Maine Wedding Venue Staff Feature: Sarah Ripley

Sarah Ripley
Published November 1st, 2011

When we first launched the blog earlier this year, we introduced you to Sarah Ripley, French’s Point’s operations and Administration Manager. Her title could just as well be Director of details because she’s famous around here for her meticulous attention to the little things that make a wedding flow smoothly.

Now, we’d love for you to get to know Sarah a little better. She shares with us her organizational secrets and advice for planning a flawless event.

Her role at French’s Point
My role is always changing. I have many responsibilities, including coordinating with all the vendors hired for each event at French’s Point. I work closely with the bride and groom, planning down to every detail. Since I am in charge of inventory, I know what we have and don’t have when dealing with the guest count. I also work closely with the chef concerning tastings, meal format, guest allergies, dining format, and seating arrangements for young and old (highchairs, booster seats, wheelchairs, etc).

All materials and event enhancements are often organized by me (patio heaters, lap blankets, sparkler send-offs), and I handle vendor coordination and payment distribution the day of an event. I work with couples to arrange table placement (guest count, guest per table, special accommodations, etc.), as well as ceremony seating and ceremony song selections.

Additionally, I work with the Service Manager to hire quality staff for each event. I prepare by ironing linens, folding napkins, shining silverware and stemware, and placing tables and chairs. I’m often in more than one place during an event, checking in on vendors, as well as VIP guests (bride, groom, parents and grandparents of both sides), and I also serve cocktails during the reception.

How she stays organized
I point out the small details often missed during the planning process. I use a planning form to organize timelines, vendor details, set-up plans, meal formats, and pre- and post-ceremony activities, such as pre-ceremonial photographs and surprises like a “groom’s cake.”

I have my own special ways of doing things. Eric, our service manager, and Jessika, French’s Point’s owner and CEO, often call them “piles” or “lists.” I typically separate “To-Do lists” for each day of a multi-day event so I know exactly what needs to be done and when. I often ask myself, “If this was my wedding…?” Just by getting to know the bride and groom through meetings and phone conversations, I can get a real sense of how important certain details are to them.

Having a timeline is crucial. Knowing how much time we have for each part of an event is key in making sure everything runs smoothly. Also, having contact with each vendor and important guests for every event is another big part. If I can ask questions to someone other than the bride on the day of her wedding, I will. An important part of my job is making sure the bride is relaxed and not worrying about doing anything the day of her wedding.

Advice for planning
Couples should really think about how they want their event to unfold — from the morning they walk into French’s Point the day of their wedding to the very end. We are a full-service wedding coordination company as well and are willing to do just about anything for our clients if we have sufficient time.

There are often things that are looked over when planning an event, and I try my hardest to think of those details in advance. For example: Do I have a cake knife and server or should I ask French’s Point if they have one? Champagne flutes specifically for the bride and groom? Where will my floral arrangements from the ceremony go when everyone heads inside for dinner?

The difference in the details
Often with planning and meeting with brides, you find out a little detail, something you can surprise them with the day of their wedding. I take notes all the time, even if I get an unscheduled call with a bride, groom or another party closely involved in the wedding planning process. I always have a pen and paper ready.

During a tasting with one couple and the parents of the bride, the mother mentioned having a cocktail umbrella placed in her intermezzo course since she was unable to have a cocktail. Days prior to the event, I searched Bangor for mini umbrellas to stick into the small scoop of sorbet, specifically for the mother of the bride. Everyone at the table had received their palate cleanser except her, and as she turned to look for a server, I presented her with her intermezzo, complete with a miniature umbrella. The mother and bride both laughed and thanked me. A small touch, but it put a smile on more than one face, which is priceless to me.

Lessons she’s learned
Keep organized, stay calm and smile even when your timeline is not unfolding properly. I always try to have fun and put myself in our clients’ shoes. Also, act like you have a camera on you at all times.

Exploring the midcoast
Definitely visit the Penobscot Narrows Observatory, Fort Knox, downtown Belfast for local shops like Out on a Whimsey and Bay Wrap for unique sandwiches, and EVERYONE should stroll down to the waterfront and take a sail out of Belfast. Jessika, Eric and I had the wonderful opportunity to take a sail with the Miss Nina over the summer, something everyone should do at least once!