Chat about wedding trends with expert Carmen Hocking

February 28, 2007

This chat has already taken place. Read the transcript below.

Chat with Lawrence wedding consultant Carmen Hocking about the latest trends and insider planning tips to make your wedding day extraordinary.


Hi, everyone. This is Christy Little, your moderator for today's chat. Carmen Hocking, a Lawrence wedding consultant, has joined us today ahead of "wedding season" to answer reader questions about planning, etiquette and more. Thanks for joining us today, Carmen.

Carmen Hocking :

Thank you for asking me.


We'll get started on these questions. First, a few readers want to talk about wedding costs.


Any idea what the average cost of a wedding is these days in Lawrence?

Carmen Hocking :

The average cost of weddings currently in Lawrence for weddings with 150 to 200 guests will be around $15,000. The cost, of course, will depend on the number of guests, menu selections and location.


My daughter is planning a late 2009 wedding - we have a limited budget and will need to do a lot ourselves. What items are best done by professionals and which can be accomplished by motivated, creative do it yourself-ers? Flowers, decorations, food?

Carmen Hocking :

Hiring a professional wedding consultant will be able to negotiate the very best pricing for you with wedding vendors. Hiring a wedding consultant honestly becomes part of your budget not an added expense.

Do-it-yourself wedding plannng can become very overwhelming. Talk with two to three vendors from each category and decide which of those vendors you feel the most comfortable with. Read each contract thoroughly.


Hi Carmen! Where are some wonderful and affordable places outside Lawrence that host weddings? We don't need rooms, but just a pretty outdoors wedding and reception. How do you plan for weather around outdoor weddings? Thank you.

Carmen Hocking :

There are several wonderful outside locations to host weddings. Dunn's Landing is in Wellsville and has many ammenities. Circle S Ranch is very nice, Victoria Veranda and Tall Oaks.

Absolutely have a backup plan for an outside wedding. Ask the venue about holding the event inside due to weather conditions. Ask how many can comfortably be inside the venue.

Always, Always, Always have a backup plan.


What are the "smartest" do it yourself items in a wedding, when you are trying to keep costs down?

Carmen Hocking :

That is a great question. Smart and fun iems to have are creative favors for your guests. Create a theme that is unique to you and your fiance and carry that out in you decore. Many couples choose to have candles in various heights with flowers. Have your table centerpieces be different for each table.


Is it rude to ask your bridal party to pay for their own dresses and tuxedos? And how do you recommend families settle different opinions about who should be paying for which aspects of the ceremony?

Carmen Hocking :

The bridal party, by etiquette, should be paying for their own attire. It is not the norm for the bride or groom's family to pay for the attendants attire.

The is a specific guideline for who pays for what in a wedding. Either contact a wedding planner or invest in a very good wedding planner book by a well known author and that source will guide you in the right direction.


Can you tell me some places in and around Lawrence that are "off the beaten path" where we could take some creative wedding photos?

Carmen Hocking :

There are some wonderful places around the K.U. campus. There are good and very pretty places out in the country each direction from Lawrence. Depending on the season, look for places that have lots of flowers in bloom, you can also find locations that have bridges that make for a great background. Call local places that have horses and ask if they will allow you to have their horses in the pictures. There are many very pretty parks also.


Do you have any tips for someone making their own wedding invitations? Thanks!

Carmen Hocking :

The best advice is to purchase good quality paper stock. You can find this with an upper end stationery store, you can also order plain paper stock through invitation companies and then print the invitations yourself.


Among the couples you work with, how involved are grooms in the wedding-planning process, vs. brides? Do guys tend to be involved in certain aspects of wedding planning and not so much on others? Any trends you see over time?

Carmen Hocking :

More and more grooms are becoming involved in the entire wedding process. Remember, it is the grooms wedding just as much as it is the brides. I see many of the grooms involved the most in invitation selections, color choices, the location for the wedding and reception and the theme of the wedding.
Many of my grooms are planning the honeymoon as a surprise to the bride and I work closely with them on that aspect.


What advice can you give men who are about to get married about how to get involved in a constructive way in the wedding planning process?

Carmen Hocking :

Your advice, your opinion and ideas will be very appreciated by the bride, trust me, I know. The brides love having the grooms input. Incorporate your favorite color, your favorite types of food, your selections of music. All this will be great for both of you.


Carmen, do you have any suggestions about what kind of food to serve at the reception? Do you have a preference on buffet vs. sit-down dinners?

Carmen Hocking :

Deciding on having a buffet versus a sit-down dinner will definitely be determined by the number of guests at your reception. It also is determined on the formality of your wedding. Types of foods that are your favorites should be on the menu. This is your wedding and everything should reflect your selections of taste. Give your guests a choice. Most commonly, guests can choose between beef, chicken and salmon with several side selections. Also, have other types of dessert items in addition to traditional wedding cake.


OK, looks like we have time for one more question about receptions ...


Is it tacky to have a dessert only reception?

Carmen Hocking :

No, it is not tacky. Having a dessert only reception would most likely be in the afternoon. The later in the day the wedding is, the more formal it becomes.


Carmen, thanks for joining us today.

Carmen Hocking :

It was my pleasure. Thank you for taking time to ask your important questions. Remember, no question you have is silly. Ask a professional.

Congratulations on your engagement and approaching marriage!


Read more of Carmen's tips and suggestions from the Feb. 25 edition of Lawrence Bride here:

Lawrence Bride also has catering, planning and fashion ideas. See the full issue online here at

Thanks for joining us today.


karmaxs3 10 years, 11 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

Bassetlover 10 years, 11 months ago

$15,000 average for a wedding for 150-200 guests? Ay yi yi! I am amazed....and the number of working professional brides-to-be, who expect their parents to foot the entire bill. And so many parents afraid to tell their Bridezillas they can't possibly afford it. So they go into serious hock. Makes no sense. Having your parents fund your big wedding is a privilege, certainly not a right.

imastinker 10 years, 11 months ago

I got married about 2 years ago. Wait - my daughter is almsot two. Make that almost three years ago I got married.

We had a wedding with about 250 people. The church was standing room only, and the church hall wasn't big enough for half of us. It was the biggest building in town.

We had a DJ with dancing until midnight and lots of booze (how else can you have a Catholic wedding?). It was fully catered as well.

It didn't cost half what that one did. What bothers me is I can't figure out a way to spend more than we did. We had EVERYTHING!

karmaxs3 10 years, 11 months ago

it isn't slanderous or libelous if based on truth.

angelofmine 10 years, 11 months ago

$15,000? Wow. I guess I'm severely underbudgeting. My wedding is destination-style in Las Vegas, with a reception here. I'm doing the vast majority myself, and several professionals have offered their services as gifts (i.e. I know a professional photographer, bartender, and pastry chef). Yes, planning the whole thing is a hassle that I'd love to hand over to a planner...but if you do it yourself it can be for significantly less. What you're getting includes the convenience charge added pay more to do less. My parents offered to pay for quite a bit, I just don't want that financial burden on my own family. One of my family members had a huge affair at a downtown KCMO cathedral and hotel. Three years later, she's still paying for the grand scale wedding.....and her divorce. She can't afford to get her name changed due to her debt.

Confrontation 10 years, 11 months ago

I'd like to see a study on the outcome of marriages where the weddings cost too much. With 50% or more marriages ending in divorce, I seriously doubt these high-cost weddings lead to longer relationships. I've been to several overpriced weddings/receptions, and all the brides spent most of their wedding day in tears (of sorrow, not happiness). There was too much stress to make everything perfect, and it's never completely the way they dreamed. Why not focus on a good relationship, rather than obsessing about making your relationship look good by wasting money?

karmaxs3 10 years, 11 months ago

pshycofan, I just read through your posts, and it seems that you thrive on being argumentative with other posters.

I'm simply warning people that they shouldn't waste their money on this particular "expert". The LJW should check resumes more closely.

Diana Lee 10 years, 11 months ago

Carmen Hocking should be avoided at all costs. In addition to myself, I know three other couples who made the mistake of hiring her and had terrible experiences. She is difficult to work with and unprofessional. However, she does have connections with good vendors. Use her services for that and steer clear of the rest.

lynnd 10 years, 11 months ago

karmaxs3- i'd love to know what you posted but i got on here too late. curious if you had an experience with this particular "expert" and if it was similar to mine.

i did hire a wedding planner- not ms. hocking- and it was the best money i could have spent. i didn't hire her for the "planning," i did that myself, but rather for her to be there to run the whole day. my mother was so thankful after the fact that she could sit back and enjoy the day and not have to worry about things.

lynnd 10 years, 11 months ago

if anyone reading this is interested in hiring ms. hocking or another wedding planner, i'd be more than happy to share my story with you, email me through LJW.

while i didn't directly hire ms. hocking, i was forced to deal with her because she was the wedding coordinator at my church at the time.

Charla Welch 10 years, 11 months ago

I got married 2 years ago. We had about 85 people and only spent about $4,000 (and that's a high estimate). It is possible to have a nice wedding without spending all that money.

My parents were very pleased. And so was I, when I realized that my hubby and I had saved enough that we could have paid for it ourselves.

I don't trust wedding planners.

lynnd 10 years, 11 months ago

actually it's pretty common for churches to have some type of wedding coordinator- mostly to tell you where you can/can't put decorations, stuff like that. a lot of them are volunteers. they don't necessarily do your wedding planning, it's mostly to make sure you know what you can/can't do at the church.

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