It used to be that wedding planners were considered a luxury for the wealthy and/or celebrities. Well, I’ve been doing this for about 15 years (over 300 weddings) and nothing can be further from the truth. If you are recently engaged, or three months from your wedding and need a little help, here is a sensible, intelligent and real guide to finding that special someone who can get you down the aisle to your other special someone with style. These are the quick, crucial bullet points you need NOW:
1) Talk to friends, vendors and sites that you trust. Ask their recommendations. Schedule meetings with at least three highly vetted consultants/planners after checking out their websites and seeing their work. Come armed with questions and use this as your guide. Most of all, follow your gut and see who you click with. Those consultations should be by appointment only and of course, gratis!
2) First question: do you like their style (of manners, humour, dress, organization)? Does he or she make you smile/feel calm? If so, that’s a good sign you’ll be a great team. Remember, a wedding planner is part budget guru, part organizational ninja, part shrink, part style consultant and part family therapist. He or she (and their team) will be your sanity, your laugh, your respite and your guide. Choose wisely!
3) How long have they been in business? How many weddings have they executed? If the answer is “I planned my own wedding and it was SO much fun” or, ditto, “I planned my daughter’s wedding and it was so fulfilling!” then, run. These are called hobbyists and there are hundreds of them masquerading as experienced pros. Taking a class in wedding planning does not make a wedding planner, either. You want to make sure your planner has done at least 50 weddings. A good rule of thumb is also at least three years in business. Do they have any lawsuits filed against them? Bad sign. Do they get lots of local and national press? GREAT sign.
4) Do they have a variety of ways to plan, such as full-service (best for most brides), weekend of and hourly? Are they reachable during most business hours and some after hours? Don’t abuse it and call at 3 am in a panic, but expect that they will get back to you promptly when you have burning issues. Planners live on their smartphones, so text and email as well. They are super organized!
5) If they charge extra for rehearsal and rehearsal dinner, that’s a a red flag. Great wedding planners will also take care of that and brunch the day after. We even pack our clients for their honeymoons and make sure their car takes them to the airport. Soup to nuts is why you pay a premium for excellence! If you opt for a more abbreviated planning experience, expect great attention and excellence as well. “Day of” is never really “Day Of” – your planner should start meeting with you a few weeks prior and know your wedding like the palm of his/her hand, double checking contracts, drawing up timelines, vendor lists and being on-site for the big event, setup, breakdown and other parties.
6) Speaking of money – cheaper is never better with wedding planners. A great wedding planner will pay for him or herself given they have the relationships will all the best vendors – they buy in volume and will get MUCH better prices for you on cakes, site rentals, floral design, stationery, photographers, caterers. They know the BEST vendors in the business and will offer you many choices for each facet of your wedding. Sadly, to a vendor, YOU are a one-trick pony (I know this seems harsh, but you only get married once, right?), but that planner is their bread and butter and they will go out of their way to please a planner. What may seem a little steep is actually going to come out as a budget saver for you. Great wedding planners will follow your budget to the letter and keep you there. Awesome!
7) To that point, a wedding planner who takes kickbacks from vendors is NOT ethical or for you. He/she is your advocate and charge you enough money. This also means he/she will use the same vendors over and over, without regard for your personal style. Double-dipping to line their pockets? Run away. It’s a valid question to ask. It is unethical and immoral.
8) Can your ideal candidates get you coveted appointments for the bridal fashion shows? Get you a tasting at that great caterer? Take you out to see a coveted band or DJ? Get the most elegant papery quickly, without drama? They must be able to do this! They should also help you spend time with your fiance and even order you to get massages, go to dinner with your beloved sans wedding talk and get your exercise and nutrition on track.
9) Do you get a good vibe? Do they quickly provide you with references, a plan of action, an outline of their services that is crisp, professional and aesthetically pleasing? Are their contracts easy to read and decipher? All good signs.
10) Does he or she take more than one wedding or event per weekend? Ideally, you’d like to be the only one. Also, in looking at their online portfolio, do you see many different styles of weddings? The wedding should be YOURS, not the planner’s style. This is so very important. You’ll never see a client walk into one of our weddings and say, ‘Oh, this is so Dolce’. It’s YOUR day – we are the hired help!
11) Finally, don’t be a diva. Having a planner doesn’t mean you can order her around or belittle him or her. That’s just bad manners and taste. He or she is your partner and holds your big day in his or her capable hands. If you have concerns, air them with grace and class. A planner wants to please you, ensure a fantastic and gorgeous wedding experience and she usually has the answers you seek! Now go and find your dream planner!
12) The right planner should make you feel like his/her only client. Without a doubt. You may see that they are busy, but you should always feel like top priority! Also, follow them on Facebook and Twitter to get some creative ideas! Great planners love social media and put great stuff out there for YOU!
A great wedding planner can be a lifesaver. Do you really want to stand there in your gown and wonder if the cake arrived while getting your false eyelashes applied and listening to your mother ask about the escort card table? A great wedding planner will no doubt have a huge suitcase filled with just about everything to ward off dress tragedies, hangovers, broken nails and annoying relatives. They will order umbrellas if a monsoon blows in. They can bring heaters if a cold snap comes. They will dry your tears and deliver a gift to your groom. They will make your beautiful day just beautiful.
To find a great wedding planner, go to the Little Black Book of Style Me Pretty or other blogs, ask friends, check out online guides in your area, ask the reception site that you think you love for the wedding and other vendors. If you keep hearing the same names over and over those are the “go-to” folks.
Happy planning, beautiful wedding readers! xoxo PS: follow us on Twitter at twitter.com/dolceparties