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Event planner Jung Lee has been through her fair share of weddings. Her company, Fête, is known for events that often bring the word "extraordinary" to conversation—and what event is more extraordinary than a wedding? From nights at the museum to enchanting outdoor spaces, Jung has helped New York brides throw some pretty incredible ceremonies (and receptions).
Recently, Jung opened a home store in Nomad, where she and her trained staff arm shoppers with everything they need to throw a chic bash at home. Her mantra of doing the most with what you have inspired us to pick her brain on how to do this whole wedding thing: where to begin, where to splurge versus where to save, and how to have one of those weddings that's just fun to be at. After the jump, Jung spills her pro tips.
First let's talk weddings. Where does a newly-engaged couple begin?
They first need to know how many people they absolutely need to invite: "If these people were not here, I'd be so sad getting married without them." So they need to make the list.
Everyone wants to jump, fall in love with [a] space, and just book it. You have to know what you need before you just go and grab. I say you have to start with "How many people am I going to have, how many people am I truly going to invite, how many people do I want there," and then you have to create a budget for yourself. You have to discipline yourself because you're going to see things that might be out of your budget.
So people and money.
Yes, people and budget.
Because this city attracts so many people from elsewhere, you must see a lot of couples who have, say, the bride from Philly and the groom from Norway. How do you advise couples with more than one home-base to tackle the "where" of their wedding?
That's a by-product of being in NYC—how many people are really from here? A lot of times, it's where people meet, but where they grew up, where their families are—it's a lot of different places.
First you need to decide where you're going to get married; so, set your guest list, your budget, and what makes the most sense [to get married]. A lot of people between Asia and the Northeast end up doing their weddings in LA, because it's kind of the mid-point, or Hawaii because it's half-way and it's a beautiful vacation spot. So you have to think geographically about what makes the most sense. And then, it's very important to think through and make your wedding as meaningful as possible. Bring in your culture, your religion, whatever it is so that there is a soul to this amazing event.
Speaking of religion, this city is such a melting pot that you have people with very different backgrounds meeting and choosing to marry. How do you suggest a couple of mixed religions handle the ceremony?
It happens all the time, more often than not. The way that you plan your wedding together as a couple, along with your families, is so indicative of how your relationship really will be. This wedding is basically a microcosm of the varying issues and the way that you work it out, or not work it out, will speak volumes.
So it's about compromise—like, "This is so important to my fiancee and his family, so I'll take a backseat," and then they will give back in return. There are no perfect answers, but it's constant compromise. It's like karma—the more you give, the more you'll get back.
When it comes to the event, where are three areas to splurge and three areas to save?
Three areas to splurge... Overall, my philosophy is that you have to get the best that you can. I would always go to the best talent, the professional, and ask them to downscale for me. For example, if I really cared about food and if I'm a major foodie, I'd go to the top-notch caterer and say that I want them for my wedding. So maybe I won't have a seated meal for 150 people, maybe it'll be a really great cocktail party, but at least it will be the foods I'm really passionate about.
Same with photography; everyone's like, "I need the album, and the parent album, this and that." At the end of the day, you just want those raw images. If it takes me another 18 months to save up, so I can make my album, so be it. But you can't get that talent back.
You have to ask, 1. what are the most important parts for you? Is it the venue and the backdrop where you're going to be creating these memories? For me, I like places that have landmark, historic value, places that feel like they're going to last a lifetime. I'm a bigger proponent of landmark spaces or slaces that have a lot of personal meaning to the family, whether it's their property or their home that they built. For me, it would be so sad if 'we got married here,' and then 20 years later, they knock it down to build some high rise. But for some people, that's okay. There's never one right answer.
Across the board, try to get the best you can in terms of the talent. Talk to them. Tell them how much you love and respect their work, and then ask if there is any way that you guys can work together. For some people, it's going to be the music. For some people, it's going to be food. For some people, it's going to be decor. For others, it's going to be the florist, because phenomenal flowers mean the most to them. There are all these varying factors, so you need to ask yourself, 'If I could only have three favorites, what would they be?'
What's the key to a killer reception party?
It is the music. Actually, it is the couple. They need to be in a room filled with love that initiated with the two of them—you cannot make that up. That energy? Everyone there has to be there for the right reasons, so you should only have people that you absolutely love. I would rather always have a 30 person party than a 300 person party. For some people, they think, "the more, the merrier," and I'm always like, "Nooo, this is so personal,"—you don't want to look back on your wedding albums and be like, "Oh, I don't really talk to that person anymore." It's so much effort and work. For every person you're inviting, it's going to cost you something. So really think in those terms.
Let's change gears and talk registry. How should a couple go about setting up their registry?
I want to know how they live. Do they love to cook? If they love to cook, they should get the best copper cookware possible, the best knives. Much like bone china and crystal and sterling, great pots will last you a hundred years. Whatever they get, I want it to last them, truly last them their lifetime together and beyond. You need to really say, I really want to live with this for the next sixty years of my life, and then I want to be able to pass it on. So think about value, not necessarily trends, really focusing on quality.
I want to know, how do you live? How do you entertain? When you're building a life together, think about all the dinner parties you're going to have, all the family events you'll have, possibly your first child and how that's going to be. It's all about celebrating. How do we use tableware and home decor and kitchen tools to enhance great occasions, and even everyday life?
You're asking your guests to bring you these things, and everyone has different means. Do you have any philosophies on pricing for registries?
I think the best weddings are when the hosts think about their guests. They feel like, "They really want me here. They care about me, they care that I'm eating and drinking, and there's great music." So it sort of spreads in that sense, so this same couple that's having the best wedding possible, is also still thinking about their guests in terms of their affordability.
At the end of the day, though, if all I could afford was a nominal amount, say like, $50, then you should have things in your registry, that can meet that. I also feel though, like, nobody needs a blender. Get the blender for yourself. I do think, collectively, as a lot of friends do, I do this with my girlfriends, we all pool in together and put in like, $150 each, to get this amazing piece of jewelry for our friend. Because that's what teamwork is all about; individually, it doesn't necessarily mean a lot. But collectively, it can be amazing and that much more special. If we start putting that as the norm, and not, "Here's the $25 range, $50 range," we can buck that. You can be like, "This picture frame is sterling silver and will last a lifetime and it's $300," but you can split it between six or three friends and it's that much more special and meaningful.
When it comes to gifting, do you think it's okay to go off-registry?
I think if a couple has registered, you should try to stick to that registry, unless you know them extremely well. I just think that when it comes to weddings, they're saying, "This is what we really need to start out our life together and we would love for you to make a contribution."
Generally speaking, you should never go off the registry unless it's a financial gift—cold, hard cash, which is always welcome, so they can do whatever they want with it. I also think [going off-registry] talks about you, and how you're not really listening and being respectful.
· All Weddings Week 2013 Posts
· Inside the Inspiring New Jung Lee Home Store [Racked NY]
· Fête [Official Site]