By Erica Prewett
Planning a wedding can be overwhelming for the bride and groom to-be and their families. You may be wondering where to start, how to budget, and what elements you can realistically pull off, or if your grand ideas for your big day could land you in the Top 10 of #pinterestfail countdowns. With more than 10 years’ experience producing more than 300 weddings and events, I’ve got great stories for days. Here are my top questions to keep in mind when choosing or working with a wedding planner:
1 How much will you personally work with the wedding planner?
Some planners book lots of brides and grooms, but the couple doesn’t get to meet or work with the actual person in charge of planning the wedding until the walk-through (or the rehearsal — or, in some instances, even the wedding day). This is detrimental to the whole wedding experience because the wedding planner and client relationship is very similar to the relationship the couple should have with the photographer. A high level of comfort with each other and a high level of trust are imperative for a smooth, successful wedding day.
2 Can you use your own outside vendors, or does the wedding planner only work with preferred vendors?
Some wedding planners prefer to work exclusively with their own vendors. Typically, there is a higher level of trust internally on the vendor side if the planner and vendor have worked together before (even once is good) and things tend to go more smoothly if the couple uses a team that already knows everyone. Any solid planner will be able to create a rapport and professional relationship with any professional vendor you decide to hire.
3 But, what if your friend or family member can make gorgeous arrangements and has offered to do your wedding flowers?
How sweet of her to offer! You certainly have that right to use whomever you wish. Remember, though, most non-professional vendors aren’t used to the intricate, high stress, and time-sensitive nature of weddings.
We once had a friend of the bride’s family offer to do the flowers for the wedding and the reception. She had flown in the week of the wedding, picked up all of the supplies, and was on the right track — until she overslept on the wedding morning and then had a flat tire on the way to the setup! We had to enlist friends, extended family and extra planning staff to get the flowers done and the room cleaned up before the reception started. While the bride may have saved money on not hiring a florist, several of her friends and family who had flown across the country missed the wedding ceremony because they were on flower duty.
A professional builds in backup plans and is generally faster at creating arrangements that have to be built on site.
4 How can you know if you’re being charged a fair amount, or are getting an up-charged “wedding” fee?
This was a big source of conversation a couple of years ago. Couples were getting the impression that vendors up-charged their services just because the couple said the word “wedding.” The answer is you are getting the wedding price, and it is still fair.
The same amount of flour, sugar, and icing goes into a cake that serves 175 for a kid’s birthday party as does a wedding cake, right? So, why are wedding cakes more expensive? The level of detail, importance to be “perfect,” and, oftentimes, the design of the wedding cake requires someone with vastly more skill and experience to produce than a kid’s sheet cake. The wedding cake designer, because they have more experience, costs more to the bakery company. Also, the emotion of “there’s only one opportunity to get it right” plays into the fee.
5 Why is your preferred wedding date already booked everywhere?
May, June and October are the busiest wedding months in the Atlanta area, because the weather is just so gorgeous. If you were lucky enough to get engaged this past holiday season and want to book a venue in these popular months, be flexible with a non-Saturday date. Venues (and vendors) often give discounts or upgrades to weekday, Friday night, or Sunday weddings.
6 How much should this shindig cost?
According to CostOfWedding.com, couples who live in or travel to Fulton County spend between $22,031 and $36,719, on average, for their wedding, which includes about 175 guests. Keep in mind the elements that are most important, as that’s where a bulk of the money should go. While having fun and a great band are high on the list, guests also expect a satiating dinner. A wedding planner can help identify how much money should go toward each area while still giving your guests a really great experience that doesn’t send them home hungry and heading to the nearest fast food drive-thru.
7 If you’re an organized person already, do you even need a wedding planner?
That depends on how much you and your mom would like to spend enjoying the day versus worrying if the cake has arrived, if the minister signed the marriage license, etc. If a planner like Jennifer Lopez from the movie “The Wedding Planner” is not in your budget, consider hiring a “month-of coordinator.” This person will be involved 45-60 days before the wedding and help tie up the loose ends; schedule final meetings with the venue, caterer and florist; create the wedding weekend timeline; and be there to manage the day so that your mom can get her hair done with the girls.
Above all, remember that you are not planning a wedding. You are planning the first day of your married life together! The two of you are planning a marriage celebration. That’s what is most important!