The wedding planning process is... a lot. Thankfully it doesn’t have to all fall on you and your fiance. You'll want to enlist a team to make your wedding day come to life, look better than you ever could have imagined, and make everything feel seamless.
Wedding planning services may include a full-service wedding planner who takes care of everything from helping you choose a wedding venue, to picking out invitations, to hiring vendors, to taking care of every detail on the big day. You may also source out services individually, have family members help, or do bits and pieces yourself.
If you do decide to outsource wedding planning, you’ll want to make sure that you’re getting the most out of your wedding vendors’ services. How can you make that a reality? Follow these tips to get going so that you can spend more time relaxing and less time stressing before you hit the altar.
Part 1: Set a Budget and Decide How to Source Wedding Planning Services Part 2: Outlining Wants and Needs Part 3: Questions to Ask Your Wedding Planner Part 4: Utilizing Extras
Before you can start to determine which services you’re going to need, set your budget. Determine how much you have for the wedding planner, day-of coordinator, vendors, florist, and more. If you think these are going to eat away at too much of your budget, you may want to consider trying to do some of the planning services yourself. Never go over budget or spend your entire budget upfront. Unexpected costs are bound to come up along the way.
You can also adjust your goals as you start to plan. For example, if you outsource some of the services, but are finding them too expensive, you can take on more of the tasks yourself later on. Or, if you’re planning to do a lot of the tasks yourself, but are feeling very stressed (or have some leftover funds later), you can hire more help as you go.
In addition to creating your budget, start to envision what your dream wedding will look like. Keep an outline of all your wants and needs. Your wedding planner should be able to help you do this step. Next to each want and need, think about the team that you’ll require to assemble in order to bring the goal to life. For example, if you want twinkle lights all over your ceremony site, you may need to hire professionals to install them for you. Your on-site ceremony coordinator can help you determine who you’ll need to be in touch with. Continue down the list until all your wants and needs are taken care of so that you have all the details worked out.
Looking for a wedding planner can feel like a daunting task. You want to find someone you are comfortable with. It also needs to be someone who will give you the biggest “return on investment” (ROI) that you are spending to have this person plan one of the biggest days of your life. Here are a few criteria to think about when sourcing a wedding planner.
Go with the pro: You’ll want to hire a wedding planner who has a lot of experience and knows the ins and outs of the wedding industry, explains Greg Palomino, an award-winning wedding and event planner with more than 20 years of experience. “A planner should know how to plan a wedding for five or 5,000,” he says. “They should be confident, have back-up plans, a team, insurance, and so much more. You’re paying $5,000 to $50,000 for a planner in most cases. Be sure that you’re spending it with the right pro.”
Don’t be afraid to look into multiple options: An experienced, capable planner should be able to work with many different personality types, and just about any size of budget, explains Kimberly Lehman, owner of Love, Laughter & Elegance: Wedding & Event Planning. That's not to say, though, that every couple will mesh well with every planner. “I have had to, over the years, turn away some couples from my services, because we just were not a good fit, for a variety of reasons,” she says. “But I do try to recommend to the couple, other local wedding planners who might suit their needs better.”
On-site/day-of coordinators: If you don’t have the budget to hire a full-service wedding planner, you can hire a day-of coordinator who will make sure that everything goes smoothly on the big day. If you go this route, make sure that they are filled in on the schedule of the day, your vision for decor, and anything else you need. Have plenty of planning meetings ahead of time to get the most out of this type of service.
We asked the pros what questions they suggest couples ask their wedding planners. Here’s what they recommended:
Wedding planners often offer additional services or “extras” that aren’t listed on their website or services sheet. If you dream up something you just have to have once you start planning, don’t be shy about asking your planner. If you’re a busy couple, your planner can take care of the extras, so that you don’t have to even think about them.
“I offer a small list of specialty services that can be added on to any of my planning packages,” explains Lehman. “I can take care of the invitations, assembling them, sending them out, and tracking RSVPs. I love to make gift baskets and bags. I love to make things very personal for my couples, and getting creative with their card box, or table decor is always a great way to incorporate their personalities into their day.”
Your wedding planner may even have hidden talents they can utilize for the event. Lehman, for example, is a classically trained soprano who has years of performance experience. “I can perform many styles of songs at an event, and assist with music selection,” she says.
Don’t forget your wedding party, too. Southern California-based Wedding Planner Lola Kent, offers a wedding party stylist assistant for weddings. “Many planners just focus on the couple, but there is so much more to cover!” she says. “Bridal parties have so many needs, from boob tape, tissue, Tide stick for stains, help with tying bow ties, dress malfunctions, hairspray, dress change[s], safety pins, and the list goes on! Having a person dedicated to the bridal party is a stress reliever and truly a life saver to the wedding!”
Finally, wedding planners may also have a whole supply of decor and other items that they can source to you for your wedding day. These may be included with their other services, or offered at a discount. “I have an entire inventory of decorative items such as candles, signs, trays, small amounts of tableware and linens, and picture frames that my clients are able to borrow to use for their event,” Lehman says. “Anyway that I can save money for my couples, I am happy to help them. I don't want to prevent my couples from having a wonderful event. However I can support them, I will. I want to make sure that they have a great time on their special day.”