One of our most popular blog posts ever was 2009’s “Why You Should Hire a Wedding Planner!” Given the fantastic information offered in that post by some of the best wedding planners in Washington, D.C., we decided to turn to the experts once again for advice on what makes a wedding planner truly a necessity. Read on for everything you need to know about wedding planners, wedding coordinators and wedding designers in D.C. and Baltimore!
What are the benefits of hiring a full-service planner?
Maria Cooke & Kelly Seizert, Ritzy Bee Events: “For most couples, this is the first time they are planning a wedding (or any event of this magnitude) and investing in a professional to help guide them through the process can help alleviate the overwhelming stress wedding planning often brings. The benefits of hiring a full-service planner are threefold: 1. Having someone familiar guide you through the entire process from start to finish, responsible for making sure you are on track with all of the ‘to do's’ and tasks along the planning way, prompting you when items and decisions are due. 2. Making recommendations to put together an outstanding team of vendors that can execute your vision and serving on your behalf as the point of contact with all resources during the planning phase and making sure the wedding day runs flawlessly from a logistical perspective with everyone involved. 3. Designing and executing a wedding that meets your style and budget needs, while maintaining creative and cohesive control with all aspects of the wedding.”
Jodi Moraru, EVOKE: “A well-established, full-service planner has relationships within the event industry that have spanned over many years, enabling the planner to bring the best team together for the individual client. As each client is unique, so is each team member (ie. florist, caterer, photographer, band...) and one of the top goals of the event planner is to ‘marry’ the client with the team to produce the best event that truly reflects the client, their vision, their style and the way they want to celebrate.
At EVOKE, we have spent the last 22 years cultivating relationships that allow us to understand how our vendors work when we bring them to the event table. Having the right team makes all the difference in the world on many levels, especially when staying within the budget. As I always say at EVOKE, we have the left and the right sides of the brain working simultaneously, which allow us to be creative and design personalized and unique concepts for our clients as well as handle the logistics in a timely, organized and detailed fashion as the process progresses.”
Elizabeth Leibundguth, Cherry Blossom Events: “Planning a wedding is a full-time job, outside of your full-time job. Hiring a wedding planner allows for everything to be taken care of for you at the highest professional standard. The planner’s job is to save you time and money, reduce stress, and prioritize and organize all aspects of the planning from beginning to end while allowing you to enjoy the excitement and wonderful moments leading up to the big day.”
Aimee Dominick, A. Dominick Events: “A full-service planner can get you the best possible prices across the board. We have the benefit of bringing multiple events to each vendor and therefore can command the lowest price. We can also save the client many hours searching the internet for vendors. We have real world experience working with local vendors so we can narrow the search for the best team significantly!”
Sara Muchnick, Engaging Affairs: “I think there is a two part answer to this question. The first part is undoubtedly that your planner should make your planning process as stress-free as possible and thus your wedding day will feel the same, full of happiness and excitement. When you are working with someone you feel comfortable with, it should be easy to communicate with them so that they understand exactly the feel and look you want your guests to experience. Hopefully they will walk into your reception and think, ‘Oh, that's so (insert your names here)'s style,’ not, ‘Gee, that's pretty, I wonder how much they spent.’ If all of that is the case, you will be confident your big day will go off without a hitch because of the person running it.
The second is your planner should be able to introduce you to vendors, and savings, you would not necessarily been able to find on your own, thus saving you time and possibly money. Magazine ads can be so overwhelming. Most of my clients don't have the time to waste in a meeting where they realize five minutes in this is not the right fit. Your planner should know you well enough to be able to match you vendors who are going to fit your style, fit your budget and who you would feel comfortable working with.
If you put these two answers together, you should be set for an exciting planning experience and a wedding full of love, family, friends and your own unique style without any of the stress.”
Teresa Lee, Rex & Regina: “There are lots of benefits to hiring a planner. Out of the gate they can help you make the most of your budget. By knowing what the market costs of things are in the area, they can help you be realistic about your budget from the start and also make sure that it is reflective of your priorities.
The job of a planner is to design and execute weddings. That is their daily profession. So they have intimate knowledge of the pitfalls to avoid and can help you steer clear of them. They also can help you make the most of your planning time by being efficient and helping to keep the process on track.
They can also help you refine your vision. Many brides have a lot of fabulous ideas but are not sure either how to narrow them down or how to execute them. A planner can come alongside and support the bride through that.
Finally, planners offer peace of mind. When you’ve worked with a planner over many months, you can trust that they understand your vision for the day and know your wedding inside and out. When it comes to the wedding day you can trust that everything will be taken care of so you, your family, and your guests can sit back and enjoy every minute of the flawless event.”
Jamie Sears, Simply Chic Events: “Hiring a wedding planner is the gift that a couple can give to themselves when planning their wedding. A wedding planner will provide invaluable peace of mind and will allow the bride + groom to not only have fun throughout the planning process but will allow them to be guests at their wedding. A truly great planner (who knows their stuff!) will assist in setting up a budget and will advise on how best to allocate funds, will know how to take the couple's vision and bring it to life, will keep track of all of the many details and to-do's while ensuring that nothing slips through the cracks and will be a constant advocate for the bride + groom; always keeping their best interests in mind. A truly great wedding planner has years of experience and knows what works and what doesn't work, ultimately saving their clients from making costly mistakes. A couple should be able to enjoy their engagement and a truly great wedding planner will make the planning process fun, will save valuable time and will eliminate unnecessary stress.”
How can a couple that can’t afford full-service planning benefit from partial or day-of coordination?
Rebecca Dick, Blue Canary Events: “I FIRMLY believe that every couple can use the services of a wedding planner, but not every couple needs full planning. For the couple that can't afford or really doesn't need the services of a full planner, our partial planning package is not only a great value, but really provides what I feel like is our most important asset -- our vendor recommendations. Sure, you can go on Wedding Wire or Yelp for reviews, but you don't always know those people doing the reviews. Not to say that they aren't great tools, they definitely are. But when we recommend a vendor, it's not because we're getting a kick back and not because of some quid pro quo, but because we LOVE their work, and we love working with them! When we recommend a vendor, you know that you're getting someone that works well with couples, works well with other vendors, and will provide you with the best experience on your wedding day.
If you can't afford the partial planning package, or are deciding to get a planner late in the game, a month of package is really essential. It not only takes a HUGE amount of stress away from the couple during the most stressful time, which is the month before the wedding, but helps you fill in any holes that you may have missed, we ask questions that you might not have thought of, and, on the day of the wedding, we make sure everyone is where they're supposed to be when they're supposed to be there -- including you!”
When I ask potential clients their reasoning for wanting a planner, the majority of them say that it’s because they want to be able to be a bride or groom on their wedding day and not have to worry about whether their DJ showed up or what to do if it rains. Truly, the main purpose of a day-of event planner is to act on behalf of their client. They are present to be the client’s eyes and ears and execute the event on behalf of their client’s wants and needs. I use the analogy that day-of event planning is like an insurance policy. Sure, you might not ever need it, but isn’t it nice to know it’s there just in case? The ‘what ifs’ and the unknowns can really stress a couple out, and it’s really just a peace-of-mind type of investment in order to have that worry be nonexistent.
Lastly, a day-of event planner has the experience, know-how, and tools in order to handle the ‘what ifs’ should they arise. For example, we had an event where the cake was dropped off and left at the venue earlier than the scheduled delivery time. Upon our arrival and inspection, the cake had some major damage to it and was giving the Leaning Tower of Pisa a run for its money. We immediately called the baker and stressed the importance of someone returning to fix the issue. They did arrive back on scene, and fixed the cake just in time for cocktail hour to begin. Had we not have been there, the issue probably would have went unnoticed until guests had already arrived and seen it for themselves. Someone may or may not have thought to call the baker and even then, would have had to do some real digging to find out who the baker was and where to reach them as the bride and groom were still off site taking photographs. It could have potentially been disastrous when they went to cut the cake as it was near collapsing. I am so glad that we were there to fix that situation for that couple as, like I said before, everyone deserves to have the wedding that they dreamed and planned for and that is what a day-of event planner can do for you.”
Janice Carnevale, Bellwether Events: “An engaged couple can benefit in so many ways with limited or a la carte services from a wedding planner. Many wedding planners will customize their services to help you in key areas of the planning process. In terms of the finances, we recognize that this sum of money is probably larger than any you have ever spent before (aside from buying a house or car). We will help you budget those funds and educate you on how much things cost in this area. Speaking of education, we can offer you qualified vendor recommendations, while allowing you to procure your own proposals and negotiate your own contracts. This will allow you to avoid spinning your wheels on hours upon hours of research. On the subject of time – we can devise a custom planning to-do list for you. This can keep you on track and help you avoid falling behind schedule and adding stress to your life when you should be enjoying your engagement. These three items (budget, to-do list and vendor referrals) are the top three items that couples request of me when they aren’t looking for full-planning services. Certainly there are many other options such as event design, in-person planning meetings, RSVP tracking, and favor or welcome bag assembly. A customized but limited planning package should reflect exactly what you need from your wedding planner in order to make your life easier and your wedding planning enjoyable.
I know that the common term is ‘day-of coordinator’ but reputable wedding planners will start working with you at least a few weeks before your wedding. When I am working with a couple who booked this service with me, we will meet in person at least twice to make sure that no detail is overlooked, and every time we meet, the couple says ‘I never would have thought of that’ – and that is the true reason to hire a professional planner. We will ensure that everything is thought of, and your team of wedding professionals are all on the same page. This will bring you the important peace of mind that you deserve in these final weeks before your wedding. We are your advocate, looking out for your interests with the sole agenda to make sure you and your guests have a wonderful time at your wedding.
How do couples on a budget benefit from a planner?
Karen Murphy, A Sweet Soiree: “Wedding planners are really all about bringing value to our clients. We develop great relationships with other wedding professionals, so not only do we know professionals in all price ranges, we often know about discounts and promotions to pass onto our clients. We help you prioritize, negotiate contracts, and offer creative options.
Wedding planners can also foresee ‘hidden’ costs that an average client might not think about. For example, anyone planning an outdoor wedding should be planning for inclement weather from the very beginning. That includes all the extras that come with a tent such as subflooring, heating or cooling systems, a back-up generator, and side walls. A planner would certainly be expected to advise the client to keep some spending money aside so that during the week of the wedding, a client isn’t scrambling to find additional money from their budget to pay for these items should they be needed.
Finally, have you heard the phrase, ‘Time is Money?’ Anyone planning a wedding certainly can relate, whether it’s skipping your lunch breaks to fit in a wedding professional meeting or scouring the internet for that perfect option during work hours, most clients really struggle with the juggle, so to speak. A wedding planner can truly save a client a lot of their time by doing everything from setting up meetings for them to, as said before, already having done the research to be able to recommend great resources for their client’s event.
An investment in a wedding planner is truly an investment in your wedding, and your peace of mind.”
Kawania Wooten, Howerton+Wooten Events: “Before the planning begins, an experienced wedding planner works with the couple to create a realistic and thorough wedding budget. Using this budget, the couple’s established priorities and the planner’s vast knowledge of the available resources, the planner locates and secures professional vendors who meet the couple’s wedding needs. As the wedding planning progresses, an experienced planner helps the couple stay on track with their spending, avoid unnecessary expenses and provides recommendations that will make the couple’s wedding dollar go further.”
What are some services offered by a wedding planner that a couple might not think of themselves?
Amber Karson, Amber Karson Events: “We have a design & decor consulting component to our services where we get to know the couple's interests and style to create a highly personalized wedding design plan. The goal is to have guests walking away from your wedding saying that was so "them" – not just another pretty wedding. Above and beyond the basics like helping you select a wedding palette of colors or choosing the right linen & florals, we're taking the time to develop creative details to make each wedding unique. Our creative design plans have included everything from a surprise parade for wedding guests to swing lessons during cocktail hour.
Other services your wedding planner can help you with that perhaps you haven't thought of is securing sleeping room blocks for out-of-town guests, providing recommendations for your rehearsal dinner or day-after brunch, helping with invitation wording, setting up bridal dress shopping trips for you, and much, much more!”
Emilie Staats Hilsenrath, Weddings and Events by Bliss: “Several things: 1. Peace of Mind: On your wedding day, you should be relaxed, excited, and filled with joy in your hearts. You should not be worried if the cake has arrived on time, or if the flowers are wilting in the heat, or if you forgot to pay the DJ. A good wedding planner will offer the invaluable service of peace of mind. The planner is always one step ahead and has a contingency or back up plan in place in case of inclement weather, and an emergency kit on hand in case of a wardrobe or other malfunction. We have the knowledge and experience to take care of mishaps and we are hired to think fast on our feet. The planner wants this day to be as smooth and flawless as you do. So trust us to think of anything and everything that ‘could’ happen so that you can enjoy your day.
2. Budget Planning and Execution: Many couples go into their wedding planning not knowing the market or the cost of hosting a wedding in DC. It’s expensive! The planner creates a workable budget by taking into account your overall guest list count, geographic location of choice, and the areas you want to focus your money. Whether it be great food and entertainment or beautiful décor and photography the planner will assure your budget reflects that. Many clients are unaware of expenses such as service fees and taxes associated with food and beverage. Not accounting for these expenses can get you in some trouble down the line. Working with a planner ensures you know the costs upfront and can make adjustments along the way. Having the knowledge to make recommendations in keeping with your budget is an invaluable service that the planner provides.
3. Design, Décor, and Entertainment: Brides and grooms do put a lot of thought into the overall design of their wedding, but they may not have the knowledge or know how to take an ordinary wedding to an extraordinary experience. Planners have access to a plethora of creative vendors including lighting specialists, food truck vendors, lounge furniture, and entertainment vendors. Anything you can imagine, we can make that happen. Whether you picture a fireworks display, an acrobat serving martinis from above, or just something as simple as ambient lighting, we can make it happen!”
How can a wedding planner help a couple to make their wedding more personal?
Laura Ritchie & Megan Pollard, Events in the City: “This is our very favorite part of planning and designing a wedding. We work to integrate the personalities of our clients through each aspect of the wedding details. Often times clients are overwhelmed by the to-do list, it our job to be sure that they do not lose sight of the very reason they are together and who they are. We love nothing more then over hearing a guest at one of our clients weddings say " Uhh that is so …." insert brides name here! For example a past client of ours wanted to incorporate her French heritage into her wedding design. So we styled her photo booth props to be entirely Parisian-esque with French Baguettes, Berets, a Striped Smock, Bottles of Wine, and but of course a" Pierre" Mustache! We couldn't peel the guests out of the photo booth all night! Thanks to this specific touch their guests were able to experience their own moment as well as the couples when they think back on that incredible evening!”
Pavaune Pearson, Invited Special Events: “Wedding planners serve as so much more than just the coordinators of your big day. By finding out a bit about you at the start of the planning process, we assist in making sure the details are all about YOU. Some venues are hard to personalize for various reasons; from being way too plain to being way too busy. That's where we come in. We're rife with ideas for how to make your personalities shine in any space. You tell us how you envision your wedding, and we make it come to life. This means everything from making custom wine-cork escort cords for a couple of wine-lovers, draping the walls and adding some gorgeous amber uplighting if you want to add warmth in your reception, or even just making sure that we find a venue where your dog can serve as your ring bearer, if you so desire. At the end of it all, we're there to help guide you in designing your big day to truly be your day, so that it is an undeniable expression of you... and only you!”
What are some important skills and qualities of an excellent wedding planner?
Christine Godsey, Engaging Affairs: “A good wedding planner should be organized and pay attention to details, whether that be getting the proper permits for the event or scheduling load-in for the vendors. They should be able to multi-task and handle a lot of situations simultaneously. On top of this, they should be able to stay calm under pressure. It's important for a planner to be thoroughly knowledgeable about weddings in your area (each city/area has different rules and idiosyncrasies) and have experience planning your type of wedding (at-home, outdoor, museum, boat, etc.) plus have great relationships with vendors. A good planner will have an ideal balance of all of these skills plus have the diplomatic talents of a hostage negotiator.”
What are the most important questions a couple should ask a prospective planner in the initial interview?
Jessica Brown, Simply Chic Events: “There are many great online resources readily available that offer guidance to couples who are in the process of hiring a wedding planner. Most brides and grooms do an exceptional job of conducting their research and asking customary questions that are appropriate during a consultation. These questions generally survey the planner’s qualifications and experience. For example: • How many weddings do you plan per year? Each month? • How long have you been planning weddings? • Have you ever worked with the venue/vendors that we’ve chosen? • What is the procedure for a replacement should you not be able to perform on the wedding day? • Can you commit to, and work within, my budget?
With all the many amazingly qualified planners in the area, there is no doubt you’ll find a planner worthy of executing a seamless event. Now, how do you choose the right one? The most successful weddings I’ve planned are those in which I’ve had the opportunity to engage my bride and groom to get a strong sense of who they are as a couple. Connecting with my clients and learning their priorities allow me to actualize their goals for the big day. Do keep in mind that all wedding planners have a unique approach in how they assist clients. Be sure to ask questions that allow you to get to know the planner: • What inspired you to be a wedding planner? • What is your favorite wedding detail that you’ve seen or created? • What is your approach to planning and what is your role along the way? • How do you individualize a wedding specific for each client? • How do you stay current with the latest trends and/or changes in the industry?
Follow your intuition and allow it to guide you in the selection process. Once the interview is complete, don’t forget to ask yourself a few questions, too: • Do we feel that the planner listened to our needs? • Did the planner understand our vision? • Was there a good connection and did their personality match what we are looking for?
Just as you knew your fiancé was ‘the one,’ you’ll know the right planner to help you with the preparations so you can relax and enjoy your big day!”
Elizabeth Bailey, Elizabeth Bailey Weddings: “Important questions and topics to discuss include: 1. How much experience do you have as a wedding planner? (The planner should be able to talk about the number of years she has been in business and the average number of weddings she plans each year.)
2. If we hire you as our planner, will we be working with you or an associate? Will you personally be at our wedding? Will you bring an assistant with you on the wedding day? (It is always in the bride’s best interest for the planner to being an assistant to the wedding.)
3. Do you have an office? Where will our wedding planning meetings be held? (This is an important question because things discussed at a wedding planning meeting are often personal, such as family dynamics, and confidential, such as the wedding budget and the decisions involving the cost of the wedding. These are not things you will particularly want to share with the guy sitting at the next table at Panera.)
4. How is your relationship with other wedding vendors in this area? (A good planner is always well respected by her/his colleagues. Clients benefit greatly when there is a good working relationship between the planner and other wedding vendors.)
5. Will the contract you send us outline and detail the services we will receive? Will it include fee information and a payment schedule?
6. Will you play a part in the overall design of our wedding? We know what we like but do not know how to pull it all together. (You will want to hire a planner who has a good design aesthetic as well as the resources and knowledge to secure décor elements such as rentals, furniture, dance floors, lighting and linens.)
7. We are afraid that something may fall through the cracks when planning this wedding because we are inexperienced. (Look for a planner who has printed wedding day checklists, timelines, and bridal party schedules to offer you as tools to guide you in the planning process.)
8. What is the average wedding budget of your past clients? (This is such an important question because the planner’s network of referred vendors will be directly related to the average budgets with which she works. If your wedding budget is $75,000, you will not benefit from working with a planner who typically plans $25,000 weddings because she may not have the resources to direct you to the finer things available for a wedding, and vice versa if a bride has a very limited budget.)
9. Can you provide references? (The planner should be able to not only share the email addresses of some past clients, but should have a favorable rating on such websites as WeddingWire.)
10. What is the best way to communicate with you? (A good planner will be available via the telephone, in person, by text, and through email. Planning a wedding generally doesn’t happen between the hours of 9-5 Monday through Friday. Make sure your planner is accessible and flexible.)”
Are there any “warning signs” that a planner might not be the right fit for a couple?
Marisa Yoneyama, A Sweet Soiree: “The beauty of a planner is that s/he should give you peace of mind and confidence that your special day will be all that you hoped for and dreamed of. Your planner should ensure that everything flows smoothly and successfully, and that your wedding is memorable...for all the right reasons. When you talk to and meet with a potential planner, view photos of their work, and describe your vision for your wedding, keep the following three points in mind before you swoon.
Think E.T.C., and the rest will follow. Expectations should be aligned between planner and couple, meaning that a couple should describe what they are looking for the planner to handle and a planner should communicate whether they are able to meet those needs. If value is something that is a high priority for you, beware of a planner who says that they are such a great ‘deal.’ There may be a few not-so-pretty reasons that they are undervaluing their services such as a lack of experience or bad reviews.
Trust shouldn't feel like a foreign concept to either party, meaning that both couple and planner should feel confident that the future bride and groom can entrust the details of their special day with the professional of their choosing. If a couple asks for references from prior clients – at least three is recommended – there may be a reason for that. A couple should not feel afraid to ask for contact information for past clients – a great planner will have full confidence in their previous clients’ reviews. Trust your gut.
Last, and most importantly, there should be clear communication between the couple and planner from the start. If you find it difficult to get through an initial conversation and don't have clarity of the expectations, shared vision, and whether your styles mesh, there may be a good chance that further conversations will lead to anxiety, frustration, and a missed mark. During the consultation process a couple should be aware of a planner’s timeliness and delivery with communication, meetings, follow up and promised items such as a proposal.
The best planner will feel like an old friend by the time your wedding arrives - they'll share in your joy, excitement, and happiness – so speak honestly with them from the beginning and trust your instincts during the consultation process.”
Chantal Rotondo, Cherry Blossom Events: “If they talk more than listen to you, if they are throwing out ideas that don't seem to be in line with your vision, if they don't get respond to you in a timely manner and if they talk more about what they won't do for you than what they will do, then it's probably not the right match. Listen to your gut feeling on this. You'll end up working with a planner for possibly over a year!”
Trisha Cranor, Working Brides: “The biggest warning sign for a client looking to hire a wedding planner is them first knowing themselves and their personality! Are you typically a take charge person? Do you have a hard time following direction? Is it difficult for you to allow someone to guide & lead you towards the best possible options for you? A planner is here to work with you, streamlining the process so that options are presented and once the client lets us know their thoughts we move forward to secure! If it’s hard for you as the client to loosen the reins in your day to day it may be tougher for you to do it planning your wedding!”
What are the differences between a wedding planner and a wedding designer?
Gretchen Wade, Dragonfly Events & Design: “At Dragonfly Events and Design we offer both wedding planning and wedding designing. This is a rare combination for the DC Metro area that we are proud to offer. Since we have paired up planning, budget and logistic with our new design side of the house; we have created a blissful and comprehensive environment for our clients.
The differences between our wedding planners and our wedding designers are the depths of their involvement. Simply put: our designers make it pretty.... our planners make it enjoyable. But it's never quite that simple for us.... here's a bit more on how, we at Dragonfly, perceive our roles in the wonderful world of hospitality. As a wedding planner, we consider how every part of the wedding is connected to the other; both in style and in budget. We believe that every bride deserves their dream wedding and to stay within their budget.
First comes the plan that balances the wish list and the budget. Second comes the mock up and meet and greet that will give our clients a small glimpse into their wedding day. Third comes the production of coordinating each vendor to be in perfect synch with each other and with our guests. Finally, our client gets to celebrate a spectacular day that they and their guests will never forget!
Now, let me tell you about our wedding designing. We live for the details! We dream about color, fabric, textures, decor, floral, lighting and frills. We obsess over every detail and how it should connect to the next to create the wedding 'trifecta' for a perfectly designed accession: Style, Personality and Cohesion. Our team spends more time thinking and creating a design for each wedding than anyone could ever imagine!
Dragonfly Events and Design offers planning, designing, coordination, flowers, lighting, lounge furniture and perfectly selected finishing details.”
Lisa Nelson, Elegant Event Planning and Design: “Wedding planners and wedding designers work hand in hand. A planner’s job is to plan the wedding, work directly with all the vendors, handle all the logistics and make sure everything runs smoothly and as planned. A wedding designer designs the look and feel of the wedding through theme and decor. It's the designer’s job to bring the vision of the couple to a reality.”
How can a wedding planner benefit a couple that are self-described “control freaks” or are crazy about DIY?
Kelley Cannon, Kelley Cannon Events: “Couples who self-describe themselves as ‘Super Type A/Control Freak’ or are really into DIY are the couples who should hire a planner (or at the very least a day-of coordinator) the most! Even the most well-planned events can have unexpected things happen. For example, your limo driver gets lost or in an accident, your cake gets damaged in transit, there is unexpected inclement weather or a guest has a medical emergency. We feel having a planner is like having an insurance policy on your day. We work to ensure that the original plan is executed and should something go wrong, we are there to use our knowledge and expertise to troubleshoot so you can truly enjoy your day stress-free and not be burdened with the behind the scenes details.
For the DIY couple, hiring a planner will also be able to guide you in keeping your expectations realistic. With so much inspiration (blogs, Pinterest, etc), it’s easy to think you can do a lot on your own- from invitations, to favors, to reception decor. Your planner should be able to advise you on realistic timeframes for projects as well as which items work best for DIY and which items should be left to the professionals. If a couple does decide to do a lot of DIY elements, they should also ask themselves who will be responsible for setting up and installing all of the things that they have poured their time, energy and money into. If they are planning to do their own flowers or centerpieces, who will be delivering them to the venue? Who will break everything down at the end of the night? Who will be there to ensure the look comes together cohesively as planned? Many times this responsibility gets passed on to a family member, friend or venue coordinator in the absence of a planner, which takes them away from spending time as a guest, or focusing on their direct responsibilities.
We love hearing from couples after the wedding who say hiring a planner was one of the best investments they made on their wedding day!”
How can a wedding planner assist couples who live far away and are doing their planning long-distance?
Briana Dixon, Nouvelle Weddings: “Planning a wedding can be a daunting task for some, but living out of state does not need to make that task more challenging. A wedding planner can offer a lot of resources to make the entire planning process as stress-free and fun for the couple as possible. From checklists and spreadsheets to vendor recommendations and Skype progress meetings, a wedding planner has many resources that she can offer a couple living out of state.
For instance, when looking at venues, a wedding planner can email the couple several options to view online. From there, the wedding planner can then visit any venues of interest to take photos and notes to send to the couple. This allows the couple to get as much information about the venues as possible, so that they can either choose a venue, or at least narrow down the options so that they can make their final selection when they are in town. The planner can also narrow down vendor options and schedule any and all meetings for the couple. When planning with out-of-state couples, we like to schedule several meetings in one day so that the couple can be as productive as possible in the limited time that they have in town. And if the couple cannot be in town, the wedding planner can attend those meetings on her own and report back to the couple afterwards.
With the advent of mobile and social technology, the couple can have regular progress meetings with the planner, which can be done via phone calls, e-mail or Skype. Additionally, all details regarding style, design, décor, etc. can be discussed using photos and websites, which allows the planner to share her ideas with the couple even when they can’t be together. With these tools, a wedding planner can make the long-distance planning process as exciting as planning a local wedding!”
What’s the biggest selling point of a wedding planner, if someone isn’t convinced a planner is necessary?
Sara Franklin, Social Scene Events: “Hiring an event planner is the best thing you can do for yourself. All the legwork you do trying to find the right photographer, we do, all the initial calls you make to find the right caterer, again, we handle. Planners have basically pre-screened vendors and are able to match you with the correct vendor based on budget, style and personality. At first we might look like an added expense but our knowledge of and relationship with vendors and sites will prove invaluable to you in the planning process.”
Susan Smith, Simply Elegant Weddings: “The biggest selling point is that a good planner can save a couple time, money, and help to prevent them from making costly mistakes. We can expedite the planning process by keying in on the couple’s likes and dislikes and then lead them directly to vendors who are a good fit for their style, budget and personality. Since we have a vast knowledge and experience with the vendors in the industry, it’s easy for a planner to say ‘For your budget here’s the best vendor for the style of your wedding. I’ve worked with them before and they are very professional and not only will they do a great job but you will love working with them. I’ve checked and they are available.’ This saves the couple from many hours of looking at websites, sending emails, and then having to meet with several vendors just to find the perfect one for their wedding. Multiply this scenario by all the vendors needed for a wedding and a planner can save a couple endless hours of their time.
A planner also adds peace of mind for a couple not only during the planning process but also on the wedding day. We won’t let you forget anything! We can run the rehearsal (or assist the officiant) and will be there from beginning to end on the wedding day to make sure that everything runs smoothly. All the couple will have to do is get ready and have fun. The planning team will take care of the rest! Should anything not go according to plan, it will be fixed quickly and discreetly and many times the couple will not even know something happened.”
How can a wedding planner help to manage a family member who wants to be overly involved in the planning?
Alex Pare, Cherry Blossom Events: “Family members nearly always mean well but too often end up being less than helpful, adding more stress to the process. A planner can help you come up with suitable roles for helpful family members and work with them directly, taking the stress off of you and your fiancé. A planner provides moral support for and lends professional weight to a difficult decision, taking some of the heat off of the couple.”
With so many inspiration sites and planning tools available online, what are some of the resources that are exclusively available through a planner?
Sara Bauleke, Bella Notte: “The inspirational and planning tools that are available online are wonderful and as wedding planners, we fully support people taking advantage of them! However, a wedding planner is an asset that is able to go above and beyond those tools.
Many online tools are aimed at a national audience and don't address planning a wedding in specific area, which wedding planners specialize in. We're able to provide you with area specific budget information, explain the nuances of specific sites and vendors that may not be highlighted online and we have knowledge of fabulous vendors that get overlooked online.
The most important asset that wedding planners have, however, is experience. We are planning weddings on a daily basis and have worked at dozens of weddings, each being a different experience. We use this knowledge to help you create a wedding that will run smoothly and be an enjoyable experience not only for you, but for your family and guests. This experience is also what we draw on if something happens to go wrong - often, it's something that we've dealt with before and we are able to manage the situation quickly and professionally. While the internet is a great resource for wedding planning, nothing compares to the experience of a professional wedding planner!”
Courtney Derr, Cherry Blossom Events: “There’s a wealth of information out there when it comes to weddings – sometimes too much information! A planner can help you sift through everything to develop a cohesive vision and style for your wedding. A planner can help you weigh the pro and cons of various ideas and help pull the trigger on difficult decisions – it’s much harder to put something off when you’ve got a planner bugging you for a decision! A planner can also provide firsthand knowledge about vendors he or she has worked with. Most importantly, a website or a planning book won’t be there on the big day when something doesn't go as planned.”
Thy Parra, EVOKE: “When hiring an event planner, our industry experience and knowledge are valuable aspects for the event planning process. It is important to bring in the best vendor team based on our clients’ needs, personalities and the overall inspiration of the event.Web-based planning tools are useful guidelines but an event planner can provide more beneficial support for the client’s ideas and thoughts. We pride ourselves in pairing the best fit vendor with each specific client and event.”
What are some examples of intricate details or unforeseen scenarios that only a wedding planner might think to address?
Laura Weatherly, Engaging Affairs: “A lot of details that planner-less weddings forget are things like permits (for photography, fireworks, parking), arrangements for the vendors (food, parking, green rooms), the flow of the load-in and set-up so that everyone isn't trying to get in at the same time and nitty-gritty elements like spraying the ground for bugs for outdoor weddings or getting enough power when you're having a wedding at-home. Basically all the things that aren't seen or noticed during the actual event can be neglected by someone who has never planned a large-scale event before. Successful weddings are so much more than pretty design elements and creative details but often the unglamorous parts get neglected. That's when you have the wedding that everyone talks about because they got eaten by mosquitoes or they had to wait in the rain for the one shuttle that had to make ten trips. No one remembers the adorable favors when that happens!”
Vicky Choy, Event Accomplished: “With at-home weddings outdoors under a tent, what is the lighting like on the property after the sun sets? (Most homes don't have sufficient lighting outdoors to light a path for guests to get to the bathrooms or back to their cars safely.)
It takes more time to load and unload 50+ guests onto a coach bus than it does to get into your car. It takes extra time for said bus or a stretch Hummer to make left turns onto narrow streets. You need to allot more time than you think you need when considering transportation options.
If you purchased your own alcohol, you need to pre-arrange how any leftovers will be taken away from your venue. Most couples or guests are too drunk or tired at the end of the evening to deal with it so having a plan ahead of time is a good idea. Some venues may let you keep it there overnight.”
What are some ways a planner can help mitigate a couple’s stress level during the planning process?
Kate Harlan, Simply Chic Events: “There are so many ways a planner can help mitigate a couple’s stress level throughout the planning process, but what it mostly boils down to is three key points:
(1) Set Proper Expectations: The thing that is most stressful about planning a wedding is the unknown. One of the most important ways a planner can help reduce the stress level of a couple, is to guide them based on their experiences and help reduce the fear of the unknown.
(2) Good Communication: From the very beginning, a planner can help mitigate stress by listening carefully to understand the scope of their clients’ wedding. When a planner knows the couples’ vision + budget, they can lead the couple to the right resources + vendors to create a team who will seamlessly execute their big day.
(3) Reassurance: Throughout the planning process, a planner serves as an encouraging voice to reassure a couple that the decisions they are making will result in the wedding they have always envisioned!”
Laura Auer, Blue Canary Events: “Unless you've gotten married several times and know the ropes, planning a wedding is usually an extremely stressful experience! Dealing with a thousand little details, managing family drama, trying to get good value out of a limited budget, and preparing for a huge change in your personal life can all add up to a lot of sleepless nights. Hiring a wedding planner is really about gaining peace of mind. We are not here to take over your wedding, nor to boss you around. We are the experienced folks who can help you navigate towards your vision while simultaneously avoiding costly mistakes. Knowing that a professional is on your side can make a huge difference on your stress level, especially during such an emotional time.
Even wedding planners can get stressed about weddings when it's their turn to get hitched. As a case in point, I hired my own staff to run my wedding day for me!”
Alex Caggiano Strawn, Cherry Blossom Events: “Planners are organizers, negotiators, stylists and therapists. Planners help break decisions down so they do not feel overwhelming and set small goals, deadlines along the way so the process does not become overwhelming. Planners help wedding planning stay enjoyable!”
How can a planner help a couple to create a wedding as unique as those found in blogs and magazines?
Terri Eaves, Bash: “First, it is so important that you are open and honest with your planner. This relates to your budget, style, likes and dislikes. The more open and honest you are, the better they are able to design a wedding that is you.
We really work with our clients in designing an event that you aren't going to see anywhere else. The blogs and magazines are fun and are great for inspiration, but we don't want to copy what everyone else is doing. Plus, what you love and see online today will probably not be so exciting by time your wedding rolls around in a year. We like to think ahead and use our clients and things we see every day in life, as inspiration.”
Amanda Smith, Engaging Affairs, Inc.: “I like to think that as a planner, part of our job is to pull out unique personality characteristics of the couple and turn them into something tangible that reflects the couple and their love for each other. Blogs and magazines (especially styled shoots) aren't necessarily centered around ‘real’ people (although some may influence them!) so I think it’s the planner’s job to think about these traits and how you can acknowledge them in a wedding!"
Maria Cooke & Kelly Seizert, Ritzy Bee Events: “A full-service wedding planner should be easily able to interpret the couples design wishes and personalize the details of the day to the couple. Finding bits of inspiration from wedding blogs and magazines should be helpful to your planner so they get a sense of what you like so they can then take those ideas to build on your specific plans. A professional planner should always be offering alternative suggestions to turn the dial and make your wedding details unique to you...and not just copying what other couples (and planners) have done before.”
Jeannette Tavares, EVOKE: “Everyone at one point has dreamed up the details and components of their perfect wedding. When it comes time to actually start planning, you realize the process is more difficult then you thought and the components are not working out as you imagined. This is where the planner comes in! A planner can help you execute every detail of your special day. A planner can allow you to experience this process in a stress free manner and make it into your dream wedding. You can be the bride you envisioned on blogs and in magazines. We are your publishers before it hits stands!”
We’re so grateful to the amazing and talented wedding professionals who took the time to share their expertise with our readers. Having performed for thousands of weddings in the greater DC metro area, we’re always impressed at the tremendous difference a great planner makes, in terms of both stylishness and organization. Most importantly, we’ve seen firsthand the biggest benefit planners offer their couples -- the ability to relax, let loose and have fun! And isn’t that what it’s all about?