Wedding planners are the unsung heroes of successful weddings—the people making sure your flowers aren’t wilted, that your cake arrives in one piece, and that guests know where they should sit. They relieve the stresses so that all you and your beloved spouse need to worry about is saying ‘I do.’ The United States houses one of the largest wedding-planning industries in the world, with upwards of forty thousand businesses across the country. But with the average wedding tag at around $30,000, you may wonder: Do I really need a wedding planner?
Do I need a wedding planner? What if I want to plan my own?
Hosting your own wedding doesn’t happen too often (we hope), so you deserve the best. But a planner isn’t a requirement. You may want to have a friend or family member run everything. Or you may want to run it yourself. DIY weddings, in recent years, have gained much popularity.
But to run your own wedding is a lot like giving yourself a tattoo; you can do it, it’s just incredibly difficult, incredibly stressful, painful and in many cases, it won’t come out the way you might’ve pictured in your head. Most tattoo artists don’t even tattoo themselves. So if you want anything done the way you imagined it — be it a tattoo or a wedding day — hire a professional.
Planners are great for couples with demanding jobs and long hours — and for destination weddings in general, where it’s difficult to work directly with wedding suppliers and to file all the necessary documentation and paperwork.
For example, let’s say you want to get married in Italy. Did you know that US citizens marrying in Italy require a Nulla Osta (an affidavit sworn in front of the US consulate in Italy) plus an Atto Notorio (sworn in front of the Italian consulate in the US or at a court in Italy) for it to be considered legal? Probably not. But your wedding planner will.
So what exactly does a wedding planner do?
Imagine a personal assistant with clipboard in hand, coordinating how the venue should be set up, or how many shrimp cocktails are too many. Planners are, in conjunction with the couples, the creative engine behind the design and aesthetic of the wedding down to a molecular level. They are the all-seeing eye, with their hands in everything — from the color palettes and surface texture of the table cloths to what Billy Joel albums are to be performed by that Billy Joel cover band. They are, in terms of weddings, the handiest humans alive.
Here are some of their most common services (not all of these have to be done by the wedding planner):
- Interview the couple and parents to identify their needs and priorities.
- Prepare the wedding budget. Deadlines are taken very seriously. With a planner you won’t miss a payment.
- Consult on design and style choice of the event
- Scout venue locations based on your needs
- Manage photoshoots
- Prepare the guest list and send wedding invitations
- Find the right venue (a church, lakeside house, in front of the world’s largest turkey, whatevs)
- Hire wedding staff (suppliers, photographers, videographers, beauticians, florists, sweets, buffet, drinks, etc.) and direct them throughout procession
- Acquire custom decorations
- Coordinate deliveries / services on the wedding day.
- Have a back-up plan in the event of a disaster, like if the world’s largest turkey wreaks havoc on the venue
- Manage the post-reception photo slideshow
- Help and prep all legal documentation and translations — especially for destination weddings
- Map the event layout indicating the location of the dance floor, bar, buffet points, tables, chairs, lounges, etc.
- Vet the best vendors
- Coordinate wedding day, reception and post-event cleanup
How much does a wedding planner cost?
The average planner will charge either a percentage of the total wedding cost or a flat rate. Pricing depends largely on the type of planner you hire. The average budget will cover their services for planning the wedding, ceremony and reception. With a higher budget however, your planner can also coordinate other events in your wedding timeline, such as the rehearsal dinner and post-wedding brunch. This can range from $800 to tens of thousands of dollars.
Wait, there’s different kinds of wedding planners?
Yup. You pick a planner based on budget and aesthetics. Much like in running a kitchen or building a house, you may not necessarily need a saucier to make tomato soup and grilled cheeses, nor could you build a structurally sound home with a Fisher Price tool set; you get what you pay for.
Day-Of Wedding Planner
A “day-of wedding planner” is usually your cheapest option; their prices range from $800 to $1,200. These planners are initially interviewed 6-8 months before the wedding, on-boarded a couple days before, and are not involved with much of the planning, but are still tasked with overseeing the ceremony and reception. Similarly, you can hire an hourly planner to share some of the logistical responsibilities in case you, your spouse, or family member wants to handle some of the planning. Hourly rates for these planners run between $75 to $275, depending on the level of responsibilities and venue size.
Partial Wedding Planner
The next tier is a “partial wedding planner.” They come on a month or so before the wedding date and assist with logistical tasks, like vetting proper vendors and making sure the chairs face the right direction — along with the day-of responsibilities. Their prices range from $2,000 to $6,000.
The top tier is the full-wedding planner. They are the Michelin class, the O.G., and they’re not cheap; their prices range between $4,000 and $12,000 or more. But the price tag reflects their service. Every detail, every aesthetic choice, head to toe, floor to ceiling, is taken into account and organized in a synchronous harmony that stacks up to the golden pedestal of heaven eternal itself. Expect a wedding of dreams when you hire a full-time planner. And they might save you a few dollars.
Wait, a wedding planner can actually save me money?
Surprisingly, yes; spending money can save money. One of the key responsibilities of a wedding planner is the wedding budget; they make sure you don’t overspend. A wedding brings out a lot of emotions. When hiring a planner, it’s almost like hiring an invisible hand to stop you from racking up impulsive expenses. Many planners can also connect you to better vendors within your budget and get discounts you wouldn’t get otherwise.
Okay, how do I find a good planner?
This can be a task unto itself. Given the artistic responsibility that comes with planning a wedding ceremony, finding the right planner really depends on what you’re looking for based on your price range. We’d all love to have our wedding planned by Lady Elizabeth Anson, but that simply isn’t going to happen, no matter how convinced you are that you’re also a cousin to the Queen of England.
What are some questions I should ask a potential planner?
When meeting with a wedding planner, you can keep it casual, but understand this is a job interview and you are the interviewer hiring for one of the most important projects of your life. So make sure you get to know who you’re hiring. I’m not asking you to get a blood sample, but learn enough about them to know if your vision and their expertise are a good match.
Try to ask first the formal questions that get them talking about their expertise before getting into abstract and personality type questions; most people have trouble giving their strengths and weaknesses in the beginning of an interview without sounding cliché, because they don’t know you and don’t feel comfortable around you yet. Your goal is to get across as much information as possible, but also try to build a relationship; it’ll make the process much easier. Here are some questions in an appropriate order:
- Do you have our wedding date open? If so, do you anticipate any issues with the date such as weather, travel for our guests, difficulty booking a venue, etc.? Is this a good time to get married?
- What is the average price range of the weddings you plan? Are there going to be any additional fees? Does my budget work for you?
- Are you a certified wedding planner? If so, where did you get certified? What is your educational background?
- What vendors do you work with? (Most experienced planners will provide you a list.) Will you assist in negotiating contracts with vendors?
- How many weddings have you planned or aided in design? When was your last one?
- How many wedding clients do you take on in a year? How many do you expect to have during the month of our wedding?
- How long have you been in business? Do you have a business license?
- What made you want to be a wedding planner?
- Is wedding planning your full-time job? If it’s part-time, what is your other job?
- Describe the most challenging wedding you planned and how you handled the problems that came up.
- How would you rate your problem-solving skills?
- How would you rate your communication skills?
Do I have to tip the wedding planner?
Nope. You don’t have to tip them anything. If they do an amazing job and exceed your expectations, feel free to show them some extra love. You can pay their good work forward by writing a positive review, so that the next couple can better find them.
Where are the best review sites to find/rate wedding planners?
Whether you’re looking for a planner or trying to leave a review for one, it’s good to know the online landscape. Potential planners often have their own online portfolios with comprehensive reviews from other couples (websites like WeddingWire are a great resource), or ask around for references; a planner is not someone people simply forget after reciting their nuptials. If a couple can speak well of their wedding day, chances are it’s because of the wedding planner and they’d probably be stoked to send you their contact information. Also check out professional associations, such as the Association of Bridal Consultants, for awards they may have received and how other clients’ weddings turned out.