The Wedding Series – The Wedding Planner

Should you hire her to plan your wedding?

Having planned my own, admittedly smallish wedding (60 people) many years ago in simpler and less costly times, and having been a Fortune 500 corporate executive assistant and later a vice president and manager, I’m experienced in planning events and inclined to handle any personal happening — including a wedding — myself.

Many women today feel the same way. They are take-charge individuals who are capable of event planning and project management. And, one’s wedding is just another project / event, right? Well…not exactly. In this instance a woman is her own client, and no matter how competent she is that involves a unique set of circumstances, emotions and people in addition to the usual commitment of time, energy and attention to detail. On top of all that, rather than being paid by this particular client (yourself), the money is going out rather than coming in. Because it’s difficult to be objective and disciplined about your own once-in-a-lifetime wedding budget, that presents another area of stress and anxiety.

Either by choice or age-old custom, it’s usually the bride rather than the groom who assumes the larger share of the planning and on whose shoulders fall the greater burden. Because even small weddings involve a multitude of details and some family and friends, there are many things that can go wrong and many feelings to consider. Once the bride-to-be wades into the details of planning her wedding, unless she is able to keep a firm grip on all aspects of the process the dream can quickly turn into a nightmare

Enter the Wedding Planner

According to a 2011 survey by the wedding website, The Knot, to alleviate the stress of planning the wedding roughly a third of couples hire a wedding planner, and more than half of those couples hiring a wedding day coordinator. (The 2014 survey does not contain updated statistics that I could find.) The wedding planner concept has definitely caught on and is likely to grow due to longer workdays and ever-increasing personal and professional responsibilities and commitments assumed by couples.

Think of a wedding planner as a general contractor. If you were renovating or updating your home, would you hire a contractor to oversee your project and select all the vendors and suppliers such as painters, carpenters, plumbers, electricians, landscapers, roofers, etc. — while staying within your budget? Or would you prefer to pull all the pieces together yourself? It would probably depend on the size, scope and complexity of the renovation, just as hiring a wedding planner might depend on the size, scope and complexities of your wedding. There are pros and cons to hiring a general contractor to or wedding planner. And, it depends on the individual and her current circumstances. Thus, the question is, does everyone need a wedding planner? It’s important to examine both sides:

Pros 

A professional of good repute who is trained, accomplished and experienced has insider knowledge of trends and connections to many venues and vendors. She will not only save you time in connecting all the dots but in some cases she might save you money. Depending on the type of service you select your wedding planner can guide you in creating your guest list, help you select and negotiate the contract for your venue and select and send out invitations. She can also manage the guest list, arrange for wedding party and guest travel and accommodations, help you to find your perfect wedding dress and attendants’ dresses, wedding cake and attendants’ gifts, and orchestrate the flow of the wedding day. She can also act as a buffer between the bride and groom and family and friends and troubleshoot problems right up to and including the big day itself. A top notch wedding planner will go out of her way to fix problems as they arise — both large and small — and keep stress levels of the bride and other members of the family and wedding party low and maintain an air of perfection throughout the festivities.

Cons

The bride and groom will relinquish some control and pay an additional cost for the services of a wedding planner. Just how much control depends on your arrangement and how costly it will be depends on a number of factors, including your geographical region, the caliber and reputation of the wedding planner and current demand. And, of course, as with anyone you hire, as much as you researched and vetted your wedding planner before signing the contract she might prove to be a liability instead of an asset, based on her level of competency or your respective personalities and ability to work together. For example, in dealing with your particular family, friends and guests the wedding planner might prove to be more of a wedge instead of a buffer, which could strain relationships instead of build or repair them. Thus, you might find yourself paying for a service that did not deliver the benefits you needed and desired.

Wedding Planner versus Consultant versus Coordinator

Wedding Planner – A wedding planner will help you to plan your wedding from the beginning and take over some or all tasks as previously described as well as plan showers, the rehearsal dinner and other associated parties and even help select the type of music (from orchestra to DJ) as well as advise on individual selections. The wedding planner will work with all the vendors and individuals on the couple’s behalf to pull everything together and ensure that the day of the wedding is the dream envisioned. The fee will be based on the level of service and can be either be a flat-rate package cost or hourly fee. For a full-service contract with all the bells and whistles figure on paying approximately 20% of the total cost of the wedding.

Wedding Consultant – A wedding consultant meets with the couple and sometimes their parents and helps them to determine the type and size of wedding and create a budget and timeline. The consultant will establish a framework for the couple to work within and provide appropriate vendor referrals tailored to the couple’s wedding plans. There might be a flat consultation fee with any follow-up for specific tasks charged by the hour. A practice you might encounter is a no-charge “referral-only” consultant who operates on referral fees from vendors.

Day-Of Wedding Coordinator – A wedding day-of coordinator will concentrate on making your wedding day as perfect as possible. A coordinator usually starts working for her client approximately one month prior to the wedding day to have time to arrange an in-depth meeting with the couple and touch base with all the vendors involved to ensure that all moving parts are on track. Then she will orchestrate everything on the big day. This type of wedding coordinator might also charge by the hour or quote a flat fee for a package of services.

Some professionals refer to themselves as wedding architects or designers who specialize only in creating a beautiful look to the wedding party, ceremony site and reception venue. Other full-service wedding planners might refer to themselves as wedding architects and designers.

Do Your Research and Weigh the Choices

Because these titles are often interchangeable, it behooves the bride and groom to research and ask questions to zero in on exactly which services are offered by the various professionals they interview. It is also wise to establish credentials! Ask your candidates if they have accreditations or certifications in wedding or event planning and where they received them, how long they’ve been planning weddings and their overall experience and background. Don’t hesitate to ask for references.

Some reasonable guidelines for deciding if you really need a wedding planner include the size and complexity of your wedding plans as well as your time availability and/or your experience in event planning.

If your wedding will be small or average in size, you have the time and energy to devote, and have parents and friends who are experienced, well-connected and have the time and willingness to help, you likely can handle the planning yourself. As well, today’s bride and groom have the Internet, which is rich in information and resources. You might decide that it would be beneficial simply to have an initial visit with a wedding consultant who can get you started and then be available to help you over any bumps along the way. Or the venue you select might include providing the wedding cake, flowers, etc.

But, if you’re planning a large, big budget extravaganza and you don’t have the time or the human resources to help you to manage it, a wedding planner might be exactly what you need.

Same Sex-Friendly Planners and Vendors

Same sex weddings are essentially the same as opposite sex weddings. However, vendors that specialize in gay weddings have emerged in recent years. And, in light of news reports that some vendors are turning away the business of gay couples, this is helpful information to have. It’s also important to some LGBT couples that the people they hire to make their weddings meaningful also be LGBT, or at least gay-friendly or active in doing business in the LGBT community.

Vet the Wedding Planner 

I have found that the best formula to find top-notch vendors of any kind is (1) to ask trusted contacts for referrals; (2) check them out through their websites, Facebook pages and on-line reviews; and (3) trust your gut and follow your instincts. If (1) and (2) work well but (3) doesn’t, start over. It’s worth the time and effort to search for and vet anyone that you wish to hire.

No Regrets

There are those who regret not hiring as well as those who regret hiring a wedding planner. Whether or not you decide to hire a wedding planner or related professional make sure you put a sufficient amount of thought, research and discussion into the process.

Until next time,

Jeanne

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