frequently asked questions:
Working With a Wedding Planner
Photographs featured in this blog post are from Sarah and John’s wedding at the Inns of Aurora, taken by Mary Dougherty.
As you get ready for your big day, whether or not to work with a wedding planner is one of the most important decisions you’ll make. Couples often underestimate how many little details go into planning the perfect wedding; while some find that they enjoy the checklists and timetables and spreadsheets that make a big event run smoothly, many would prefer to leave the detail work to a professional so that they can focus on celebrating their love for each other. If you’re not sure which you’ll choose, our wedding planning team has compiled some of their most frequently asked questions below.
How much does a wedding planner cost?
As always, with all things wedding-related, this question can be very tricky to answer.
On average, couples spend an average of around $1,500-$3,000 on wedding planning services, according to industry estimates.
But take that number with a big grain of salt: wedding planning represents a wide range of services with a wide range of costs. This average represents everything from short-and-sweet, day-of coordinating to full-service planners who are with you every step of the way, from your first vendor call to last call at the afterparty.
If anything, you should take that number as a starting point—a placeholder in your budget that can (and should) change as you figure out exactly what services you want, and what you can live without.
Plan on spending less only when you have a firm grasp on what you’re willing and able to do on your own. Leave some room to increase that number if you realize that your wedding will require more logistics (and a more capable person to handle them) than you'd initially thought.
You really do get what you pay for with wedding planning services (although some venues will include planning services in their wedding package. Someone with years of experience will make your big day flow seamlessly, while an inexperienced, “budget-friendly” planner might end up creating more work for you instead of less. It helps to be very clear about what services you need, and budget enough money to hire exactly the right person.
Note: Weddings at the Inns of Aurora include complete planning services, starting from the time you sign a contract all the way through your reception. Follow the link to learn more about what’s included in our planning package.
Do I really need to work with a wedding planner?
At the very least, we strongly recommend that you get a day-of coordinator. This might seem like a way to save money, but trust us: there is a lot of choreography that goes into even the simplest wedding. You don’t want to be getting dressed
for the ceremony and worrying about when the caterers are showing up. Whatever money you spend to hire someone will be more than worth it for your peace of mind.
Remember—you’re not spending thousands of dollars to throw a party for someone else. This is your big day. Spending a bit more to make sure you get the most out of all the other money you’ve put into your wedding will almost always be worth it.
Obviously, the more elaborate your event will be, the more you’ll want to have someone in charge of lining everything up properly. Serious, professional wedding planners are like couture dressmakers: for them, the little details that other people will struggle to keep straight are just a natural part of the process. The more complicated the plans, the more likely you’ll be to overlook something crucial if you try to DIY it.
How do I choose a wedding planner?
This is where a Wedding Inspiration Folder (which we discussed in our Wedding Planning 101 blog post) will start to come in really handy. With this, you’ll have a touchstone for evaluating the best person to help you achieve your dream wedding:
- Is a potential wedding planner available around the time of year you’ve outlined for your wedding? If you’ve already started narrowing in on a particular season or month, it’s easy to do a quick availability check to find out if your planner can help you when you need it.
- What experience do they have with weddings at the scale you’re envisioning? Again—the higher your guest count, the more complications you’ll face, and the more you’ll need the guidance of someone confident and experienced.
- If you’re looking for a more formal or more traditional wedding—how much experience have they had with comparable weddings? You can skate by with some hiccups in a non-traditional or informal wedding, since there’s no “right” way to do things. But choreographing a timeline for formal or traditional weddings has to be more precise: the more sophisticated the overall production is, the more those lapses in coordination will stand out. You’ll want to make sure that your wedding planner is up for the challenge.
- Are they inspired by the overall aesthetic of your wedding? You can use the visual references in your Inspiration Folder to get a quick read on whether your potential wedding planner is excited about your vision. One of the benefits of a wedding planner is their established relationship with the vendors you’ll need. Giving them a flavor of the wedding you’re trying to create should get them thinking about decorations, menus, and venues, and how they can get the right people on the job to bring your dream wedding to life. Plus, they’ll be that much more invested in a wedding that they find genuinely inspiring.
- Have they previously planned weddings with a style similar to yours? If so, they’ll be able to draw on direct experience to help you develop your wedding concept even further. Can they share some examples of elements that worked well for them in similarly-styled events?
Other questions to ask (remember, this is basically a job interview):
- What services are included in your price? Invitations? Handling deliveries, including delivery and set-up? Day-of coordinating?
- Do you work alone, or with a team?
- What’s the most unique wedding you’ve ever coordinated?
- What are your strategies for staying within budget?
- What’s the biggest day-of disaster you’ve encountered, and how did you handle it?
- What is your system for making sure everything runs on schedule, and everybody is where they need to be?
- How will you work with the other people on the wedding team (e.g. family, wedding party members, other helpers) in addition to outside vendors?
- Who is your back-up in case you’re sick or unavailable on the day?
- How is payment handled? Is billing invoiced per hour, or is there a flat package rate?
- What kind of insurance do you carry, and how does that cover us for the services you’re setting up?
- Where can I find reviews or testimonials from past clients?
Will my wedding planner help me choose a venue?
Obviously it depends on which package your planner is offering—but in general, if you’re working with a full-service planner, choosing a venue and negotiating a rental agreement will be a major part of their responsibilities.
If you’re doing most of the planning yourself and only working with a day-of coordinator (which, again, we highly recommend as the very minimum of planning help) you don’t necessarily need to hire them before you start looking at venues.
Either way, if you can include it as part of your planning package, it can be extremely helpful to have your planner visit venues with you before you make a commitment. While you’re imagining the place for your picture-perfect wedding, somebody with event-planning experience can look with a more critical eye at the logistical details. For example: how much parking is there? Where will the caterers set up? Where is the electrical supply, and how many outlets are there? These things might not be deal-breakers when it comes to choosing a venue, but they’re really great to have in mind when you make your decision.
And of course, if you’re getting married at the Inns of Aurora, your planning team and venues will all be in the very same place, making the whole process so much easier.
Sara Brown, Director of Sales