From now on, I'm going to take Wedding Wednesday in a different direction. I've noticed that a lot of planning resources these days seem to be out of date, and most popular blogs focus on design only. I really want to start providing more planning resources for all of you, and pair that with wedding styling and design. That being said, a few weeks ago I talked about why you should hire a wedding planner. Today I'm going to talk about how to find and hire a wedding planner.
Where to look
Wedding Wire: Wedding Wire is one of the biggest vendor networks out there. Most wedding vendors will be on the site, and a lot will have reviews right there. You can search in your area, but know that the first few that show up, the ones with pictures, are paid advertising.
Wedding blogs: Some of the hippest wedding planners get their work featured on blogs, such as Style Me Pretty and Green Wedding Shoes. If you see a wedding that you really love on one of these blogs, definitely check out the location and vendors that are listed.
Personal referral: If you've been to a wedding for a friend that seemed to flow really well and had a lot of attention to detail, definitely ask who they hired to coordinate the day.
Even if you don't think you can afford someone to help you plan your entire wedding, there are other options available. I would highly encourage at least a day of coordinator.
Full service: A full service package by a coordinator will include help throughout the wedding planning process. This includes assistance in finding a venue, contracting and working with your vendors, coming up with an overall vision, as well as coordinating the day of the wedding.
Partial service: If you need something in between full service and day of, partial planning is probably best for you. Good planners will often offer packages that are customizable according to what you need, so you don't have to pay for a la carte services.
Day/month of: The most popular type of planning package is a wedding day coordinator. This type of package typically includes everything I mentioned in this post, though all planners are different. You'll want to compare the services that different planners offer.
A la carte: Many planners offer individual services that do not need to be attached to a package. These services can include hourly consultation, RSVP management, and budget assistance.
Setting up an initial consultation
Once you find a planner that you are interested in potentially working with, email or call them and ask if they offer a complimentary initial consultation. Depending on where you live and where they work from, you may not be able to meet in person, but definitely ask if you can have the meeting over the phone or Skype if possible.
Understand that initial consultations aren't planning consultations. Most planners will be wary about offering too many ideas or advice at a consultation, since we typically get paid for this type of information. I may have really big or great ideas for a potential client, but I always run the risk of them working with someone else and still using my ideas. So, don't be offended if they decline your request for specific ideas regarding your wedding.
When you do meet with a planner, and I encourage you to meet with at least three, even if you feel confident about only one (it's best to compare packages between planners), come to the meeting prepared. Make sure you have a list of questions that you want to cover during the meeting. A good planner will let you do most of the talking, and ask a lot of questions.
Topics to cover
Here are a few things you'll want to ask and consider when meeting with a potential planner:
- Experience: Don't be afraid to ask how many weddings someone has planned, and what types of weddings they typically plan. Banquet weddings are much different than DIY weddings, or those where you have to provide everything (often including event staff). They may not know how to coordinate a wedding that involves a lot of rentals and outside vendors, so definitely ask.
- Work load: Personally, I only do one wedding a weekend. I don't even do weddings on consecutive weekends. I like to make sure that I am available for my clients the week before their wedding, since that's a pretty stressful time. Definitely ask how many weddings they do in a month, and if you'll be the only wedding for that weekend.
- Planning style: Finding a really amazing planner with a great sense of style can be great! But be careful...their aesthetic may be too strong for your taste. Good planners will take their clients' vision into consideration when creating an event. Bad planners will use their own preferences when planning, and disregard yours.
- Planning opinions: I've met quite a few planners that have very stringent ideas as to how a wedding "should" be. If you don't want to follow wedding etiquette or tradition, then no one should force you. There are plenty of planners who know etiquette well, and advise you on proper etiquette, but they shouldn't make you feel bad if you decide to make a different decision.
- Coordination specifics: Every planner is different, and every planner has created planning packages and services that fit them. You really need to ask what is specifically included in their package, and evaluate whether or not you need it. And don't be afraid to ask if they will include other services in the package if you feel like you need it. They may or may not agree with you, but it's really important to get all of your information and options up front.
Ask most wedding vendors, and they will tell you that negotiating is bad etiquette. It leaves a really bad taste in our mouths, and it really makes us not want to work with you. I was somewhat appalled to see advice on other wedding planning websites suggesting that you ask potential wedding planners if they can get you deals with other vendors. Please don't do this.
Speaking of vendors, definitely ask if a planner accepts commissions for vendor referrals. Some do, and some don't, and it's really your preference. But know that the practice exists, and you need to make up your own mind as to whether or not you want a planner who is paid to refer you to vendors.
What it really comes down to...
...is that you like your wedding planner. More often than not, they are the ones that you work with most on your wedding. If you just don't feel it, then chances are they aren't the person for you. Liking someone isn't overrated, and definitely trust your instincts.
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I know this was a lot of writing, and I'm sorry! To make it up to you, I'm going to start offering wedding planning worksheets that you can print and bring with you to your vendor meetings. Here is the first one, full of questions that you should ask when meeting with a potential wedding planner.
Click the above image to download the two page document.
Are there any other questions that you have about hiring a wedding planner? Leave them in the comments and I'll do my best to answer them all!