When it comes to the planning process, the spectrum stretches from "I have no idea what I'm doing" to "I think wedding planning might be my calling, should I quit my day job?" Accordingly, for those who don't know where to start, hiring a wedding planner to help them along the way can feel like a no brainer. But for those who feel like they've got this from the get-go, or think that extra help isn't financially feasible, is spending thousands on a planner really worth the investment? If you choose your planner wisely, you could actually end up saving money.
Ahead, we break down everything you need to know about hiring a wedding planner, from why you need one to how to choose one.
Reasons to Hire a Wedding Planner
1. They can help with your budget constraints and legal contracts.
A good planner can help you make the most of your wedding budget. "We can stretch your budget because we know what's more important; we know what's going to have more impact," say planners Claire Weller and Susan Cordogan of Big City Bride. "We recently had a bride who wanted bagpipers, and we just did her day-of coordination. We learned that she spent over $1,000 on five bagpipers, and bagpipers are so loud you only need one. We could have saved her $800 in that small decision. Even small decisions can add up to big savings when you have a planner who knows what they're doing."
2. They'll fight for your wedding vision and keep everything on track.
In addition to helping couples budget and supervising sticky details like legal contracts, the most important perk of a planner is having someone who'll fight for your wedding vision from start to finish. While many vendors tackle more than one wedding per day or per weekend, a planner is focused only on your special day and will push to make sure everything goes according to your unique plan.
"It really is a long journey to the altar," Cordogan says. "On the wedding day [you want] someone who knows what's in your brain and knows that you want an outdoor ceremony even if it looks like rain but will fight for that until the very last minute, or if it does rain we're going to run out there and dry out the chairs."
3. They can keep things stress-free.
From a vendor's perspective, working with a wedding planner instead of directly with the bride or groom or their parents can keep things streamlined and stress-free. Erin Foster-Olszewski, owner of A Stem Above floral design, says especially as the wedding day gets closer, she'd rather bother a planner to iron out last-minute details than worry an already-stressed couple directly.
4. They can get you a vendor discount.
"Sometimes discounts don't appear on paper," Foster-Olszewski says. "If we call our lighting guy and on the wedding day we don't like what he's brought, you can be sure we're going to have him add extra lighting and [you're not going to] get charged for it. We are repeat business. Couples are not. [The vendors] aim to please us so we bring them more business."
5. They can handle ceremony-to-reception flipping.
Full and partial planning packages aside, Foster-Olszewski says a day-of coordinator is ideal if you can wing it, especially if your celebration involves complex orchestration like flipping the ceremony space in a short time period so it's ready for the reception. "It is so important to have somebody who can bring in vendors who are familiar with the space and who are familiar with what they're doing," she says.
6. They can help you coordinate the entire day.
A wedding that's divided over multiple venues with their own coordinators may require less overall coordination. But even if a venue offers an in-house coordinator, Cordogan advises couples to remember that that person will likely only be coordinating the specific details that the venue is responsible for providing, like food or the space itself. They may not be focused on helping you juggle all the little details that will make your special day so special. And juggling details is the last thing you and your fiancé want to worry about on your wedding day. "At a hotel or a venue, they see a wedding every weekend or two a weekend," Weller says. "Your wedding planner wants to make sure this is your wedding. So having someone help you understand how to celebrate that is so important." Even so, full wedding planning assistance may not be practical or possible for everyone.
After you've booked your major vendors, you could still decide to consult a planner midway through the process as most planners offer partial or customized packages.
What to Look for in a Wedding Planner
1. A free consultation.
A face-to-face meeting is imperative when it comes to hiring a wedding planner. Seeing someone's work online or having a good phone conversation is one thing, but meeting them in person and really getting to know them can confirm or challenge what you might have already thought. "Professional wedding planners will offer a free consultation so they can get to know you and your wedding vision and determine if they're a good fit for you," says Kinsey Roberts of Vista View Events.
2. The planner's personality.
It's important that you find someone whose personality clicks with yours, says Viva Max Kaley of Viva Max Weddings. Think about how much you'll be communicating with and seeing this person throughout the wedding planning process. "They're going to be a part of your life in a very saturated way for a short amount of time," Kaley says. So you'll want to be sure you're very comfortable with your planner and how they listen to you and speak to you. There should be a solid rapport and an element of trust.
3. The planner's individual background or experience.
Each planner has their own unique skillset and some may be better suited to the type of wedding you're hoping to plan. "If you're very focused on design, colors, and floral—and you know you want help from someone who's also very visual—it would make sense to choose someone whose background aligns with your needs," Kaley advises. Or if food is your first priority, then a planner who knows the ins and outs of the catering business or used to be a chef might be a good choice. Of course, many planners have a diverse body of experience to draw from, but you should try to work with one who also emphasizes the aspects that you think are the most important.
4. What services are included.
Spend time thinking about what services you'll need for your wedding, then find a planner who can fulfill those needs. Some planners offer all-encompassing packages whereas some are a la carte. You may only need a day-of coordinator to help everything run smoothly, or you may prefer an expert to help walk you through every step of the way while planning your big day. Kaley recommends being honest about what you're capable of doing and what your strengths and weaknesses may be. "For example, if you don't have time to email all of the vendors because of your work commitments, perhaps you should shop for someone who can handle the communication for you," she adds.
Some planners tack on an extra charge for design services, so make sure you know what you're getting from the start, says Sarah Chancey of Chancey Charm. And some coordinators won't set up any décor unless it's explicitly stated in the contract.
5. The average response time.
Since communication is key, Chancey says it's also important to know what kind of response time you can expect from your planner. This will help reduce or eliminate the stress of wondering about any issues—big or small—as you're planning. So, be sure to ask potential planners whether you'll be communicating via phone calls, texts, or emails and how long you should expect to wait for a reply.
6. Simple honesty.
Your bridesmaids can be your "yes" men, but your planner shouldn't. Find someone who will give it to you straight when it comes to everything from your creative ideas to your budget. "You want to work with someone who will keep your expectations realistic while ensuring your vision, not someone who will say or do anything to get your business," warns Breen Halley Miller of TOCA Social.
7. Insurance coverage.
Although it's the least romantic aspect of wedding planning, insurance is a must. Make sure your planner has liability insurance. In fact, most high-end resorts require a planner to have it, says Victoria Canada of Victoria Canada Weddings & Events. This maintains the professional aspect of everything and protects everyone involved.