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Your right-Hand Woman

By Lena Ellwanger

Kari Rider knows a wedding planner is essential — she hired one for her own wedding despite being a planner herself.

“I would highly recommend it, especially someone who knows the area, who lives there and can be your feet on the ground there,” particularly since she did something “sort-of destination” — getting married on Bald Head Island in North Carolina.

Kari grew up in New Jersey, but she knows and loves the Eastern Shore like a local — having spent many summers along the Chesapeake Bay on her family’s boat as a child, then attending Washington College in Chestertown, and finally settling in Easton, where she established Kari Rider Events in 2009.

Many of Kari’s couples come from Annapolis, D.C., Virginia, New York and beyond. “I would say 99% of my clients don’t live here. ... It’s close enough to plan but it’s different from what their friends have done.”

Plus, the Shore offers a unique combination: “its close proximity to major cities, yet feeling like more of a destination wedding. People love the coastal small-town vibe.”

As with any planner, Kari’s level of involvement varies depending how much a couple wants to spend, and how comfortable they are doing some of the legwork themselves.

Month-of planning, Kari says, is for “someone who doesn’t need as much help or can do a lot on their own ... We come in the last month before the wedding, organize all your vendors, do your wedding-day timeline, obviously manage the wedding and reception, and be the point person for the weekend or day.”

With full planning, she would be the first or second hire — coming in right before or after a couple has set a date and secured their venue.

From there, Kari usually moves on to blocking out rooms, so the guests are guaranteed somewhere to stay. “Being smaller towns, sometimes we have to do more creative room blocks since we don’t have a lot of large hotels here.”

Then she helps the couples plan out the remainder of the time leading up to their big day.

“We prioritize what they need to be booking when, based on vendors’ availability and what’s important to them.”

She creates a custom wedding checklist for each couple, and assists with their wedding website, which helps them stay organized and prevents them from “being too overwhelmed in the process at any given time.”

Kari facilitates the planning process from the very start by meeting with a couple — and their potential vendors — in her studio in the heart of downtown Easton.

“Since none of my clients live here ... everyone can come here to one central location.”

The space is also set up with rental options, such as linens, place settings, chairs and the like, to help a couple visualize their desired look.

As a smaller firm, Kari limits the amount of couples she takes on. “Branding each wedding to each couple — and all those details — takes a long time, so it’s nice to be able to do just a certain number a year.”

With that attention to detail, those couples find they are able to let her take the reins so they are completely free to enjoy their day.

And having Kari onboard is not only a lifesaver for many couples, it is also a great courtesy to their wedding guests. “You don’t want your family doing it. They should be relaxing and having fun. Don’t put anyone to work. ... Hand it off to somebody else.”

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