What to Expect From a Wedding Planner

Responsibilities, Services, and Pitfalls to Avoid

Wedding planning checklist


Milkos / Getty Images

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 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

The planner then proposes the help needed and presents the couple with a contract for wedding planning services. Probably the services will be a combination of duties, depending on your needs and budget. Here are the most common services offered.

Organizational Queens

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 planner is not only on top of things but that they'll help you stay on top of things. Your planner 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

Style Mavens

If you've been looking at bridal magazines, but worry you don't have the aesthetic eye to pull it off, look for a wedding planner who is a designer. A planner 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.

Peace Makers

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, helping to mediate budget disagreements, or saving you from etiquette snafus, wedding planners can be invaluable.

Vendor Resources

Experienced wedding planners have contacts in the business, 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.

Day-of-Wedding Coordinators

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 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

These are signs that the planner is not going to meet your needs:

  • First and foremost, you need a wedding planner who is easy to contact and responsive to your needs. If the planner doesn't return your calls promptly or doesn't seem organized, look elsewhere.
  • Beware of wedding planners who are getting kickbacks for recommending a certain vendor. Make sure you are hearing about vendors who are right for you and not just those who have a hand in the wedding planner's pocket.
  • Make sure that you like the planner's taste and style. You want your big day to look like you, not like your wedding planner.
  • Like any vendor, you'll want to have a clear contract with your wedding planner that spells out duties, costs, expenses, deposits, and payment schedules. Make sure there are clauses that spell out how increased duties and costs will be negotiated, and what happens if the planner fails to meet obligations or you want to cancel the contract.

Watch Now: How to Select a Wedding Planner