members call her with issues. She encourages them to tell her all of their worries so she can address them, but being truly heard usually makes all the difference. And Holly points out that there are often other things going on for your friends and family while you’re planning your wedding that can cause disproportionate issues and outbursts. Life doesn’t stop when you’re planning a wedding. Keeping that in mind can help you move through a stressful situation more easily.
What you’re going through is totally normal.
Holly says she tells couples she works with to be brave. You’re planning a huge day and there’s a lot at stake -- financially and emotionally. You might not know what’s going to catch you off guard until it happens.
Having a good wedding planner you can be open and honest with, or a strong support system of friends and family, can be invaluable in keeping you level headed during the planning process. When you’re stressed out, remember that what you’re feeling is totally normal.
Where to Find Holly
If you’re looking for some colorful wedding inspiration, check out Holly’s photo gallery on her website.
We can’t get enough of the fun, bold, colorful wedding celebrations Holly shares on her social media feeds. Plus we love catching glimpses of her Boston Terriers and her amazing multi-colored office.