Feeling overwhelmed with all the work that goes into planning your wedding? Consider hiring a wedding planner to help with the preparations so you can relax and enjoy your big day. You can choose from planners who handle last-minute tasks leading up to the wedding, or those who take charge of every detail of your event, from the rehearsal dinner to the honeymoon and everything in between. The right planner not only keeps things organized and on schedule, but also advises you on where to find the perfect venue, dress, cake and bouquet. For many couples, wedding planners are so important to the event's success that the best planners are booked more than a year in advance.
These 10 questions won't just help you find the perfect wedding planner -- they'll also help you maintain your budget (and your sanity) leading up to the big day. Consider this your cheat sheet for interviewing prospective wedding planners. Print it out, and use it to guide your search for the best candidate.
How do you keep in touch with clients?
With all the decisions involved in planning a wedding, you'll need to keep in close contact with your wedding planner. Before you select a planner, ask prospective candidates how they'll communicate with you leading up to the wedding. Will they rely on e-mail, phone calls or meetings? If you like to keep things simple, e-mail may be your best option, while meetings are preferable to those who like a more personal touch.
It's also important to understand how often your wedding planner will get in touch with you. Some brides may prefer weekly updates, while others want the planner to handle as much as possible without consulting them. If you'd like the option of calling your planner whenever the urge strikes, look for one who offers unlimited communication with clients. Check the contract for any limits on the number of daily or weekly calls, and find out about extra charges if you need to contact the planner more frequently. Finally, if your planner works part-time, make sure he or she will be available at times that work with your schedule.
What services do you offer?
Your venue may come with a coordinator, but this person probably won't be able to provide all the services you'd like. A wedding planner will cover the rest of the details, so take the time to find someone who can meet all of your planning needs. Some wedding planners offer comprehensive wedding packages, while others oversee specific tasks. If you prefer, you can even choose a wedding planner to help out just during the week of the wedding. This way, you can enjoy the process of wedding preparations but leave last-minute tasks to someone else, which can alleviate a lot of stress.
For comprehensive planning packages, find out what services are included. Does the contract only cover the wedding, or will the planner help with preparations for the bridal shower, rehearsal dinner or honeymoon? Will he or she help you with creative aspects of the wedding (like developing a theme), or will the planner just handle vendors, setup and scheduling? Don't be shy about asking for services that may not be part of the normal wedding package, such as coordinating a catered lunch for the bridal room on your wedding day. Most planners are willing to do whatever it takes to make your event a success!
What type of experience do you have?
Before entrusting your big day to a virtual stranger, make sure he or she has experience. Find out how long the planner has been in business and whether he or she works alone or with a larger company. Have the planner describe some of his or her previous weddings, particularly those that are similar to yours in terms of size, theme or location.
Ask for referrals or testimonials from previous clients, and steer clear of candidates who can't provide these references. You can even ask to speak to some of the planner's favorite wedding vendors. These vendors can often provide good insight into a specific planner, especially in how he or she compares to other wedding planners in the area. It also helps to request copies of any certificates or degrees the candidate has received that relate to wedding or event planning.
Who are your preferred vendors?
To pull off your dream wedding, you need a planner who shares your vision. Look at candidates' portfolios, and compare those weddings to the one you want. If your vision is significantly different, move on to the next interview. Keep in mind that someone who primarily oversees traditional church weddings may not be able to successfully plan your beach vows.
It also helps if the planner has worked with the florists, caterers and other vendors you're considering. Not only will the planner be able to offer feedback on their services, but he or she may also have the clout to score some discounts for you. Avoid planners who try to discourage you from using specific vendors without a solid reason -- they may be trying to steer you toward other companies that them offer kickbacks for new business.
Can you help us stay on budget?
Your wedding planner plays a major role in keeping your budget in check. In fact, a good planner may even secure enough vendor discounts to offset the cost of his or her services. Find planners who bring steady business to vendors you like; these are the ones who will be able to save you money. Talk to planners about your budget, and make sure they're willing to work within these financial parameters. Ask about their experience negotiating vendor contracts, and have them describe any great deals they've secured for previous clients. While you shouldn't expect enough deals and freebies to substantially slash the bottom line, the right planner will be able to help you stretch your wedding budget further.
Beware of planners who don't seem committed to your budget. If they try to gloss over this topic or aren't willing to talk about potential discounts, find a planner who will.
What's the average size of the weddings you plan?
It's important to find a planner who's experienced with weddings that are similar to yours in terms of size, total cost and even theme. If you're planning a grand affair with hundreds of guests, a local planner who's accustomed to working on small, informal gatherings probably won't have the skill to pull off your big day. Those used to planning weddings with big budgets may not be the best choice for stretching your small wedding budget. Most wedding planners rely extensively on their vendor connections and contacts and may not have the clout to score discounts or locate vendors beyond this network.
If you have unique considerations for your event, make sure your planner can handle the challenge. For instance, flying 50 guests to your destination wedding in the Caribbean requires a lot of coordination. Look for a candidate who has experience with destination-wedding planning if you want to get hitched without a hitch.
Will you be with us on our big day?
One of the perks of having a wedding planner is that he or she will coordinate your wedding day and handle any emergencies so you can relax and have fun. Unfortunately, not all wedding planners will be at the venue on the day of your wedding. Those that are may not plan to attend your rehearsal dinner or other big wedding events. Before you sign any contracts, ask planners how long they intend to stay through the ceremony and reception. Also ask what time they plan to arrive before the wedding and what time they'll leave. If a planner won't be there for the live show, find out exactly what tasks he or she will handle that day in terms of setup, scheduling or running out for more champagne if the bar runs dry. Be sure to get the name of your point person for any other incidentals.
When the wedding's over, the planner's work isn't done. Inquire if the planner will stay after the ceremony to oversee cleanup and to collect and deliver wedding gifts to your home. Finally, ask if he or she will handle post-wedding tasks, such as collecting your deposits from vendors and returning rented items.
Do you work alone or with a team?
There are both benefits and drawbacks to hiring a planner who works alone, versus one who works with a larger team or company. If your planner works alone, determine whether he or she will be able to handle all the wedding details, especially on your wedding day. Ask the planner what happens if there's an emergency that keeps him or her from making it to the wedding -- is there someone qualified to fill in, or are you out of luck?
If the planner works as part of a team, find out whether you'll work directly with him or her or with a group of assistants. Make sure you understand exactly which tasks the planner is going to handle and what tasks are delegated to others (read: those with less experience). While a group effort can make for a successful wedding, it's best to find out ahead of time exactly who your point person is for certain tasks.
What's the cost for your services?
Peace of mind on your wedding day? That's priceless. While you may not be able to put a price tag on that feeling, it will cost you. That cost is the amount your wedding planner charges for his or her services.
Ask how the planner calculates service costs. For some, it's a simple flat fee or hourly rate, while for others, it's calculated as a percentage of your total wedding costs. Inquire about a deposit and when that, as well as balances and final payment are due. Most importantly, get a list of all included services in writing so there's no confusion or disagreement after the contract is signed. Request that the contract include a list of any potential extra charges, along with an explanation of each. Finally, ask your wedding planner how he or she handles refunds if your wedding has to be postponed or canceled. Some planners will return a portion of your deposit if this type of situation occurs, while others have a strict no-refund policy.
Will we work well together?
OK, don't ask this one out loud -- this question is actually for you. Wedding planning is time-consuming and can be incredibly stressful. If you choose a wedding planner you don't get along with, it can make things even more difficult. Remember, you'll be spending a lot of time with this person, and he or she is sharing in one of the best days of your life. Personality counts just as much as experience and reputation.
Many wedding planners offer a free consultation to allow both parties to test the waters before the contract is signed. Even if the planner charges a small fee for this meeting, it's often worth paying it to know exactly what you're getting into -- and with whom. When meeting a wedding planner, rate the candidate on organizational skills, promptness and friendliness. If the relationship doesn't feel like a good fit, find another one that does. Try to meet with at least two planners to get an idea of what works best before making a selection.
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- "Wedding Coordinator Tips -- Do You Need a Coordinator?" Frugal Bride.com. 2010. (April 9, 2010).http://www.frugalbride.com/weddingcoordinatortips.html
- "Wedding Planners -- 13 Questions to Ask." The Knot.com. March 18, 2009. (April 9, 2010).http://wedding.theknot.com/wedding-planning/planning-a-wedding/articles/13-questions-to-ask-wedding-planners.aspx
- "What to Ask Your Wedding Planner." Real Simple.com 2010. (April 9, 2010.http://www.realsimple.com/holidays-entertaining/weddings/planning/ask-planner-00000000000556/