I think it’s pretty safe to say that I’m a fan of getting a planner or coordinator for your wedding, and not just because I am one. Sure, I do see firsthand what I personally take care of at my weddings, but it goes beyond that. Truly, the stress and anxiety of planning a wedding isn’t for everyone, and a wedding planner (or coordinator) can really help alleviate a lot of the things that can come up during the planning process. I could write an entire post on why you should hire someone (I’m sure I probably already have), but this post isn’t about that.
If you’re interested in reasons why you should hire a planner, try this post.
Anyway, today I want to talk about actually choosing your wedding planner. Where do you start? How do you get in contact with them, and what services do you need? How do you know if someone is right for you? Hopefully, I’ll get to answer all of these for you today.
Types of Wedding Services
Every wedding planner or coordinator is going to be different in the types of services that they offer, and it’s best that you know what you’re generally looking for when you contact a potential planner (though I’ll go into more detail about this later). Typically, there are three main categories of services that wedding planners offer, though specific details may vary from planner to planner. I’m going to go over the three types of general services that we offer very briefly.
You may see me using the terms “planner” and “coordinator” interchangeably in this post and on my site, but that’s only because I’m talking about the wedding planning industry and services in a general sense. Really, there’s a lot of differentiation between the two.
Basically, a wedding PLANNER is going to be more involved in the actual planning process. Think, helping you choose and book your vendors, coordinating any production and design of the space you’ll be getting married in, and constructing and executing the overall vision for your event. Specific services may include:
- Helping you choose your wedding venue
- Meeting with and coordinating contracts with vendors
- Managing event rentals
- Overseeing the wedding planning timeline
Wedding planning services typically begin at the START of the wedding planning process and can be anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000 (for a professional planner).
Styling & Design
Many wedding planners offer styling and design services in addition to planning. This means an increased focus on the actual production of the space – think flowers, rentals, layouts, flow, and general decor and details. Styling and design services may be booked on an a la carte basis, or with another package (such as Month of Coordination). Services may include:
- Creating of a wedding design proposal or plan
- Coordinating and managing rentals and production (i.e. lighting, drapery, etc.)
- Engaging with design related vendors, such as your florist, specialty rentals, stationery, etc.
Since styling and design is somewhat of an a la carte service, you can expect to pay anywhere from $2,500 to $10,000+ for a professional designer.
Month of Coordination
Let me be clear – for a professional, there is NO SUCH THING as day of coordination. It takes a lot longer to coordinate a wedding than just a day – think of how many details you’ve planned for your big day! Wedding COORDINATION is basically taking all of those things that you’ve already planned and coordinating the details. Think, your wedding day timeline, ensuring all booked vendors are all on the same page, and obviously being present to make sure that everything flows well on the wedding day. Services may include:
- A walkthrough of your venue(s) prior to the wedding day
- Confirming all of your vendors and the wedding day timeline
- Coordinating the ceremony rehearsal and wedding day
- Supervising the setup on the day of the wedding
- Putting out all personal items and details
Depending on the services included in month of coordination, rates can vary from $2,000 to $4,500 for a professional coordinator.
Okay, so we clear now on the difference between different types of planners and coordinators?
How to Find Potential Planners
So, how do you find someone to work with? You can do this in a variety of ways, including:
- Asking your venue or any vendors you’ve already booked for referrals (venues will usually have good recommendations for planners that are familiar with your space).
- Many websites have vendor lists, including wedding blogs – but be aware, the only requirement to be on many of these lists is that the professional is paying for a listing.
- Personal referrals are also a great way to find your vendors! If you went to a wedding recently and you thought it flowed really well or looked absolutely beautiful, don’t be afraid to ask for a recommendation.
Contacting a Potential Planner
When contacting a potential planner, try to include as much of the following information as possible:
- Wedding date and venue*
- Anticipated guest count
- General budget
- Services interested in
*I don’t actually book any service until a client has their date and venue booked. I can help with that if needed, but if you don’t want help finding your venue, it’s probably best to have that figured out before you get in touch with a potential planner
Choosing Your Planner
Okay, so you’re meeting for coffee or are going to their studio for a consultation. How do you know if a planner is right for you?
How did they respond to your inquiry?
Did they send you a rate or quote without getting any additional information from you? In my opinion, this is a red flag. Every wedding is different, and they should get to know your vision before giving you a rate. Some may have flat rates, but it’s best to get to know you, if anything so that you can make sure that you are a good fit.
References and Reviews
Are they willing to give you a reference from previous clients? Are they visible online and do they have reviews posted? Just like any company, reviews can be misleading, so be aware of that when looking into a potential planner. Just having reviews (that are overwhelmingly good) is an indication that they are professional and might be a good fit.
Experience and Legitimacy
A professional planner should be able to give you a concrete number of years they’ve been in business, and a general number of weddings that they’ve done in the past. How you rate that experience is completely up to you, but they should be able to give it. Also, they should definitely have insurance and business license to practice. Not having either of these things is a BIG red flag.
Working with Vendors
How do they recommend vendors to you? Do they take a commission to refer certain vendors? That’s pretty much a no-no, just so you’re aware. Also, don’t be afraid to ask how they feel about negotiating on your behalf – flat out asking for a discount isn’t a great practice, but a pro should have an answer to that question.
Just for reference, I always tell my clients that I refer vendors based on their vision and budget. That means that I’m not going to recommend someone just because they’re my friend. I honestly believe in the value of their work and that they would be a good fit for you.
In order to keep the planning process as transparent as possible, it’s probably best to ask about expectations before booking. How involved will they be in the planning process, and how involved will you be? Again, it’s up to you to determine how involved you want to be and how involved you want them to be, but they should be flexible according to your needs and wants.
While it’s completely understandable that you may not know what services you want at an initial consultation, you should definitely have a general idea of what you need help with. Are comfortable booking your vendors, but need help coordinating rentals? Do you want someone that will help you with hotel blocks and the rehearsal dinner, or are you just looking for someone to help out on the day of. Make sure that you are all on the same page so that there are no surprises after you book! Also, a description of services should be explicitly laid out in their proposal and/or contract.
I don’t give a description of services until I know exactly what my clients are looking for. From there, I put together a custom proposal that includes services that are included in a particular rate in an effort to be transparent.
There is something to be said about that feeling that you just mesh with someone. I’m a firm believer that you know within ten seconds of meeting someone if you’re going to get along or not, and it’s really important that you like your planner or coordinator as a person before booking. The relationship between you and your planner is an intimate one – remember, they’re going to see your relationship with your fiance at its most vulnerable. They’re going to know your finances and your family dynamics. These aren’t things to take lightly.
To help with the decision making process, I’ve put together a little printable for you to take with you to your initial consultations. Happy planning!