A formal wedding with reception has a lot of moving parts. There seem to be endless details that increase exponentially as the ceremony date nears. Even if you have ample time on your hands to handle every aspect of wedding planning, being consumed by the details means you might miss out on the actual experience. And the reality is, few people have loads of time on their hands. So while it may seem as if hiring a wedding planner, or coordinator, is a luxury, it can also be a financially practical move because one of the planner’s job is getting you the best prices from vendors.
The cost of the planner will depend in part on the size of your wedding. If you have decided on a large ceremony—the national average is around $28,000—the fee may be up to 20 percent of the total budget but for that you get unlimited hours. Most planners also offer various package flat rates that specify a set number of hours included in the price. Plans with limited hours are best for small or medium sized weddings. In those cases, you may only want to go in for one or two consultations as a kind of crash course on organizing a wedding.
Others want a coordinator they can delegate the vendors to, which includes making the appointments for the meetings, and following up on their progress. One of the main jobs of a planner is to get you what you want within your budget. Since they deal with vendors all the time as part of their job, they are in a better position to negotiate prices. Vendors include musicians, caterers, photographers, videographers, bakeries, stationers, florists, and party rental companies. Delegating those responsibility will significant lighten a bride-to-be’s load and stress level.
Other duties you can delegate to a planner are to create a schedule so at a glance you can see what’s been done and what still needs to be arranged or completed; troubleshoot; help locate bridal dresses, help design the invitations, create seating charts if desired, and booking the entertainment, if applicable.
Once you determine the scope of the planner’s role, the next step is to interview prospective coordinators. You can look up local planners online, and bridal shows, or in the phone book but the best way is to get personal referrals from friends or family members. After looking at their web sites and talking to others, narrow your list down to two or three candidates then interview them in person to make sure you have a good rapport—you will be working very closely with this person so a solid comfort level is crucial. Likewise, if you want a specialized wedding, such as at the beach or some other less traditional venue, make sure the planner has experience coordinating such an event because they come with unique considerations.
Even if they come highly recommended by your best friend, still ask the coordinator for references and make the time to call and talk to previous clients. Ask how the planner acted under pressure; if they were good at communicating; if they met agreed-to deadlines; if their vendors were high quality and competitively priced; and if they were able to bring the client’s vision to life. If you really want to be thorough, you can also check with the local courthouse to make sure there have been no lawsuits filed against your prospective planner.
Lastly, find out what the planner’s cancelation policy is should the wedding need to be canceled or you choose to stop using their services before the ceremony. While not the most pleasant question, it’s best to be prepared for every contingency.