"I need a wedding planner, er, coordinator, um, designer. Wait... what?!"
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Wait, there's more:
A Few Key Things To Keep In Mind
Verbal Warning: To avoid misleading couples, folks in the industry now are referring to "day of" planners as wedding directors or consultants. "No planner of sound mind, experience, and education would walk in on the day of a wedding with no prior knowledge of the event or preparation and expect everything to flow flawlessly," says Joyce Scardina Becker of Events of Distinction in San Francisco. So watch for part-time planners who offer literal "day of" services. "They'll talk to the bride once or twice before the wedding and that's it," says Kathryn Kalabokes of Dream a Little Dream Events in San Francisco. "There are so many logistical problems that come up when you've had no prior involvement with the contracts and wedding vendors."
When to Book: No matter what kind of planner you're booking, it's best to secure him or her as soon as you know your wedding date—even if he or she isn't getting involved until the month before. This tactic also can help you get the most for your money. "If a couple books us early, we're happy to provide them with our list of performance-driven vendor recommendations," says Anna Leath of Just About Married in New York City.
Cost: Planners tell us that for the most part, full-service wedding production and design runs approximately 15 to 20 percent of the total wedding cost, depending on the planner's experience, what region of the U.S. he or she is based in, and how much time your wedding demands. A wedding director generally will cost at least 25 percent of what a full-service planner would charge (so if the total package is $10,000, you can expect to pay $2,500 for a limited-service package). You probably can expect to pay between $2,000 and $6,000 for a qualified wedding director and $8,000 and $30,000 for a wedding planner or designer.
Going Without: Someone—not you—needs to make sure the wedding day itself runs smoothly and that everything you've planned is executed properly. But what if a professional wedding planner is not in your budget? While most venue coordinators and catering managers are happy to handle basic on-site logistics and simple setups—like arranging escort cards on a table or placing menu cards on each plate—keep in mind that their allegiance ultimately is to their employer, not you (meaning they're making sure the food is served on time, not that the DJ is playing the right songs or that there are enough pens for the guest book). "It would be unfair to expect your vendors to handle tasks they weren't hired for, but it's helpful to tell them that you don't have a planner and won't be securing one," says Joyce. "The most professional people certainly will do as much as they can for you." Planners tell us the best option is to ask a responsible, trusted friend to handle a few important tasks, like managing the timeline or handling any snafus that arise with vendors, and then to thank the person with a gift card to a store he or she likes. "But you have to be really understanding that this is not the person's profession—don't expect everything to be 'perfect,'" says Anna.