Wedding planning is an often tricky, detail-filled business that some brides choose to leave to the pros. Many wedding planners adopt a "don't ask, don't tell" policy with their clients. Planners with the best intentions occasionally keep a lid on certain information to prevent the already-stressed bride from overreacting or worrying during a pop-up crisis.
Less scrupulous planners have been known to inflate their qualifications to get the gig or engage in other deceptive practices (much like professionals in virtually every industry in the world).
If you've hired a pro to handle your nuptials, it's important to go into this working relationship with your eyes wide open. Our list of 10 things your planner doesn't want you to know can help you spot times when the secret-keeping is for your own good and when it's for the benefit of someone else's pocketbook.
It's virtually impossible to carry off an entire special event 100 percent according to plan. No matter how sharp, prepared and adept at problem prevention your planner is, chances are good at least one hiccup will occur. Just cross your fingers that the snag is something minor, like a less-than-perfect groom's cake, rather than a major, game-changing issue, like reception speakers that don't work. It's pretty hard to do the chicken dance without musical accompaniment.
Most established wedding planners have a list of vendors they prefer to work with. Before you sign a contract, it's smart to stipulate that you can use vendors outside your planner's network. By doing a little bit of research and price comparison, you can often keep prices and quality in check.
While most planners are on the up-and-up, it's possible that she's referring only florists, photographers, cake-makers and other vendors that give her a monetary incentive to do so. On the flip side, she could be referring less-than-qualified friends who are trying to build their reputations in the industry. Chances are that your wedding planner is the utmost professional who won't mind if you keep your eyes and your options open.
Although the majority of wedding planners are experienced and extremely talented in their chosen profession, the fact remains that anyone can claim to be part of the planning elite. There are no requirements or licenses necessary to become a wedding planner, so it's vital for brides to check multiple references and review work samples and photos before signing on the dotted line.
The most reliable way to find a knockout planner is to obtain a reference from someone you know personally. This way, you can be sure it's not someone's second cousin posing as a satisfied customer. Certified wedding planners are also recommended by a number of professional organizations, including the Association of Bridal Consultants and the International Special Events Society, so it doesn't hurt to check any optional certifications he or she may claim.
On the day of your wedding, you should be focused on your hair, makeup, gown and all of that till-death-do-you-part business. Wedding planners are there to handle any last-minute crises that pop up.
A top-notch planner will finesse any situation, from too-short tux hems to wilted floral arrangements, while keeping the bride's stress level down as low as possible. When interviewing a potential planner, be sure to ask her for examples of such last-minute issues and how she handled them. Her response should provide a clear picture of her ability to cover your bases on your big day.
For Type A brides, planning a wedding is a second calling of sorts. It's an opportunity to show off your flawless taste, budgeting prowess and organizational skills to 300 near and dear family and friends. Brides who truly enjoy handling all of the exciting and mundane details of wedding planning might choose to forego the full-service planner in exchange for someone who can manage the show on the day of the event. Not only will you save some cash, you can also say that your wedding was 100 percent reflective of you (oh, and that guy you married).
The photographer won you over with his albums of glowing brides and his descriptive vision for your nuptial photographs. He wowed your guests and family with his professional demeanor and personal attention on the big day. But once the check was cut and placed in his hot little hand, he took off, never to be (voluntarily) found again.
Stories like this one are growing more and more common, and they're not just limited to photographers. You probably know at least one former bride who can tell horror stories of vendors gone bad, from the florist who charged for roses and delivered pansies to bakers who showed up with frozen cakes.
Your planner can do her best to refer reputable vendors and background-check them as necessary, but she can't shield you from all the scammers of the world. So don't allow yourself to be taken for a ride. Both planners and brides should keep their eyes wide open for warning signs of a scam in the works.
For most brides, personal attention is the name of the game. Of course, you recognize that you're not her only client, but a good planner will create the illusion that you're her main priority. Top-tier planners will be sure to answer your phone calls and e-mails in a timely fashion rather than passing you off to her assistant or taking days to get back to you. And a true professional will leave the griping about other brides to phone calls with her girlfriends instead of regaling you with the gory details of her day-to-day travails.
Wedding planners' roles range from part-time assistants to full-time nuptial consultants. Avoid confusion by making sure you're clear on what your planner's responsibilities are from the get-go.
A full-service coordinator is one who handles all of the details up to and including the wedding, whereas a wedding day director simply runs the show the day of the event. Often, wedding venues automatically include a reception director service in the rental price, so hiring an independent consultant might not be necessary at all.
The event director role is the more cost-effective option for brides who enjoy the planning process but don't want to be stressed on the big day. Typically, one can expect to fork over from $500 to $3,500 for this service, whereas a full-service planner can run you anywhere from $1,700 to $20,000, according to the experts at Sweet Dreams Weddings and Events.
Brides who just need a creative muse of sorts might do well to hire an event designer who specializes in event style and theme development.
Any service industry professional knows that the customer is always right. Some brides are a cinch to deal with, but others range from difficult to overwhelmingly high-maintenance. A good planner won't let on that your habits annoy her, unless you're being verbally abusive or otherwise disrespectful.
Avoid acquiring the unflattering Bridezilla moniker by using those basic manners your mother taught you and keeping your expectations in check. Remember that your planner -- no matter how experienced or expensive she might be -- isn't a mind-reader and can't be expected to act like one. It also stands to reason that the better you treat her, the more effort and care she'll put into preparations for your big day. Make an effort to play nice, even when you're stressed out and inclined to take it out on her.
To err is human. In other words, we all make mistakes from time to time.
Perhaps your planner ordered the wrong color linens or failed to include an important clause in a vendor contract, costing you big bucks in the process. Crises like these won't bode well for her in terms of references unless she handles them professionally and honestly.
If she's smart, she'll come clean about her error, helping all parties involved come to a compromise on the issue. But if she dodges responsibility or outright lies to you, it's time to consider ditching her services and seek legal recourse, if necessary.
To that end, smart brides (and planners, for that matter) will leave a paper trail detailing expectations and conversations. Always follow up on verbal agreements with an e-mail or fax to your planner or any vendor to cover your back in case of disagreements down the line.
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- DeFranco, Renee. "10 Things Wedding Planners Won't Tell You." SmartMoney Magazine. May 2009. (Aug. 1, 2010). http://www.smartmoney.com/spending/rip-offs/10-things-your-wedding-planner-wont-tell-you-21255/?page=2
- Lipton, Lauren. "Meet the Planners." Martha Stewart Weddings. Fall 2008. (Aug. 1, 2010). http://www.marthastewartweddings.com/article/meet-the-planners
- Sweet Dreams Weddings and Events. "10 Things to Know About Wedding Planners." Oregon Women's Report. June 14, 2010. (Aug. 1, 2010). http://oregonwomensreport.com/2010/06/10-things-to-know-about-wedding-planners/
- "What's the Difference Between a Wedding Planner, Wedding Coordinator and Day-of Planner?" The Knot. Sept. 27, 2009. (Aug. 1, 2010).http://weddings.weddingchannel.com/wedding-planning-ideas/wedding-flowers/qa/Whats-%20the-difference-between-a-wedding-planner-wedding-coordinator-and-day-of-planner.aspx