I am so thrilled to welcome two amazing guest bloggers to host a 3 part series on understanding wedding planners + the fees associated with hiring a wedding planner!
I always encourage my clients to invest in this much-needed service when planning their wedding, so I reached out to two experts to help give some insight in to this field! Thanks SO much Miranda + Carolyn! Please be sure to visit their websites linked below to view their work, and follow along for parts II and III!
INTRODUCTION TO THE SERIES
Most couples considering hiring a wedding planner at some point in their planning process. Whether it was an idea from the start, or a solution for when the task becomes too overwhelming, it can be hard for couples to understand what the fees a wedding planner charges are really for. To put it succinctly, what a couple is paying for is our work that happens behind the scenes. This is the work that couples rarely see or hear about. It involves our time, knowledge, experience, expertise, reliability, passion, and the couple’s trust.
This blog is the start of a 3 part series that we hope will help current and prospective clients, as well as future wedding planners and other event professions, understand a bit more about what exactly this job entails and why wedding planners charge what they charge.
To start, let’s take a look at the job description itself. While many different planners go about their services in different ways, the bulk of the work is usually the same. Depending on what type of planning service a couple engages with, their planner will provide a variety of services. Let’s take a look at what those are, and what exactly they entail.
WHAT DOES A WEDDING PLANNER ACTUALLY DO?
The initial inquiry launches us into the planning process. We spend anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours or more communicating with a prospective couple about their wedding day vision and where they are in the planning process in order to understand the scope of work required and determine which of our services will best fit their needs. Within this is the process of educating clients on our services and helping them prepare for a realistic planning experience. Once all of this is completed, we create a customized proposal for the couple (sometimes multiple times if changes are requested) and wait to see if it’s accepted. All of this work has been done without being hired or paid by anyone yet.
We want to help couples realize their best wedding day possible. In order to achieve this, we have to talk to them. A lot. Countless conversations between planner and client occur throughout the planning timeline, and for good reason- there is a lot to discuss! As a planner, we need to have a consistent, clear vision of what the client is looking for. This goes above and beyond just asking about their color scheme and the link to their Pinterest board. We have to seek, and often work hard to uncover (because sometimes couples just don’t know!) everything from their vision to their concerns to their priorities and more. Here’s the fun part- sometimes their answers change. Yes, sometimes brides and grooms change their minds and we have to start the consulting process all over again. Depending how our contracts are written and agreed upon, this may not entitle us to charge more simply because we have to redo work that has already been completed.
Surfing Pinterest and comparing inspiration photos might seem like fun but it is still definitely work and involves our time. Here’s the kicker about creativity and inspiration- they don’t work 9-5, Monday through Friday. We as planners are constantly thinking about your event. While we wait in line at the pharmacy, fill up our gas tanks, or wait for our kids in the school pick up line, we are thinking about and curating your event.
From those lengthy consult conversations we deduce a client’s priorities and obligations and from there create a budget. We take into consideration ‘wants vs. needs’ and the ‘have to have’s vs the nice to haves’. Rarely does anyone come into this process ready to spend the amount of money it takes to REALLY bring their vision to life (or have an understanding of what some of those beautiful Pinterest board images on a “Dream Wedding” board truly cost). A wedding planner must not only understand what the client’s budget wishes are, but also educate them on pricing for their SPECIFIC area, time of year, guest count, and venue. Most major wedding website (bless their hearts) are not very reliable sources of information on budget because it varies SO much
KNOW EVERYONE AND EVERYTHING
Literally. Since we are the go-to referral sources for couples, it is imperative that we have a vast network of reliable, professional, licensed, and insured vendors. This is not the same as having an exclusive list or casting out blanket referrals. Most professional planners will have their favorite ‘go-to’s’ and refer some vendors and creative partners more often than others but any qualified professional planner will take the client’s needs and style as well as personality into consideration above anything else. Part of the job is spending countless hours meeting new vendors, touring new spaces, and generally getting acquainted with our local market(s). This networking goes way beyond photographers, caterers, and DJs. Wedding planners are expected to (and often take great pride in being able to) have a referral for everything from major vendors to alteration shops and beauty spas, to car rental companies and much, much more.
Once the vendors are signed onto the team (after a lengthy contract review by the planner), there is the monumental task of piecing together the logistics for everyone and everything that will transpire over the course of the wedding. This includes (but is certainly not limited to) creating a master timeline based on contracted hours and general timing of events- including any set-up or activities happening the days before or after the actual event date. From there the planner must contact each and every vendor to go over the pertinent aspects of the timeline piece by piece. For every single adjustment to the timeline, there are ripple effects and other things must be changed to account for the original adjustment. Timelines also include details and timing for the Bridal Party and Family, which also need to be coordinated and managed in as much detail and precision as that of the timing for the vendors. While the timeline is arguably the most important document required for the day-of, it is definitely not the only one. That same process needs to be repeated for the set-up list, the pack list, the vendor contact sheet, ceremony details, floor plans, rental lists, seating chart, and more. This is why so many planners have a love affair with spreadsheets and checklists.
DESIGN & LOGISTICS
Remember that creative imagining we did at the beginning of the process? Well at some point those pretty inspiration pictures and note pad doodles, need to be turned into a comprehensive design that covers every single detail not just visually, but logistically. This is a monumental task that requires a working knowledge of where to source everything (and it might not all be from the same place!) as well as trends, regulations, permits, budget, and timing. Once the comprehensive design is approved by the couple, the logistics step in. In many large cities, San Francisco included, loading docks and parking spaces are a hot commodity. So while every vendor might be asking for a 2 hour load-in time, a planner must consider that the loading docks for these gorgeous vintage buildings can only allow one or two trucks at one time, might possibly be shared by another business in or around the same building, and there may be restrictions on how much load in time is allotted in the first place. So if the final design involves multiple service providers who all need access to the same space in order to deliver and assemble their products, coordinating timing of all this can become a logistical nightmare.
Finally, at the end of the planning process, the big day has arrived. Before the champagne toast, there is 6-8 hours of load-in, set-up, and vendor management that needs to be taken care of. On the ‘day of’ we are often one of the first vendors onsite and one of the last to leave. This can consist of a 16+ hour day, not to mention any set-up or rehearsal, dinner, or brunch coordination that might take place the day before or after. We act as point of contact, problem solvers, and morale boosters for every single vendor as well as the couple and their families. We must be able to manage the day effectively, smoothing out any issues quickly and efficiently without anyone knowing something went wrong in the first place. We do all of this with a smile on our face because we are truly, honestly so happy for our couples and excited to see their wedding day vision come to fruition, and share in their celebration.
Being a wedding planner means doing more than checking things off of a list. The best kind of planners are able to not only follow a timeline but act proactively on one- in other words, see the outcomes of things before they happen. No, we don’t have super powers (although that would be AWESOME). This skill is developed through years of experience with a variety of different clients, venues, and vendor teams. The knowledge, skill, and experience of a qualified planner are invaluable, which is why the good ones are worth their price!
What kind of price is that, exactly? Well, stay tuned for the next installment to find out!
Miranda Meisenbach is a Professional Wedding Consultant certified by the Association of Certified Professional Wedding Consultants, as well as the owner and lead coordinator for Mira Weddings + Events. She has 9 years of event and wedding planning experience in a variety of regions including San Francisco Bay Area, Lake Tahoe Area, and Phoenix, Arizona. When she is not working she is hiking with her children, practicing yoga, or studying and performing music.
Carolyn’s passion for crafting unforgettable events plays out on a daily basis through Carolyn Wilson Weddings & Events. Making the planning process stress-free for her clients and turning her couple’s dreams into reality is as fulfilling as it is enjoyable. She is a San Francisco, Napa, Sonoma, Carmel, Monterey and wine country wedding planner and Certified Wedding Consultant crafting elegant events throughout California and beyond. Behind the scenes, you’ll find Carolyn walking outside with her Puggle (Toby) or living out her own love story with her supportive and hardworking husband and amazing children