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What is a Wedding Planner?
Regardless of what you may think, as soon as a girl gets engaged to be married, the first thing she usually thinks about is a wedding planner. Many brides do not choose to use a wedding planner, but most of them would like to if they could.
What’s stopping them, you may ask. There are many misconceptions about wedding planners that keeps even the most desperate of brides from using one. The first misconception is that they are going to be WAY too expensive. They do have high costs, because they are trying to cover the time it’s going to take to plan your wedding for you, and planning a wedding is no cake walk, but only about half of them are truly unreasonable.
Another misconception is that a wedding planner is only for wealthy brides and will likely take over your wedding and not let you do anything. Many wealthy brides do use wedding planners, but not because they are only for those with lots of money. But because they are normally not worried quite so much about money and therefore feel like their services are worth the extra money it may cost.
And most wedding planners are not there to take over your wedding planning, but step in and truly help you have the least amount of stress possible. The truth is, most people aren’t even sure what a wedding planner is or what they do, besides what they’ve seen in the movies. So let’s start there.
So Then What is a Wedding Planner?
A wedding planner is ultimately a person (or persons) who plans out all the wedding details, researches and organizes all the people needed to make the event successful, and coordinates the wedding day to make sure everything runs smoothly just like it's supposed to.
A wedding planner’s job is to walk you step by step through the planning process, conferring with you, and fulfilling all of your requests and wishes without you having to do any work. It’s the job of a wedding planner to simply do the same things you would, but with more knowledge, a vast array of ideas from past experiences, and a team of professional that they have worked with before who will offer you’re the best possible services at the best prices.
It’s the wedding planner’s main goal to give you everything you’ve asked for and more, all within or even below your original budget. If anything, the main goal is to make you happy and make the whole process fun rather than stressful. If you find the right wedding planner, this is exactly what you will get.
There's no hard and fast rule that says you have to pay somebody that is a professional in the field to plan your wedding for you. Although, there is a great deal that goes into planning a wedding, more than you could possibly imagine. That doesn't mean though that you are limited when it comes to who does it in the end.
This position could easily be filled by a friend, a family member, or even yourself. I would never recommend the bride try to plan her own wedding all the way to the wedding day all by herself without some support. But with a well-rehearsed bridal party and some very supportive friends it can be done easily.
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Hiring a Professional
When hiring a professional, you’ll likely start by sitting down, getting to know one another, and talking about your wedding. You’ll have the chance to really find out for yourself whether this is someone that truly understands you and that you would enjoy working with.
When you were ready, a contract would then be drawn up and signed that included everything (make sure you check every little detail, as with any other vendor) you discussed, including price, number of meetings, and what he or she is responsible for covering.
Working with a professional should be the same as any other professional, like a real estate agent, a bank manager, your boss, or even your electrician. There should be regular contact, formal meetings, checklists and budgets, and even regular payments. You should expect nothing less than the most professional from any planner you hire.
Having been a wedding planner for so long, it's hard for me to have anything negative to say about them. I know all of the benefits I provided for the couples I worked with, and all of the money I saved them. However I have also heard the horror stories about planners that take couples' money and run, and that try and control the entire wedding. Fortunately these corrupt planners are few and far between.
Most professional wedding and/or event planners that are available to help you have your best interest in mind, and are truly in business to make sure that you get exactly the wedding you want, your way, for the absolute least amount of money.
They will know what needs to be done, in what order, and how to get it. The majority of them will also be able to save you a great deal more money than you'd be able to do on your own, knowing the ins and outs of wedding planning. They are truly experts in managing problems and difficult situations (like with family) as professionals.
Like I've said before, this doesn't mean that it isn't possible to have a successful wedding without a professional planner, or even that hiring one is the right choice for every couple. A mother, friend, group of friends, or extremely organized couple are just as capable of planning an out-of-this-world event as well. Let's look at some of the pros and cons of hiring a professional planner.
Pros and Cons of Wedding Planners
Hiring a wedding planner to help you plan and coordinate your wedding has pros and cons. Yes, it may cost you a little bit of money, but that money will be saved as your budget will continue to stay on budget without having to give up anything you desire.
You will have someone else making many decisions for you regarding your wedding, but the choice to accept or reject and decisions remains with you, as you are the one paying for them. You also have the benefit of working with a professional with experience, references, and a reputation to uphold.
Some of the PROS to working with a professional wedding planner include:
You know that the person knows what they're talking about.
They have references from past couples.
They have experience in the industry.
They already have relationships with vendors and can refer you to the good ones.
They can handle the tough situations that arise.
They can help make the process stress free.
I think the very best part of having a wedding planner, besides saving money on great products and people, is that they handle all family problems for you and act kind of like a marriage counselor to help you handle the rough moments.
Some of the CONS that may come with working with a professional wedding planner may include:
They may know more about your wedding than you do.
They may cost extra money you may not have to spend.
They may try to make decisions without you.
They may advise you in ways that may not be what you had in mind or in your best interest.
In the end, most wedding planners have a reasonable cancellation policy if you find you are not happy with how the process is going. If you were not happy with your plumber or painter, you would let them go and find someone better. The same goes for wedding planners.
In fact, my policy has always been that we could walk away at any point in time without ever having to exchange money or see each other again, if that’s what the bride wished. Always read this policy before signing any of your contracts, so you know what your options are if you should change your mind with any of your vendors.
Optional Packages and Prices
Now let’s look at what some of the possible planning packages might be available when it comes the wedding planners you may find. Please know from the beginning that each wedding planner will have her own prices and assortment of packages.
I am simply providing you with an explanation of all of the options you will likely encounter and giving you a range of costs. You’ll have to check with specific planners for more specific package and cost information.
When you think of wedding planners, I bet you can already think of some of the services offered. Many of these include full-service planning, Day of coordination, and hourly services.
Naturally, the different levels of wedding planning packages determine the fees they will charge and the services they will provide. Some planners even charge differently, being either a flat fee, a percentage of the entire wedding budget, or some mixture of the two. Here’s a quick breakdown of the traditional services offered:
Premium Full Service Wedding Planning Package
This package is ideal for the busy bride who wants someone to manage every aspect of her wedding planning from the initial concept and design to complete event management on a limited budget. For services like these, you can expect to pay somewhere in the range of $4,500 and up.
A premium full-service package essentially provides it all. Not only do you get a wedding planner for the typical full-service planning, but this package includes a bunch of extras. Some of the extras I typically provide in this package are:
-Assistance to hosts with ideas and referrals for any parties, showers, etc.
-Planning and execution of bridesmaids’ luncheon
-Assistance in coordinating a spa day (manicure/pedicure appointments) for the bridal party
-Coordination of out-of-town gift baskets, including shopping for items to be included
-Production of all of the out-of-town gift baskets and delivery to designated hotels
Remember, though, that every wedding planner is different, and each and every one may not even provide many of these packages.
Main Wedding Packages Most Wedding Planners Will Use
Although each planner is different, there are certain packages that are common among all planers.
-Premium Full Service Package
-Full Service Package
-Day of Package
To compare apples to apples when researching planners, choose the full-service package as this is the most common package of all of them.
Full Service Wedding Planning Package
This package is best for the bride who ventured into wedding planning on her own and suddenly realizes that she needs the creative ideas, guidance, support and knowledge of planning beautiful weddings on a limited budget that only a professional can provide for her. You can expect to pay around $3,000 and up for these services.
A full-service package provides just about everything from helping the bride from the time she signs the contract to the very end of the wedding day and possibly after. The average wedding takes 100+ hours to plan, so if you divide this cost by at least 100, you can see how reasonable the fee actually is.
Expect to work very closely with your full-service wedding planner, as you should be allowed daily telephone calls, frequent vendor visits, etc. so chemistry is extremely important. She should like you and just as importantly you should enjoy working with her.
‘Day of’ Wedding Planning Package
This package is perfect for the bride who has overseen all of the details of planning the wedding herself and now wishes to turn over all the final details and logistics of her big day to a professional. You can expect to pay around $900 and up.
A ‘Day-of’ wedding planning package is more than simply a wedding planner showing up on the day of your wedding. Your planner will likely get involved up to a month before your wedding touching base with your wedding suppliers and ensuring that all of the details are in order.
One of the main responsibilities of a “Day of” planner is to coordinate and manage the wedding-day schedule so that all involved, wedding professionals and wedding party alike, are in the right place at the right time. Plan on meeting with your planner at least once, if not twice, prior to the wedding to go over details and create schedules.
Consulting Only Package
This is a package for a bride that needs the benefit of an extended amount of professional planning advice at an affordable rate. You can expect to pay about $50-$200 per hour (with a two to three-hour minimum).
This is more like a meeting where you get to pick the brain of a professional wedding planner in order to know how to proceed with your planning or work through some sticky situations. Some of the things that you can get in this meeting are:
-Education on what is all involved in planning your own wedding
-Education on how to set up your wedding organization binder and photo book
-Assistance with setting up your wedding budget
-Allocation of budget areas per vendor depending on your desires and resources
-Suggestions for questions to ask when interviewing potential wedding vendors
-Assistance with event design, theme and décor concept development
The difference between the hourly rate and the consulting package for my business is that the hourly rate is reserved for services provided where I needed to leave the office and go “do” something physical, like decorate or attend a vendor meeting.
Where the consulting package is for in office, or on the phone, advice and suggestions, such as answering questions, making phone calls, drawing up a seating chart, making spreadsheets, etc.
Hourly service is simply for brides that needs the benefit of professional planning skills and may have only one or two issues to address, like finding the right band or location. Planners typically charge around $50-$200 per hour (with a two to three-hour minimum).
With this hourly service you could have a professional planner to:
-Attend vendor meetings with you
-Assist you in decorating your ceremony and/or reception site
-Assist in putting together wedding favors
-Stuff and address wedding invitations or Save the Dates
-Assist in creating a seating chart
-Assist in planning and scheduling needed flights and hotels
-Assist with writing, stuffing and/or addressing any thank-you notes, etc.
With an hourly wedding planner, you have the use of professional help for however long you need to assist with any aspect of your wedding. You can search for venues, research and ask questions about wedding suppliers, create a budget…the list is endless.
Referrals Only Service
This package is for brides who only need help with finding quality vendors or locations. Normally wedding planners will already have a list compiled for just such a request and will provide this to you absolutely free.
After you discuss the style and budget of a your wedding with a planner, they can supply you with the names and contact information of available wedding suppliers that they have researched and approve of.
Many planners will then go even further and provide even more great services like . . .
A Proposal Package
This is for the groom that needs some help to pop the question in a grand or romantically creative way. They could provide great ideas and suggest details based on your unique personalities and help to find a location, photographer, and other details.
An Elopement Package
This is helpful for the couple that wants to elope and just do something small and personal. They could help to find a quick photographer, officiant, cake, and florist for you to make sure your special day goes smoothly.
A Destination Wedding Planning Package
This is intended for the bride who wants to get married in a beautiful vacation atmosphere but needs a planner in the area where she is getting married. This way she can have the wedding details all taken care of and ready for her she when arrives before the wedding day.
A South Asian Full Service Wedding Planning Package
This is specifically for the Indian, Hindu, Muslim, Pakistani, and Middle Eastern families that want a wedding full of rich meaningful customs and fun memories. South Asian weddings typically last much longer and are much more intricate than most traditional Western weddings. With all of the many varied events and all of the smallest details involved, you will probably need professional services in order to get the beautiful wedding you desire.
An Eco-Wedding Planning Package
This is a new one planners are offering for the environmentally-friendly bride and groom who want to have a beautiful wedding but make the least impact on the environment doing so. You could get tips on an organic menu for your reception, be provided with with eco-friendly vendors that will help you to recycle and donate your flowers and extra food after the wedding, and even get help making an impact using natural fabrics in your wedding gown and lowering the emissions used at the wedding.
An a La Carte Menu
Finally, many planners offer an a la carte menu for the bride and groom that find a wedding package they like, but that just doesn’t include all of the bells and whistles that they would like. This is also the perfect package to take advantage of if you only want one or a few services.
You can only really truly judge a wedding planner’s prices by looking at their basic full-service package. They all offer so many different packages with so many different options for their couples that, in order to really compare them apples to apples, you have to pick a package that most of them carry.
Working with a wedding planner can be a real blessing. Owning my own wedding planning business for years and employing over 140 consultants all over the Unites States, I still hired one of my wedding planners to come and help out with my wedding.
We wanted to be able to sit back and enjoy the process without having to worry about schedules, checklists or coordinating the event. I’m still glad that I did. She was incredible and our wedding would not have been the same without her. Thank you Christina Claxton of Colorado!
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© 2013 Victoria Van Ness