Wedding planning can be pretty confusing — after all, it's probably the biggest party you've ever thrown. But best way to avoid problems later is to ask questions early. To get you started, we tapped three experienced planners to share the most common questions they get from brides-to-be. Chances are, you might be wondering some of the same things. (Luckily, you'll find the answers below, too!)
What exactly do you do as a wedding planner?
"This might seem like an obvious question, but it's an important one to ask because each planner works differently and you need to find the one whose process works for you," says wedding planner Melissa McNeeley. "All planners will coordinate the wedding day logistics: telling vendors where to go, being on the phone answering deliveries and questions, and scheduling the day. Many planners will also design the event — that is come up with the look for the wedding, find the right partners to bring that vision to life and help you work through budgets and contracts. Some planners also happen to be florists or can make things for you, but that's not always the case."
Do I need to include the dress code on the invite?
"Yes, this is a thoughtful gesture for your guests so that they know what to wear to the wedding," says Lauren Sozmen, founder of Loli Events. "But stay away from cryptic wording such as 'dress fabulous' and keep it to more obvious terms such as 'cocktail attire' or 'black tie optional.'"
What do I need to know about venue contracts?
"There can be a lot of fine print in wedding venue contracts," says Tzo Ai Ang, founder of Ang Weddings and Events. "Make sure you know how much time you have to set up and when you need to be all packed up by. Are there any additional charges like coat check, valet parking or restroom attendants? Are there any exclusive vendors you must use, and if so what's their pricing? Also, always ask if gratuity is expected and how much. Sometimes the service charge is not given to the servers as gratuity. This is often overlooked by clients and should be considered in their budget."
Do we need a choice of entrée for a seated dinner?
"No, you don't as long as your caterer is prepared with options for guests that are vegetarian or have other dietary restrictions such as being gluten-free or Kosher," advises Sozmen. "If you know that a certain number of guests are vegetarians or have allergies ahead of time, then give the caterer a heads up so they are fully prepared and can accommodate everyone. The nice thing about not having a choice of entrees is that there is less waste for the caterer which translates to lower costs for you."
Do we need welcome bags for out-of-town guests?
"This is completely optional," Sozmen says. "If you aren't going to create bags that are thoughtful and useful for your guests, then it's better to save that money and put it towards another bottle of champagne or upgrade those centerpieces you wanted. Remember if you do a welcome bag, it doesn't have to be two bottles of water and snacks — it could be a beautiful guide book for the city or state you are in."
Do we have to do favors?
Absolutely not, says Ang. "You are already throwing a fabulous party with a beautiful venue, delicious food and awesome music. But if you are doing favors, most people are pretty big fans of something edible."
How do I get a deal?
"Almost every bride wants to be smart with her budget," says McNeeley. "But it's important that you're cutting corners the right way. Some things are not really negotiable: food is food and labor is labor and those things are a fixed cost. So instead of playing hardball with your photographer's rate, ask if you can get him for six hours instead of eight. Or, instead of trying to negotiate down the cost of a hundred Wagyu steaks, ask if there are more budget-friendly menu options available instead. People will be a lot more willing to work with you if you ask graciously and try to figure out ways to work within both side's budgets than directly saying: 'Hey can you go lower?'"