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What should a bride look for when hiring a consultant?
In addition to phoning consultants to set up appointments, Markel suggests that brides "go to bridal shows, where they can meet with some consultants one-on-one." The first steps in hiring a consultant are the same as they are in hiring any other wedding professional—you must first find someone who is available on your wedding date and who falls within your price range. After these criteria are met, the next important step is hiring someone you feel comfortable with. Your perfect consultant is one who will seem to know what you want before you tell her. "If it almost feels like she knows you, that she can almost read your mind," Markel says, "she is who you want."
To find out if a candidate is a member of the Association of Bridal Consultants, a national professional organization, call the ABS at 860-355-0464. Also, consider phoning National Bridal Service at 804-355-6945 or June Weddings, Inc. at 817-983-3596 for local referrals. Also be sure to check Brides.com's Local Resources listings for wedding consultants and planners in your area.
How far in advance should a consultant be booked?
"The earlier the better," Markel recommends. The sooner consultants are hired, the sooner they can start saving you money. Look for a consultant right after you set your wedding date. When a consultant works with you from the start, he or she can help you with your preliminary plans, such as setting up your budget.
Markel also advises brides to "give lots of time" for their weddings. He says an ideal engagement period is 14 months, with eight months being the comfortable minimum. "The more time you have," he says, "the more that can be done."
How do consultants typically charge for their services?
It depends on the consultant and on the work involved. "It's usually a flat rate, but it could be hourly," Markel says. "Depending on the work involved, the prices will vary. If a couple is trying to marry a thousand miles away, it's going to be more expensive and take more planning."