Tip of the Day #17: How to Hire a Wedding Planner

Tip of the Day #17: How to Hire a Wedding Planner It has become almost customary to hire a wedding planner to help plan your nuptials.  Although the role of wedding planners has been sensationalized through reality television, planners can be helpful in alleviating stress and reigning in your scattered wedding pinboard of ideas to turn it into a comprehensive wedding vision.  Here are a few key steps to help you through the process of hiring a wedding planner.

Decide on How Much Help You Need Most planners offer full planning, month-of planning and a la carte services.  If you are overwhelmed just thinking about your wedding, a full-service planner may be right for you.  Full-service planners are also great for helping you find unique vendors and wedding elements, managing relationships with vendors {hint: help you negotiate contracts and pricing} and keep a tab on all details of your wedding.

Month-of planners help to follow up with vendors, revise the timeline and logistics and "cross the 't's' and dot the 'i's'" of any outstanding wedding elements.  Keep in mind that month-of planners will be able to help with last minute issues with vendors but most likely will not have a well established relationship with your wedding vendors since you as a bride have done most of the coordination on your own.

A la carte planning is great if you want help with specific elements of your wedding.  If you need assistance with guest list management and invitations or just want a planner to handle your rehearsal dinner, a la carte planning might be a good fit.

Do Your Homework All planners should NOT be created equally.  In the past few years, it seems that many people have called themselves planners without having the proper educational background and training.  When searching for a planner, you should do your homework.  Referrals are the best way to really get a strong gauge on the quality of a planner.  A planner's website can also be a great visual for the quality and style of work they do but should not be the solo factor for hiring a specific planner.  When deciding which planner to hire, make sure they are someone you are comfortable calling on as a pseudo best friend for the remainder of  your engagement.  You will have to be in contact with your planner on a regular basis and feel comfortable enough to discuss any issues that arise.  If you are looking for a full-service planner, I recommend meeting with three different planners to find the best fit for you and your wedding.

Ace the Interview When meeting with your planner, make sure you come prepared.  Prior to the interview, request that the planner brings a copy of their portfolio and a list of referrals.  Bring a pen and paper and come armed with a series of questions or topics you want to discuss including your budget, anticipated number of guests, photos of design inspiration from magazines and wedding books, overall feeling of your event and any details you foresee becoming an issue.  For example, if you have a pushy mother that insists on designing certain elements of your wedding because she's footing the bill, your planner can act as a mediator to help keep both parties happy throughout the planning process.

Keep close watch on the way your planner interacts with you in the initial meeting.  Does he or she arrive late and seem flustered?  Do they seem distracted by their phone or say something that seems out of context for your general meeting goals?  Informal or not, the initial meeting is when a planner should be courting you and showing their competence so keep this all in mind when deciding on hiring a planner.

Watch Your Budget The worst thing you can do when hiring a planner is to embellish on your comfort range for your wedding budget.  Be honest and upfront about your budget for elements of your wedding as well as your budget for a planner's services.  A planner should work diligently to make sure that you stay within budget for your wedding and be honest when they run into extraneous costs as they help you plan your wedding.  If you are ready to sign on the dotted line with a planner, make sure you read through their contract thoroughly.  There should be a clause detailing a planner's role and commitments, including force majeure or instances when a planner cannot fulfill originally outlined obligations.  If your planner does not deliver on services provided, make sure you have the documentation to defend your case.

Benefits of a Planner All in all, a planner can help to alleviate stress, manage your vendors, act as a mediator for any wedding drama and, most importantly, bring your wedding ideas into a creative, cohesive vision.  If you're skeptical about hiring a planner, try one out for a smaller event before your wedding to see if a planner fits into your party plans.