Most couples need help with their wedding plans. A wise couple will work with a professional planner to ensure a seamless, stress-free celebration. But where to begin? And how much does a wedding planner cost?
While your planner will help you develop your final budget, here are preliminary questions to define whom to hire. Consider location, guest count, how much time you can invest (without a planner estimates are 200+ hours over 12 months), and how much money is available for the wedding and associated costs. Based on these decisions, you can decide whether a full-service planner, partial planner or a coordinator would be best.
All planners will save you time. Most planners will save you money by helping you create and stick to your budget. They have money-saving strategies, a network of trusted vendors and they’ll negotiate to get you the best deal without sacrificing quality. You're hiring them for their expertise, style, calming attitude, and business acumen. And for your once-in-a-lifetime wedding celebration, you'll want someone in charge who embodies all of these things.
Planner vs. Consultant vs. Coordinator: What's the Difference?
You’re either looking for someone who plans and executes your entire wedding, or someone who manages specific tasks. If you want a destination wedding or a large wedding with multiple events and many moving parts, hire a full-service wedding planner. If you're a DIY couple who only needs guidance and assistance with wedding day logistics, hire a partial planner or coordinator.
Full-service wedding planners are involved in the entire wedding process, which includes concept, planning, managing, coordination and a myriad of details until you wave goodbye to your guests.
In today’s vernacular the term wedding consultant has largely been absorbed into the term wedding planner. "I think the word 'planner' is easier to comprehend for couples who are looking for assistance,” says Micki Novak, Executive Director of the American Association of Certified Wedding Planners (AACWP). “If someone advertises themselves as a consultant, there is always a question about what they can or will do." If you find a "wedding consultant" that you like, ask them what their services cover.
"A wedding coordinator is very different from a wedding planner," says Ashley Paul, Co-owner of C & A Event Planning. "Most think of a 'day-of' coordinator who manages the vendors and venue the couple has hired. Actually, the coordinator has to come onboard a month or more before the wedding to know who is who, what needs to go where and what your expectations are."
Don't be confused by an on-site coordinator offered by the venue. While they make sure the ceremony, reception, and catering are on schedule, they are working from the venue's point of view, not yours.
What's Typically Included in a Wedding Planner’s Fee?
"Every planning company is different," explains Kimiko Hosaki, Founder and Executive Director of Elements by K.H & co, specializing in destination weddings. "K. H & co. is a full-service design, planning and production company, so we take care of every detail. On average, we put 300 hours into planning, designing and producing a wedding for 100 people."
Hire a wedding planner to take care of all of the planning and details so you'll be able to enjoy this joyous time with your family and guests. Hire a coordinator if you want help with the timeline, vendor management and specific tasks for your wedding day.
Interview several wedding planners. You'll spend a lot of time communicating, so find someone that you like. Ask what their services cover and what they don't. For comparison, here are a few of the items the full-service planning company K.H & co. includes as they guide you through and manage the entire process:
- Assist with stationery design and printing
- Assist in venue scouting and negotiations
- Assist in vendor sourcing, interviewing and negotiations
- RSVP and guest list management
- Floral design, florist interviews, and proposal reviews
- Rental recommendation and sourcing
- Rain contingency plan
- Catering negotiation, communication and menu development
- Timeline management
- Wedding day staffing, pre-production and post-production management
How Wedding Planner Costs are Calculated: The Typical Breakdown
Ask prospective planners if they charge a flat fee, a percentage of total wedding costs, or an hourly rate for their services.
All-inclusive fee: The term "typical" is not used by Michele Fox Gott, celebrity planner and President of Center Of Attention Events, in Burbank, California. "I call myself a 'wedding producer' because I produce everything," Michele says. "We design every element, so all details match. We contract entertainment directly with the artists; we do lighting and set design in-house, which saves clients money and gives them a custom look. With a wedding producer, in the end, it should not cost you more than your total budget. We tell clients to give us an all-inclusive price and we will happily produce the wedding because we feel our discounts will cover our fee."
Blended Percentage and flat fee: Kimiko Hosaki of K.H & co. charges a design and planning retainer fee and production fee at a flat rate. Her vendor management and coordination percentage fees are calculated on a percentage of the total vendor and venue cost. "This is standard practice in the industry and is typically 20 percent,” Hosaki said. “Since we charge an initial retainer fee, we charge 15 percent on average. I don't suggest billable hours as your costs can get out of control quickly without you even knowing it."
Flat fee packages: C & A Event Planning's Ashley Paul, based in New York, offers two comprehensive base packages and a la carte options. "We customize anything in between as every wedding is different," Ashley says. Her full-service planning and coordination package starts at $7,200 and the month-of planning/partial planning package begins at $2,650.
Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Planner
- Are there extra services you can provide and what do you charge?
- Are there travel expenses, permits, government fees and insurances to consider?
- How do we obtain a wedding license?