WHETHER it's in a crowded church or on a sun-kissed beach, there's no end to the number of ways you can say "I do."
For many couples, there also seems like no end to the decisions and details involved in making the big day everything they dreamed it would be. That's where a wedding planner comes in.
Internationally recognized wedding planner and awardwinning author Sasha Souza will be making an appearance in Vancouver March 27 to talk about her book Signature Sasha: Magnificent Weddings by Design.
Souza, founder of Sasha Souza Events, a Californiabased event planning company, released the book back in 2010 and received the 2011 Gold Award from the Independent Publisher Book Awards.
"It's an inspiration book," she said. "It's a 256-page four-colour event design book," Souza says. "It is not a planner."
The book, she says, will help couples effectively explain to wedding planners what it is they are looking for in their wedding. It also includes sections on catering, colour, dÃ©cor, lighting, cake, hors d'oeuvres, and alcohol. It provides seven examples of real weddings that were planned by Souza and her company.
"There is a full chapter on picking colour and what it means," she said. "It's meant to be a jumping-off point for people."
The California native hasn't always been a wedding planner. Souza originally wanted to get into theatre and dance.
"I can't sing but I can dance and I am not a great actress," she said.
"I did set design, lighting design, sound check, and stage management, all of those things that make the show go."
She eventually decided to leave theatre when it wasn't paying the bills, and returned to school. Souza ended up working for a laboratory at the University of California San Francisco as an internal auditor but the jobs didn't fuel her artistic passion.
"I needed something that was a little more creative to satisfy who I am," she said.
The idea to become a wedding planner came when she was flipping through the pages of a book called 101 Best Home-Based Businesses. In 1995 she created Sasha Souza Events, but after a few years into her business Souza felt she wasn't doing enough.
"I wanted something more for my clients," she said. "I wanted more than a white chair, and a white table cloth and purple flowers."
So Souza began designing and customizing events to go beyond her clients' needs. Today her company has offices across California as well as in Colorado and Tennessee.
"I usually see my clients two to three times over the course of the planning," she said. "We fly out to visit with clients quite often . . . all the dÃ©cor comes with us and we will get the food and music locally," she says.
Sasha Souza Events has planned weddings or events for celebrities including Willie Nelson, Drew Goddard - the writer of Cloverfield, boxer Fernando Vargas, and actress Amy Acker.
According to Souza, this year's wedding trends include more personalization and the colour orange.
"Brides aren't necessarily taking advice from their friends because they don't want that wedding . . . they want something that is true to who they are as a couple," she said. "This coming year we will see more orange-coloured clothes. People buy it, they like it and they want to wear it . . . now people are surrounding themselves with it and will incorporate that into their wedding. They are designing their weddings based on what they are seeing in the stores."
When it comes to weddings in North America, Souza says trends typically start in the major cities such as Los
Angeles, New York, Toronto and Vancouver and spread to the small cities and towns.
Local, seasonal, fresh foods are an extremely popular choice with couples in the Napa Valley area of California, but Souza says this is a trend that is also occurring in Metro Vancouver.
The famous royal wedding between Kate Middleton and Prince William that took place last summer has influenced other brides across North America.
"Her gown and her sister's gown are very influential, with the lace top, the sleeves and the simple skirt and petite bouquet and with her hair being down, it is all very trend-setting," she said. "Her maid of honour and bridesmaids wore white form fitting gowns and that was very trend-setting."
Weddings in North America also have regional differences between a typical Eastern wedding and a typical Western wedding.
"Our New York clients say they want weddings that go until one or two in the morning or sometimes later," Souza says. "Here (California) our events end at 10 or 11 o'clock at night . . . I believe this is also true of Vancouver, Whistler and that area."
During her 16-year career as a wedding planner Souza says she hasn't experienced too many weird themes but recalled planning a nudistthemed wedding once.
"They were doing a nude wedding and I said as long as you are not asking for a nude planner I can probably help you out," she says. "I have been very blessed in that I haven't had too many weird themes."
Souza and her staff have also planned same-sex weddings. Souza said trends are mostly the same to that of heterosexual couples but there is a difference when it comes to planning a homosexual wedding.
"The ultimate goal is that the couple wants to feel that they are the same. That their relationship is being honoured in the same way that a heterosexual couple's relationship is being honoured," she said.
She says it's important for couples who are about to begin the process of organizing a wedding to refrain from spending the majority of their budget on the location or venue.
"They end up with a quarter of their budget to spend on music, floral, dÃ©cor, lighting, cake and they really back themselves into a corner," Souza says.
Her advice to couples planning a wedding is simple.
"Nobody is going to know what you didn't choose," she says. "They are only going to know what a beautiful wedding you did choose."
When it comes to finding a planner her advice to couples is to find someone who understands the vision.
"The best advice is to find somebody who understands what your vision is. I mean really understands it. So you can see in their art and photographs that they are providing you with the style of wedding that you like, that you are moved and impressed by their work. That's what you are really looking for."
While Souza has never planned a wedding for anyone in Vancouver she said she would like to one day.
"Vancouver is actually my favourite Canadian city," she said. "I love the downtown area and I love the little pubs. I spent a week in Whistler and it was amazing. It was just the chilled, laid-back kind of feeling that I got from Vancouver."
Souza's talk takes place at 5: 30 p.m. March 27 at the Coast Coal Harbour Hotel in Vancouver.
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