10 Questions with Anna & Nancy

WeddingRule Interviewed one of the most popular and highly sought-after team of wedding planners in Illinois, Anna & Nancy of Aisle Ai Weddings. Chicago based Anna & Nancy are the co-founders and owners of Aisle Ai Weddings.

Aisle Ai Weddings

Planner - Anna & Nancy

10 Questions with Anna & Nancy

1. Introduction: What's your story?

Aisle Ai Weddings was created by Anna Chen and Nancy Shen.

We officially started the business 10 years ago with a vision to celebrate love of all walks of life. The two of us met in college when we were in undergrad and we became very good friends. During that time we planned a lot of events and parties and after university, we took a fun certification course with the Bridal Society where we learned how to be wedding planners and took detailed lessons. To get our feet wet, we even shadowed many of the best wedding planners in Chicago. Now, we we are ranked one of the top 10 wedding planners in Chicago. We have come a long way!

A few facts about us:

We excel in weddings that are a good mix of traditions and modern customs. Our team is multi-lingual and multi-cultural--- so we are able to help many multigenerational families and multicultural couples create their special day! Because living in multiple cultures is we come from, we have an understanding and respect that is unmatched by any other planner in the city. This is one of the many reasons why our couples love us!

We are a fully certified, award-winning team.

We go above and beyond in everything that we do - at the end of it, our brides often see us as part of the family!

Our team consists of 10 members, including Interns, Junior Planners, Assistant Planners, and Planners. We have even created a division in New York City! Super proud of everything we have accomplished thus far and will continue to build this business to its full potential.

2. What's your experience as a wedding planner? How many weddings have you planned?

Over the years, we have done several hundred weddings. There is nothing that we have not seen!

We have a lot of experience doing Chinese, Nigerian, Mexican, Indian, Korean, Filipino, etc weddings. Needless to say, we are well versed in traditions and modern customs across the board and across cultures!

As well, we have a lot of weddings that are of all faiths and interfaith as well. We love to join two people and make the integration feel smooth across food, music, decor, fashion, etc.

Our experience has also demonstrated that we can handle any personality and any family dynamics! That is, after all, a huge part of wedding planning. :)

3. What sorts of services do you offer (month-of coordination, full-service planning, or à la carte planning)?

We are a strictly wedding planning business. Some companies might have event planning, meaning they do corporate events and birthday parties-- for us, we chose to have a niche and focus in on the field we are most passionate about and excel in.

Our services include: Month of coordination, moderate planning, full service planning and à la carte options. We also have online consultations for the couple who is not sure if she wants a wedding planner. In this service, the couple can meet with us online and ask us anything that they would like, but we do not do execution on the day-of. However, we do have to say that most of the couples who elect for this service do eventually go to the month of/day of package because they realize the importance of what we do and how we contribute!

We also do bridal show planning, bachelorette party planning, and honeymoon planning for those who hate logistics!

Beyond that, Aisle Ai Weddings has an in-house DIY team as we found that millennial brides have increasingly fallen in love with the DIY look but don't have the DIY time. This service is time+material costs and they couples can physically see the item before it is reproduced multiple times. They are able to tweak and personalize those items that they see on pinterest. The DIY team can create anything ranging from table numbers and escort cards to furniture pieces and decor fixtures.

4. How do payments work (a percentage of the wedding budget, a flat fee etc.)? What are the different packages that you offer and which one is your most popular package?

We usually charge a flat fee for all of our services. We also do not take vendor kickbacks. This is our company policy and we stay true to this. Many wedding planners take kickbacks (referral fees) and we find that this is very unfair to the couple. For this reason, we refrain from participating in this industry trend. For the couples who want to learn more about this, we invite them to contact us :).

Day of:
1-2 Months Planning

Your event is completely planned. All you want to do during the wedding is to relax and enjoy it! We step in and ensure that your event is filled with our Aisle Ai perfection! We will do the running around, answering of questions the guests have, and making sure we are on schedule. Our event day coordination package covers the month of your event. We make sure the t’s are crossed and i’s are dotted! Feel free to reach out to us early for this package so we can help address any initial questions or concerns.

Moderate:
3-8 Months Planning

This package is for those brides that have rough ideas of what they want but are open to suggestions or need further development in their vision. We can help enhance general thoughts (bring those pinterest boards!) and make sure that everything is aligned throughout the planning process. A consistent and well-packaged wedding is what we do best! We will set up vendor meetings and help budget your wedding, and make sure to give you the best recommendations for your needs.

Full Service:
7-12 Months Planning

Planning a wedding can be extremely difficult and time-consuming, this service is for the couple that would like to enjoy a beautiful wedding but don’t have time available to plan it. This service is ideally suited for the busy couple who has limited time to execute the details of their wedding and looking for a trusted advisor to guide them through the entire planning process! For this package, we will work with you to design your wedding and execute it from start to finish.

A- La- Carte:

12 Months to Week Before Wedding

We have many a la carte options, including, but limited to:

Custom Tea Ceremony

Ceremony Planning ONLY

Reception Planning ONLY

Simple Vase Rental

Uplighting Rental

Engagement Shoot Planning

Bridal Shower Planning

Proposal Planning

Bachelor/Bachelorette Planning


Online:
12 Months to Day Before Wedding

For those who are unsure about the value of a planner or those of you who have many questions during the planning process but are on a budget, we are happy to address any of your concerns or questions via video chat. This advice is unlimited but given on an hourly rate. Those who find it useful may also transition over to one of our execution packages as many of our couples do. We encourage you to give us a call!

DIY TEAM:

3 Months Prep

Our "furiously crafty" team creates custom prototypes and provides the samples to you in person so that we can make each piece exactly the way you imagined it. Gone are the days where brides want the store-ordered, factory-created decor. The DIY team has the skills and expertise to create unique pieces that will make sure that your wedding stands out! Rates are labor+materials costs.

5. Who else is in your team and how many people on your staff will be at the wedding?

10 people are on our team at all times. This includes Interns, Junior Planners, Assistant Planners, and Planners/Senior Planners.

At all weddings, our couples are guaranteed two fully-certified, award-winning Planners. They also get Junior Planners, Assistant Planners as needed on wedding day based on the size of the wedding. That being said, we like to have a range from 2-5 staff members on site during weddings depending on the size of the count.

Usually if there are 100-200 guests, we will have 2 planners and 1 assistant.
300-400 guests, we will have 2 planners and 2 assistants.
500+ guests, we start getting to the 5+ staff member model.

While many planners only have 1 person on site, we like to staff appropriately so that guests, family members, and the couple, can find us at all times and feel supported throughout the day.

6. What happens if you're sick or otherwise unable to be there on the day of the wedding?

Because we have a team of 10 people at all times, there are always team members that are able to hop in if something happens. In our contract, we have a promise that we will do our best to staff if something happens to one of our planners-- so far it has not been an issue in the 10 years that we have been doing this!

7. How many meetings will you have with the couple and how will they be involved?

We are pretty flexible in the number of meetings that we have with the couple.

Most of the time, we are not involved in the initial meetings because they are just shopping around. Depending on the package they have, either the vendors are through our introduction or they are found through the couple. This impacts which meetings we participate in. Full service has unlimited meetings, the other packages have a cap but we are super flexible and our couples are reasonable!

For all packages, we will review contracts and negotiate depending on where the couple is in their planning process.

We are always accommodating and willing to take calls and video chat with the couple. Sometimes, when the bride is shopping for wedding items, she just texts me directly and asks for my opinion! We are quick to respond and always eager to help so if they need to reach us, they will be able to via phone call, text, email, or video chat!

8. Will you handle the invitations, from wording and ordering to the addressing and mailing? What about guest list coordination and RSVPs?

Invitations are more of a personal thing but we do help with wording and give our couples all of our discount codes and if they would like, we help them find design options. There have also been times where they asked us to help design the invitations. Some couples ask us to track RSVPs but nowadays, most of that can be handled through their wedding website. For many modern couples, we input the RSVPs into the system they choose to use for them.

A new trend as well during covid, we have been helping our couples track vaccination cards and negative tests. That's a new one but we do what we can to make it happen!

9. Do you handle rentals? Will you coordinate delivery, arrival and set up times with the photographer, the florist, the musicians and the caterer/banquet manager?

We handle all the coordination for rentals and working with vendors. We work through the delivery, arrival, set up, tear down and all the logistics in between. Our team checks in with the vendors prior to the wedding, we call them on the day of the wedding to make sure they arrive at the time slated for them in our itinerary. Once they arrive on site, we tell them where they need to set up and help them in any way we can. After the wedding, we help with strike and we stay until the very end of the wedding. Most planners leave after cake-cutting but we literally stay until the last vendor is gone and make sure everyone collects the items that they promise to collect. Our team cleans up and packs all the personal items for the couple (ie picture frames, decor items, extra outfits, etc) and delivers it back to their home/apartment/front of hotel so that when they leave the party, they don't have to worry about it at all! The only item we ask them to leave with is the gifts/cards that they receive from guests.

The vendors receive our full itinerary 2 weeks- 1 month before the wedding and are able to tweak or request edits so that by wedding day, everyone involved in the wedding is ready to go and aligned with the game plan.

Months after the event, we follow up with our photographers, videographers, photobooth to get the images that video content from the vendors. Usually it takes about 4-8 weeks for delivery so if the couple has not gotten it, we usually track the delivery time and follow up on their behalf. Many couples are shocked that we remember to follow up for their images and continue to be of service months after their event.

10. Can you create a timeline that tells everyone involved in the planning process (other pros, members of the wedding party, to-be-weds and families) what to do and when to do it? How will you make sure everyone sticks to the schedule?

Since we have been doing this for 10 years, we have developed our own proprietary master planner that has all the information that the vendors, family members, bridal party members need to know for wedding day. The Master Planner is our bible for the day and all of the vendor contact information and necessary details are located within that document.

We are on site to make sure everyone sticks to the schedule and we have our own print outs on the day of that we follow. We also provide copies of these documents to the vendors but we are there to guide them throughout the day to make sure we stay on point. All of our weddings are very much on schedule. Any deviation is usually give or take 5 minutes and we always catch up! Our team is very proud of this fact.

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Awards

WeddingRule Editor’s Choice 2021