You're engaged and you've decided you're ready to start planning your wedding. But you've also decided that you need to hire a professional wedding planner to help you execute all the little details of your big day. Where do you start? First talk to your friends and do your research to see what other brides and grooms have said about the services they received from those planners. You can usually narrow down your options that way. Then, ask yourself these five questions before meeting with potential planners:
1. What is your first, second and third choice wedding date?
If you're not planning more than nine months ahead, you may have to be more flexible if you want to hire a specific wedding planner. Reputable, experienced wedding planners book wedding dates years ahead. That doesn't mean you won't be able to find an acceptable date, but you might have to be willing to bend a bit to get who you want.
2. Where do you want to get married?
Even if you don't know the exact venue, you should know what city, mountain or island is your first choice. A planner can't give you any pricing information or availability if you haven't figured out where you're getting married.
See more: How Not to Annoy Your Wedding Planner
3. How big is your guest list?
How many guests do you anticipate actually accepting the invitation? Without a head count, there's no way for a planner to give you any kind of budget estimate on the wedding or her services.
4. What's your dream wedding budget?
And what can you actually afford to spend, including the fee for the planner? Include all the money your parents are contributing for any of the events.
5. What kind of accommodations do you want to offer your guests?
This is especially important for couples hosting a destination wedding: Do you want everybody to stay together on the same property or do you want to give your guests a variety of options and price points?
Owner of Weddings in Vieques, a destination-wedding planning company off the coast of Puerto Rico, Sandy Malone has helped countless couples plan their big day since 2007.