10 Tips for Choosing an Exceptional Wedding Planner

You get engaged, you spend a few weeks blisssfully floating on a cloud and suddenly you wake up and realize, "oh crap, I have to plan a wedding now!".  Don't worry girl, I'm here to help.  When you first sit down to start thinking about planning your big day, all of the details can quickly become overwhelming.  Indoor or outdoor?  Summer or fall?  Band or DJ?  Which DJ?  You don't know any DJs!  You never needed a DJ before.  Enter the wedding planner.

People hire wedding planners for a multitude of reasons.  Some are planning a wedding out of state and it's too difficult to visit vendors from 300 miles away.  Many are just busy with work and a million other things and would rather have someone else handle the planning.  Most that I meet are simply looking for someone to help them get organized, offer opinions and to be there to ensure the day flows beautifully.  A wedding planner (at least a good one) is certainly an investment.  I believe it's an investment that's well worth the price tag.  So, how do you sift through the list of wedding planners to know who to hire?  After all, this person is going to hopefully be your wedding bff.  You want to find the right fit.  Rest easy future bride because today I'm sharing ten tips that will help you find the wedding planner of your dreams.

photo courtesy of sasha danielle photography

photo courtesy of sasha danielle photography

1.  Experience does matter.

When you are meeting with potential wedding planners, you are essentially interviewing them for a job and with any job interview, experience is a big factor.  Sure, everyone has to start somewhere, but experience is key in this job.  You won’t meet many people who studied event planning in college.  It’s a “learn on the job” gig.  Those years spent interning and assisting other planners are invaluable to learning what questions to ask, how to react in certain situations and to building a strong vendor network.  I’m not saying to completely write-off a newbie, but be weary of planners that jumped into owning their own business without much prior experience.  The best planners I know spent years working for little to no money in order to learn the business from the ground up.

2.  Does the planner's style match your vision?

Most planners realize that every couple has different tastes and ideas when it comes to design.  Some couples love glitz and sparkle, while others dream of all things rustic chic.  It’s a planner’s job to listen to their clients and to offer suggestions that fit within the couple’s style and budget.  However, it’s important to be cognizant of the type and style of weddings that the planner typically does.  If the planner’s Instagram is a running reel of over-the-top glam weddings with a pretty price tag, you may want to seek out another planner to pull together your shabby chic dream.  Take some time and look at the planner’s portfolio online to get a good idea of his or her particular style and be realistic about how that style aligns with your vision.

3.  Take the entire team into account.

Most wedding planning companies are small.  They are typically comprised of an owner and perhaps a couple other planners or assistants and this usually works perfectly.  However, there are a couple things to consider.  Is the person you initially meet with going to be the planner you work with throughout the planning process?   There’s nothing worse than spending months explaining your vision to one planner to find out someone else will actually be with you on the wedding day.  Are the other people on the team assistants or interns?  And if they are interns, are they paid?  Again, I 100% believe that everyone has to start somewhere and that unpaid internships are a part of life and learning the business, but make sure your planner is up front about their roles and experience.  Years ago when I first dipped my toes into the planning world, I was thrown into countless situations where I was introduced as an “assistant” even though I was not getting paid and had zero experience or clue what I was doing.  Honesty is the best policy and a smart planner will be up front with you.

photo courtesy of jorge santiago

photo courtesy of jorge santiago

4.  Is wedding planning a side gig or a full-time job?

I will never knock anyone who is pursuing wedding planning as a second job.  I did it for years and most of the time it's a necessity until a planner can build up a clientele and afford to take the leap into full-time.  Working nights and weekends on top of a 9 - 5 job is hard work and I have the utmost respect for anyone doing it.  The only thing to consider here is whether your schedule matches the planner's.  If you also work during the day, chances are that nights and weekends will be ideal for you and you won't run into any issues.  However, if you are someone that needs a planner with daytime availability, then you may want to make sure you choose someone who is a full-time planner.

5.  Affordability is important.

I know what you're thinking - "how did it take us this long to get to price?".  The truth is, prices for hiring a wedding planner vary dramatically.  It almost goes without saying that many new planners will charge fairly low rates.  It may seem like a no-brainer to go with the "best deal," but I would caution you not to make a decision based on cost alone.  Many new planners charge this lower rate because they are inexperienced and are willing to work for less in order to gain that experience and build a portfolio.  So, you might luck out and get an awesome newbie who does a fabulous job and saves you a few dollars or you could end up paying more in the end because you didn't have experience on your side.  Most planners know what their time is worth and will charge accordingly.  Take into account the other factors in this article: experience, staff, services offered - and then decide what you are willing to pay.  Keep your budget in the forefront and understand that a wedding planner is an investment in your day.

6.  How big is the planner's vendor network?

What I mean by "vendor network" is essentially how many quality connections does the planner have with other vendors in the wedding industry.  The size of a planner’s vendor network is typically related to experience and time spent in the industry.  As the saying goes, “it’s a small world” and many wedding vendors get to know one another relatively quickly.  Why is this important to you?  For one, if a wedding planner has a strong working relationship with a particular vendor, he or she may be able to get you discounts on services.  Vendors are more willing to do favors or be more flexible with planners that they work well with.  Don’t be afraid to ask your other vendors about a particular planner.  Vendors will quickly tell you the planners that they have loved working with and those that were difficult.

photo courtesy of sasha danielle photography

photo courtesy of sasha danielle photography

7.  How many other weddings will the planner book on your day?

Does your planner only take one wedding on a particular day or do they book multiple weddings on the same day?  This question will depend largely on if the planner has other event coordinators working for him or her.  If they do, the company should be able to book multiple weddings on any given day.  However, you’ll want to ask up front if any other weddings are booked on your date and ensure how many hours of on-site assistance your package includes.  The two weeks leading up to a wedding can become very hectic and you want to make sure your planner is focused on you and your wedding.

8.  What services does the planner offer?

Most wedding planners will offer some key services including full wedding planning and day-of coordination.  If you’re interested in something more specific such as budget management or venue design, make sure that your planner offers these items.  If you’re just looking for assistance in a particular area, many planners will offer á la carte services or planning by the hour.  Be careful with these because the time and money can often quickly add up and you would have been better off investing in a planning package.  Some planners also offer add-on services such as hotel guest bag creation, cookie and candy table design and engagement party or rehearsal dinner planning.

9.  Do your personalities mesh?

I mentioned early on that meeting with your potential wedding planner is very much a job interview.  However, keep in mind that it’s typically a two-way interview.  Not only are you deciding if the planner is up to the task of planning your wedding, the planner is deciding whether or not he or she wants to sign up for that task.  In any service industry, those providing the service must learn to work with a myriad of personality types and wedding planners can definitely adapt.  However, both parties should get a feel for one another and decide whether your goals (and plans to achieve those goals) line up.  Let's be honest, you are going to spend perhaps an entire year working with this person.  You want it to be someone that you can genuinely get along with and that has your best interest at heart.

photo courtesy of hot metal studio

photo courtesy of hot metal studio

10.  Check the reviews...and word of mouth is king.

There are reviews for almost everything online these days.  Want to buy a coffee maker?  Check the reviews.  A new pair of jeans?  What do the reviews say?  The same goes for wedding planners.  If a client has a positive experience with a wedding planner, they are typically inclined to leave a positive review.  Check sites like The Knot, Wedding Wire and Yelp.  Reviews are great and will give you a good starting point.  However, keep in mind that reviews aren't everything and anyone can go on to certain sites and leave reviews.  The major way wedding planners get business is through word-of-mouth or referrals from past clients.  Again, the wedding industry in any given city is a relatively small world, so just ask around.  

I hope these tips help to get you on a path toward organized planning bliss.  I'd love to hear from you if you've hired a wedding planner and what criteria you used to make your choice.  Happy planning! 

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