At a basic level, wedding planners--also known as coordinators and event planners--will help you organize your big day. But what they actually do can vary greatly.
The Duties of Wedding Planners
Typically, wedding planners start off by meeting with the couple to:
- Understand the events – not just the wedding day itself, but also the rehearsal dinner, bridesmaid teas, day after brunches, and any other related events.
- Review the overall budget
- Understand the style, colors, vibe, and taste of the couple
- Discuss progress to date
They'll then propose how they might be helpful and present the couple with a contract for the wedding planners' services. Probably they will be a combination of some of the below, depending on your needs and budget:
Even if you're newly engaged, you're probably realizing that this process includes many many details that require you to be organized, stick to a budget, and stay on schedule. So even if you are a well-organized person, you'll want to make sure that your wedding planners are not only on top of things but that they'll help you stay on top of things. They will:
- Create and review vendor contracts
- Organize your wedding day timeline
- Coordinate vendor arrivals and deliveries with your venues
- Prevent expensive mistakes such as rush shipping charges or unnecessary changes
- Remind you of obligations, appointments, and budget constraints
For those of you who are looking at bridal magazines, but worry you don't have the aesthetic eye to pull it off, look for wedding planners who are designers. They can:
- Give you ideas, and tell you about current trends
- Help pull together any disjointed elements, and create a unified "look"
- See and add details you might have missed
- Coordinate the florist, caterer, printers, invitation companies, graphic designers and any other aesthetic vendors
- Help you choose bridesmaid dresses and other wedding party attire, your bridal gown and/or groom's wear
- Find coordinating and stylish favors
- Design your tables, lighting and other visual details.
If you're constantly arguing with your parents, or with each other, wedding planners can use their negotiating skills to create peace. Whether it's talking to the mother-of-the-groom about the blood red dress she wants to wear, or helping to mediate budget disagreements, and saving you from etiquette snafus, wedding planners can be invaluable.
Experienced wedding planners have a rolodex of contacts in the biz, so they may be able to find you that reception venue with the perfect view, or the one caterer who will work with small budgets. They may also be able to pull in favors to get discounts or freebies.
On your wedding day, you're going to be pulled in a million directions. Old friends will want to say hello, you'll want to relax and get ready, and people will be asking you far too many questions. And that's just before the ceremony starts. Wedding planners can help you avoid the chaos by
- Meeting vendors and deliveries, and handling any no-shows
- Solving other last-minute emergencies
- Running the rehearsal
- Setting up the ceremony and reception spaces
- Making sure that the wedding party is on time and in the right places
- Coordinating the reception timeline
- Dealing with wedding crashers and unruly guests
- Ensuring that the space is left clean and that you'll get your deposits back
- Collecting personal items wedding gifts and making sure they get back to you safely
- Returning rentals and borrowed items
Most wedding planners will handle these tasks, but it is possible to hire people just for these tasks. Though they're called "day-of" coordinators, you should meet with them at least a month in advance, and they should start confirming with vendors at least a few days before the event.
Things to Watch Out for With Wedding Planners
- First and foremost, you need wedding planners who are easy to contact and responsive to your needs. If they don't return your calls promptly or don't seem organized, look elsewhere.
- Beware of wedding planners who are getting kickbacks for recommending certain vendors–make sure you are hearing about vendors who are right for you and not just those who have a hand in the wedding planners' pockets.
- Make sure that you like their taste and style–you want your big day to look like you, not like your wedding planners.
- Like any vendor, you'll want to have a clear contract with your wedding planners that spells out their duties, costs and expenses, and deposits and payment schedules. Make sure there are clauses that spell out how increased duties and costs will be negotiated, and what happens if they fail to meet obligations or you want to cancel the contract.