Wedding planning is time-consuming and time-sensitive work. Make sure you know what you are getting when you hire your professional.
What is a Wedding Planner:
A wedding planner is hired by the couple, they are not hired by the venue. Their sole job is to make sure your wedding is exactly what you want it to be. The wedding planner is the most involved professional, and the vendor you will be spending the most time with. A qualified planner will save the couple valuable time and money by helping them find vendors that best fit their personality, budget, and style both quickly and efficiently.
What Qualifies a “Good” Wedding Planner:
A good wedding planner will have established vendor relationships, be familiar with rental options, understand the logistics of a catering outfit, transportation, various venues, and know how to break out a budget to match the market. A professional wedding planner will understand proper etiquette, production timelines, and how to quality check your vendors. They should be licensed and insured. In some areas even a certification is expected. In Northern Virginia, Washington DC, Charlottesville, and Maryland – having a certification is not expected.
Time/Cost of a Wedding Planner:
Depending on your time and budget constraints, you can hire a planner to be as involved as you want them to be. Wedding Planning is a full-time job. An ‘average’ wedding will average about 150-250 hours depending on the couple and scope of the event. An event with multiple locations, elaborate design plans, and lots of details can easily require 500+ hours to come to fruition. It is recommended to allocated between 10-20% of your budget for a wedding planner, depending on the service level you are hiring them for. This of course will depend on your market and experience of your planner. Your percentage breakdown, may not allow for an experienced planner. If this is the case, some planners will offer solutions a la carte, or be available for hourly consulting. In central virginia, it is not unusual to see event managers* (month of/day of coordinators) starting around $2,500. In the northern Virginia, DC, Maryland, markets, event managers start around $3,500.
*it is common to see “month of and day of coordinator” used interchangeably in our industry. This is actively being switched to event managers as it more accurate describes what we actually do. Many couples are confused by the terms “month of and day of” as it implies that a successful event can be achieved in such a short timeframe and that the cost of your event planner should reflect the time spent.
Many planners will also have minimums prior to taking a job. This is in order to use their time efficiently. If they have curated relationships around certain styles and price points, it does not make sense for them to spend time relearning certain vendors and aesthetics to serve a client. Some planners will not take events below a certain overall budget minimum, and other won’t take events below a certain cost per person minimum. I find the cost per person minimum more effective as we can have a sizable budget, but with a large guest count, we aren’t able to do much with it.
These are all of the reasons why planners will ask you what the budget is, and ask to set up a call before sending pricing. We may not be a good fit, but there are so many variables. You can’t rush the process. You do need to have that conversation with the planner. Most planners will put together a custom quote. Some of the elements that are considered in the cost are time we are working together, scope of the event, location, design, vendors that may have already been secured, time of year, etc.
Hiring a planner late in the game will actually make the cost higher. We now have the same amount of work to do, but in a shorter amount of time. Wedding dates come regardless if we are ready. Book early.
When Should I Hire a Planner:
It is best to hire your wedding planner first, even before the venue. So many times we have couples comes to us, after booking a venue, only to realize they overspent and now either need to increase their budget, or make some pretty hard choices on the guest experience and design plans. We have also seen clients fall in love with a venue, but not love all of the local vendors. We are now bringing in vendors from out of market, and that gets expensive pretty quickly. There is a method to the madness. There are very important questions to be asked, and a budget to be properly allocated, before any agreements are signed. A professional wedding planner should ask you about your vision, your event goals, and your budget before sending over an agreement. We want to ensure that even we are in line with the proper execution of your dream wedding. Not every planner is a good fit, based on so many variables. We won’t take a job if we can’t properly service it.
The sooner you hire a planner, the more value you will get. You can use them for etiquette advice, design, trends, religious traditions, laws, venues, vendor relationships, etc, etc, etc.
Due to the nature of our industry, most wedding planners can only take on a few events a year. We don’t get extensions on wedding days. This means that we need protect our time and bandwidth leading up to the event in order to properly service our clients.
On the Wedding Day:
Most wedding planners will plan the wedding and be on-site to manage it. The list is long, but a few things that a wedding planner will do on the day of the event is: check in vendors, approve the set up, manage execution of the design and logistics, tie a bow tie, cue toasts, bustle a gown, fix a broken shoe, call for the shuttle company, steam linens, line you up for ceremony, update your vendor team of timeline adjustments, oversee the breakdown, and pack up any personal items. If they are seasoned professionals, or have multiple weddings that weekend, they may plan the wedding up until a certain point, and have someone on their team do the actual event management. Don’t be nervous if this is how your planner operates. They will not just hand their plan over to anyone. Most professional planners will have people on their team that have received extensive training and will handle the event just as if they were there themselves. This allows the most experienced planner to spend more time on the front end, planning, designing, and laying out the logistics. Having an experienced team member take over on the event day will still ensure a successful event. The hard part is already done.
Northern Virginia, Charlottesville, DC, and Maryland:
This information is relative to those who are looking for a wedding planner in Northern Virginia, Charlottesville, DC, or Maryland. Different markets have different expectations and pricing. If you are looking for a destination planner, the pricing for higher end planner may be similar, as they price on percentage with a minimum. Just be aware, that our industry is unregulated, and there is an underbelly. Not all wedding planners and vendors are as transparent.