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What Matters Most - The 5 Ws of Wedding Planning with Susanne Day of The Newport Experience

Updated: Aug 2



Podcast by Sara Zarrella


Wedding planning isn’t for the faint of heart. There’s hundreds of decision to be made and in the middle of all of those decisions, it can feel hard to know exactly what you really want for your wedding day. That’s why we hosted Susanne Day from Newport Experience to share how to focus in on what matters most when planning your wedding day. After 20 years working in the heart of New England at some of Newport’s most sought after venues, Susanne has 5 easy tips to focus in on what matters most when planning your wedding day!


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Meet Susanne!

I started working at the Newport Life Magazine in 2000 and then started working for Newport Wedding Magazine and the Newport Bridal Show, I had such a blast those years!! I’ve been with the Newport Experience team since 2014 so I’m still working with couples and vendors, just in a different way than before. When I’m not doing that, I’m gardening, playing tennis or with my friends and family. And I love the Hallmark Channel for movies!


There is so much we can talk about when it comes to helping couples plan their perfect day because you’re truly an expert. But, today, let’s focus on what matters most. How can couples figure out what’s important to them during wedding planning?


When I work with couples, we immediately work to “Focus on What Matters Most” using the 5 W’s. I start with an intro email, then encourage them to call me for a quick 10 minute call to narrow down options. I seriously only need 10 minutes with them to figure out what they really want. Then we connect for a scheduled site tour to meet in person. For me, this approach helps them feel like they are crafting their wedding experience, not just choosing options from a price sheet for their celebration.



Let’s dive into the 5 W’s as you mentioned. What are they?

Absolutely! They’re the 5 questions I ask couples when they begin to plan their wedding:

1. Who (guest count)

2. What (top must haves and non-negotiable)

3. When (season, day/night, midweek/weekend)

4. Where (close to home or destination)

5. Why/How (how do you want to feel?)


That is so helpful and insightful! Can you take us through the process step by step of the 5W’s when it actually comes to planning?

First, The Who. I’ll preface with this: The Who can be super tricky. I generally like to go over this with my couples and their parents so no one feels they’re being called out or attached. My goal is to really help them save money and maximize their time on their wedding day. Everything goes so fast. The people in that room should be who’s absolutely most important to you.


Next, the What. Remember, these are the top must haves and non-negotiable items.

Think about the parties and weddings you have been to and what made them fun/memorable

for you. Now, write those things down and prioritize which is most important to you.

It’s hard, but not everything can be the priority!


When isn’t just the date.

It also refers to the time of day time of week, and which season you want to be married in. If you are laser focused on one specific date there is no flexibility in pricing and availability. If you are very flexible with the date you can maximize your budget and you have more “buying power” for your big day. Weekday, early times, and winter weddings are all typically cheaper events.


Where do you want your wedding?

Rhode Island is a destination for weddings and Newport even more so because there is

so much to do! With lots of options for accommodations and other weekend activities it can become more than one day and a whole itinerary can emerge for your out-of-town guests.

My advice is to plan a two-night stay and check out different restaurants and attractions while you are touring venues to get a feel for how your celebration can be. If that sounds

overwhelming, then stick close to home!


Why/How: How do you want to feel?

Let your wedding be a reflection of how you want your marriage to be. That was the best

advice I got when planning my wedding. If you want your wedding/marriage to be influenced

by other people’s expectations and unsolicited advice then do what others tell you. How you start your planning matters.



Do you have any tools and tricks that you learned to help couples cut their list and figure out their “who” because that’s always a BIG topic for couples?

1. No work friends: you are with them all day long so naturally you would feel closer to them, but there is always someone that thinks they are closer to you that doesn’t get invited and then things get weird later. These guests (and their plus ones) add up really quickly! An easy solution? Tell them you will all meet up after work for cocktails to celebrate when you get back from your honeymoon.


2. Nobody you haven’t met: You don’t have time for small talk on your wedding day If they are so important to come to your wedding and witness your forever vows, why haven’t you met them yet? Chances are if you don’t make time to spend with them before the wedding—it won’t happen after.


3. No automatic plus ones : I only say this because I have witnessed guests arguing in the parking lot because t’s hard when you don’t know anyone else there. Save your friends from this and don’t automatically offer a plus one to everyone. Solution: If they are in a committed relationship obviously extend that invite. If someone calls and asks about their plus one, make time to meet them beforehand if it’s really important to you/your guest.


4. Family: If you have a HUGE family, consider inviting just the members who are closest to you. I often tell couples to think of who’s “around the Christmas tree every year”. Tell the extended family that you want to have a small intimate wedding and blame the max capacity of the venue if you have to!


5. Parents invited guests: This is tough one. I get it: they have life-long friendships as well as family members that have invited them to their kids weddings over the years and they want to reciprocate. But the reality is the day goes fast for your parents too and they won’t have the time to mingle with those guests. Parents could consider hosting a party at their house for their friends to come celebrate the couple instead!


6. BONUS COVID. So this worked last year to cut from 200 down to 50—no joke—it’s magic! Remember the first two weeks when we were in the shut down? Think about the people you still talk to regularly and check in with on a normal basis. Who did you call? Who called you? Parents, Siblings, Best Man, Maid of Honor and the other people that reached out—that’s it—there are your 50!


What are some key points that couples should be asking their venue when they are inquiring before they book?

  1. Always ask what is included and what is not included when it comes to your venue rental.

  2. “All in, out the door quote” that includes tax so that you can compare venues and what they’re offering you. It’s also nice to avoid any surprises!

  3. Gratuity! How does the venue handle gratuity? Is it included? If not, then it’s one more thing to consider budgeting for.


Thank you Sara Zarrella for including us on this incredible podcast! Here are some photos taken by Sara Zarrella, one of our favorite photographers!