Wedding Consultants versus “On Your Own”
Undoubtedly by the time you have read to this point in the book, you may have thought, “I am going to need some help!” Immediately the thought comes to mind as to whether or not you should hire a wedding consultant (also known as a wedding planner) or invite a friend or family member to help you plan your wedding. Professional wedding consultants in your area know everything about the wedding industry and specifics about what will work for your wedding in your particular city. A friend or family member knows you best and will help offset the amount of time that you will need to research and interview prospective wedding professionals.
Making the Decision
The most important days of a person's life are buying their first home, getting married, and having a child (not necessarily in that order, of course!). For every single one of these events, there is normally someone helping you. Whether you hire a wedding consultant or have a friend or family member (with some wedding experience under her belt), it is wise to enlist help sooner rather than later!
Not everyone needs or wants a consultant. You should not feel pressured to hire one simply because you are getting married or because someone else you know hired one. Every couple's experience is different and some really enjoy the planning process and have plenty of time to do it on their own. If you fall into this category, you are most likely a very organized and resourceful person. You get excited as much about the process as the actual wedding day. Other couples who may just need a little help, and love having family and friends around to help them make important decisions, may not need the help of a wedding planner. If you fall into this category, you are probably thinking “Why should I pay for advice when I am surrounded by people who have been recently married and have tons of experience in the wedding department?”
There are couples that do not have any time or anyone who can help them plan or design the wedding that they want. With today's busy schedules and dual-income couples as the norm, hiring a wedding planner has become more affordable and sensible. Some couples may not live near their families and the basic thought of finding the right caterer or florist induces stress. Hiring a wedding planner is a welcome relief to many couples and can help bring back the excitement of being engaged again!
Whether you love the process, need a little help, or need a lot of help, make sure you are enjoying the planning process and being engaged at the same time!
Hiring a Wedding Consultant
Should you decide to hire a wedding consultant, there are several things you should keep in mind. The first thing you should know is that an independent wedding consultant is your representative in the wedding industry. Do not confuse an independent wedding consultant with a wedding consultant that is part of a store, reception site, or caterer. These consultants normally cannot advise you on wedding professionals outside their area of expertise, products, or services that they are providing in particular. For example, there may be a specific wedding staff person at a hotel who specializes in weddings for that particular location. That does not make this person a wedding consultant. Remember, the money you are paying the hotel is strictly tied to the contract you sign with them. These contracts typically only include the BEO (banquet event order), which details what the hotel will be providing — not what outside vendors will provide. Essentially, an independent wedding consultant is the only professional who you will hire that makes sure that all of your vendors have the tools they need to make your wedding the day of your dreams and that they are fulfilling their contractual obligations to you as a couple.
Questions, Questions, Questions!
Once you have narrowed your search for a wedding planner, you want to make sure you ask as many questions as possible before deciding. Your chosen wedding planner needs to understand what you are looking for on your wedding day and your personalities should be compatible. Your wedding planner will be walking alongside you in every aspect of the planning process and you want to make sure you feel at ease in communicating your desires.
If you are in the process of hiring a wedding planner, the most important thing to note (before hiring her) is her list of what she cannot provide for you. Every wedding professional will tell you what she can do, but finding out what she will not do for you after you hire her is too late!
Here is a list of a few key questions that you should ask before hiring your wedding planner:
How long have you been in business?
Are you a part-time or full-time consultant?
How many staff members do you have?
How many weddings do you handle per weekend?
What are your fees? (Hourly? Flat fee? Percentage?)
What is included in your package?
Will you be the person coordinating the day of? If not, when can I meet my planner?
Do you have photos of any recent weddings you have planned?
Levels of Service
There are normally different levels of service that each consultant can and will provide. The most popular packages are full consulting, partial consulting, and wedding coordination “day-of”. Make sure you review what each package includes and communicate to your planner what you need the most help with. Full consulting normally helps in planning the entire event down to the tiniest detail, while “day-of” consulting can mean just helping the week of the event.
Etiquette will play a major role in every aspect of the wedding planning process. Some socially acceptable rules of etiquette, manners, and protocol are written and others are not. Wedding planners will help you navigate these rules.
Here is a typical list of what is included for
Unlimited consultations in person, on the phone, or online.
Wedding planning timeline.
Expert guidance on etiquette.
A customized budget.
Wedding professional recommendations.
Scheduling of wedding professional appointments around your availability.
Review and negotiation of vendor contracts on your behalf.
Cuisine selection and help at any tastings.
Ongoing communication with your wedding professionals.
Event design of overall décor scheme.
Design of all guest amenities, including welcome bags, favors, programs, etc.
Scheduling of salon and spa services.
Creation of a detailed itinerary for your wedding weekend.
Timeline distribution to all wedding professionals prior to the wedding.
A walk-through at your ceremony and reception locations.
Final wedding professional confirmations the week of your wedding.
Oversight and management of wedding day installation.
Rehearsal coordination and direction.
Coordination, management, and troubleshooting on your wedding day.
Follow up with all wedding professionals and your wedding party as needed after your wedding day.
Typically a full consulting package will include a head consultant with an assistant the day of the wedding.
Initial planning timeline.
Initial budget design.
Review of all vendor contracts before signing them.
Vendor negotiation hints and tips.
Coordination of all décor, linen, and/or tent and supply rentals.
Detailed itinerary creation.
Walk-throughs at ceremony and reception sites.
Point of contact for all vendors and key individuals.
Rehearsal management and week-of wedding coordinating.
Organization and coordination of all events related to your wedding weekend.
As with full packages, most partial planning packages include a head consultant and an assistant the day of the wedding.
Finally, a typical list of what is included in a
An itinerary and timeline assistance meeting.
Scheduled walk-throughs at your ceremony and reception sites.
Complete day-of coordination with a head consultant and at least one assistant.
Is This My Wedding?
Make sure that no matter whom you ask to help with your wedding day, whether a planner or a friend, you are in charge of the decision-making process. In the end you are the one (or your parents) who is paying for all of the services that day and it is your wedding day! Although it is not typical for wedding planners to make contracts with wedding professionals on your behalf, there are planners that do. If your planner has the power of the checkbook (or credit card), be sure there is a written agreement that you have final say as to who is being booked for your wedding day.
It is important to note that a wedding planner should really be behind the scenes the day of the wedding. You should be the one who shines and the planner should just be there to help facilitate the day.
Be careful and avoid any consultant who seems likely to disregard your wishes and gives off the feeling that she is in charge of “the show.” Your wedding day is not a show and should reflect the two of you as a couple, not the style of the planner!
If you are having difficulty selecting your wedding planner, references are normally the best bet! The best references for a wedding planner are, of course, past couples. Some other great resources are venue managers, as they normally work the most with wedding planners (if it is a popular venue). Some venues even print brochures with their list of recommended planners among other event professionals. In the end, if your planner is one of the best in the area, venue managers will know. Parents of past couples are also a great barometer of how a planner will treat your family during the planning process and the day of the wedding. The best wedding planners have a wide range of styles and budgets in their repertoires.
The price range of wedding planners today is amazing. With the advent of wedding reality shows on TV came the influx of wedding and event planners. Some planners are weekend warriors and have full-time jobs during the week. They tend to be less expensive and usually less experienced. The weekend warrior is normally your best bet if you are on a tight budget and really just looking for some help the day of the wedding but want a professional. Other planners are full time and have extensive experience and numerous weddings under their belts. With experience normally comes a higher price tag. A general rule of thumb is that you should never spend more than 10 percent of your overall budget on a wedding planner. Do not give up the thought of hiring a wedding planner based on budget. Prices really do range all over the place and don't be afraid to ask around. With so many places for references (books, magazines, and the Internet) it is easier for couples today to find wedding planners that fit within their budgets. In the end, your planner should be creative, communicative, easy to deal with, and within your budget.
For full wedding planning packages, some wedding planners charge a flat fee while others charge a percentage of your overall budget. Some planners even charge by the hour. In the end, a flat-rate package is typically the most cost-effective.
Remember, starting with your wedding planner, you should always come prepared. Take a look at the Wedding Consultant Worksheet at the end of this chapter to help guide you through the process of hiring a wedding planner.