Choosing your wedding planner is an important decision — one of the most important in your wedding-planning journey, one could argue — as the person you hire will be helping create the most important day of your life, so far. So feel free to take your time and be a little picky when it comes to choosing the right one. Every planner should offer at least one free initial consultation in person, via phone, or via Skype, so you can get a sense of their personality, in addition to seeing examples available online.
When you're talking to a potential candidate, ask the following five questions to get some important insight as to how they work:
1. How much time will it take to plan my wedding?
An experienced planner knows approximately how many conference calls or meetings will be required to plan your wedding, and they'll be able to explain the way their planning process works, so you'll understand when payments are due and decisions must be finalized.
2. Will my contracts be with the planner, or with the individual vendors?
It's important to know at the outset, because you'll want to ask with whom you're contracted for the actual day. Unless you're doing a budget package that doesn't give you options, you want to be certain the planner is hiring the actual photographer or musician you believe you have chosen. If things don't go as planned with your wedding coordinator, you need to know how to get in touch with those vendors in a pinch.
3. Will you personally be onsite at all of my wedding events?
Sometimes, bigger companies have multiple events going at the same time, and you may have account executives assigned to your wedding activities. If you've been working with that planner, too, the whole time, then you probably don't care. But if you want the owner of the company to personally run your events, you need to ask from the very first consultation.
See More: How to Control an Out-of-Control Wedding Planner
4. Can you guarantee that I won't go over my budget?
You probably think the answer should be a resounding "Yes!" But that's not necessarily correct. A planner can only give you a reasonable "guestimate" ahead of your wedding — all of the spending decisions are ultimately in your hands. Until you know which caterer, which bar, what kind of music, exactly how many hours of photography and which photographer, they can't actually promise you won't blow your budget. It may be entirely possible to plan your wedding within the budget you want, but you might blow your budget on things you choose that are more expensive than other options.
A good planner will promise to keep you apprised of your budget, and try to keep you on it.
5. What will your references tell me about the weddings you planned for them?
This is one of the tricky interview questions that most planners won't expect, but if they're experienced, it shouldn't even phase them. Successful planners will regale you with stories about the brides and grooms they're using as references. Take note of these tidbits, because it gives you a jumping off point for a conversation with that couple when you contact them for a reference.
Sandy Malone is the owner of Sandy Malone Weddings & Events and author of How to Plan Your Own Destination Wedding: Do-It-Yourself Tips from an Experienced Professional. Sandy is the star of TLC's reality show Wedding Island, about her destination wedding planning company, Weddings in Vieques.