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Deciding Whether to Hire a Wedding Planner

2 of 10 in Series: The Essentials of Budget Weddings

Most budget-minded couples don’t hire independent wedding planners, but you may decide that the expense of a wedding planner is worth the aggravation you’ll avoid. For example, if you and your spouse-to-be are pressed for time or overwhelmed by the thought of finding and interviewing individual vendors, you may want to consider hiring a wedding planner.

In general, the earlier you decide whether to hire a planner, the more value you get for your money. Before you determine that you need a planner, though, find out whether your ceremony and reception venues have on-site wedding coordinators, whose services likely won’t cost you anything.

Working with an on-site wedding coordinator

The on-site coordinator’s sole job is to ensure that everything goes smoothly for your ceremony or reception, and her services usually are included in the rental fee. She also can put you in touch with reputable vendors, saving you some legwork.

At most venues, an on-site coordinator will:

  • Meet with you (free of charge) to discuss ideas for your ceremony or reception

  • Explain what the venue provides

  • Help you plan a menu that fits your budget

  • Arrange food tastings (you may pay a fee for this)

  • Create a floor plan for your reception, or provide floor plan options you can choose from

  • Provide a written cost estimate based on the size and scale of your wedding

  • Explain deposit policies and payment schedules

  • Oversee the setup for the ceremony or reception

Choosing an independent wedding planner

Independent wedding planners — who also call themselves bridal consultants or wedding coordinators — provide a full range of services, from simple consultations to the arrangement of every detail of your wedding and reception. The service you get from a planner depends on what kind of planner you hire. Consider which of these three types of planners may be the best fit for you:

  • A planner who offers one-time-only initial consultations helps you establish your budget and timeline and gives you tips for working with vendors. He also may offer referrals to vendors in the area. These consultants typically charge on an hourly or per-meeting basis, so it’s pretty easy to keep costs under control.

  • A planner who offers partial planning usually comes into the picture a couple weeks before the wedding and makes sure all the details are finalized. Some only come in for the rehearsal and the wedding itself to make sure the festivities run smoothly. Partial planning services typically are billed either by the hour or on a flat-fee basis that includes a set number of hours.

  • A full-service planner who offers beginning-to-end service will get to know you, your tastes, and your needs, and he’ll help you craft a budget and timeline. He’ll make recommendations for food and drink, help you choose flowers and decorations that suit your budget and style, and organize the theme, colors, and other details you choose. He has connections with a broad range of vendors and can help you find ones that fit your budget.

A wedding planner’s job is to get you the best deal with other vendors so you can have the wedding of your dreams while staying on budget. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work that way in practice. The “recommended” vendors a wedding planner deals with often pay fees to the planner to get on his list. Even if the planner offers a referral as a “free” service to you, chances are the vendor pays the planner a commission — which, naturally, is passed on to you in the vendor’s bill.

Look for a planner who either is a member of the Association of Bridal Consultants (ABC) or who follows the association’s code of ethics. The code requires planners to disclose any referral fees before clients sign a contract; most association members don’t take referral fees from vendors. Use the search function on the Association of Bridal Consultants Web site to find planners in your area.

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