Wedding Planners… Are They For Me?

Pros, Cons and Tips on Choosing a Coordinator, or Choosing to Do It Yourself

This isn’t a simple yes or no question.  There are many positive things about using a wedding planner or coordinator.  The biggest negative can be cost.  There are also planners on all levels. Some wedding planners are full service coordinators who will attend meetings without you and help coordinate every little detail of your wedding and surrounding events. “Day of” coordinators, who run things behind the scenes on your big day and deal with any problems that arise so you can focus on your special day, are also available.

With the average cost of a wedding in America being between $17,000 and $22,000 depending on the source you consult and the area and population where the wedding is held, a wedding planner is a relatively small expense to help things run smoothly.  Also, wedding planners tend to have years of experience dealing with your local vendors.  They will know which vendors can provide what you want at the best prices without doing all the research that you would have to do.  Also, because they work with these vendors all the time, they know what is a good deal and what is a sales scam.  They are more likely to have relationships with these vendors and can probably get discounts because they bring them so much business.

A full service wedding planner’s fee will average 10% to 20% of your wedding budget. Before choosing a planner, sit down and make a list of what you want from your planner.  Then talk to a few, compare prices for what you are asking and discuss what other services they offer.  You want to choose a planner based on their personality and style matching yours as well as price.  Don’t be afraid to ask how long they have been in the business and how they got started.  If someone is new to the field you may want them to have studied under someone else first.  If they have been in the business for 15 years successfully, it may not matter how they got started.  Asking for references is always a good idea.

Once you decide that hiring a wedding planner is right for you, you want them involved in your planning as soon as possible. You want to begin looking as soon as your date is set really.  Even a day of coordinator should be involved early and updated with final vendor choices along the way.  The more you want done in a time period, the more the wedding planner may cost you so it is best to give them as much time as you can.  Some planners will even offer fixed rate packages if you involve them early enough. These packages often detail the number of hours and services with overtime and extras incurring additional charges.  Still others will charge by the hour.  You can expect to pay $50 or more per hour of a coordinator’s time so this is probably best for people who want limited guidance and day of coordination.  You may be able to place a down payment on your planner’s services and pay the rest in payments before your big day.

A wedding coordinator is also bound to be familiar with the contracts you may be required to sign with vendors. They will schedule, keep track of and attend the meetings with your vendors and be able to review these contracts for you before you sign.  This can help make sure your contract covers all of the vendors’ obligations to you and that you are informed of anything that is required of you or anything unusual your coordinator may find in the contract.

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