Why Should I Hire a Planner or a Day-Of Wedding Coordinator?

January 22nd, 2009

I am asked sometimes why someone getting married should hire a wedding planner. “Is there any reason I can’t do it all myself?” I’ve been asked. My answer to that question is, “Yes and no.”

Beautiful wedding day.

Beautiful wedding day. Photo by Magical Moments Photography.

Yes, you can probably do all the planning yourself. Given enough time, a few basic organizational skills, and the ability to see the project through to the end–qualities just about everyone has–you can certainly plan your wedding by yourself. If you are a very busy professional who travels a lot, for example, or someone who feels overwhelmed by large projects, then you are a good candidate for a full-service planner. Don’t get me wrong: Planning a wedding is a very large job that will take a good amount of your time and attention for as long as you have to work on it. Most people find the process momentarily frustrating at times. At the same time, it can be very rewarding. You might even find that it is a lot of fun. I certainly think it is.

On the other hand, when it comes to day-of wedding coordination, almost everyone needs someone to do the job. In the past when brides were typically younger, the mother of the bride often took care of coordinating the day of the wedding. These days, most couples want to allow their families to enjoy the wedding day and not have to be the one to deal with the stress of the details.

And even if your wedding is simple and straightforward, if you hire a day-of coordinator, you are also hiring a professional consultant who can help you with the planning. Not all planners work the way I do, I’m sure, but when I am working with a couple, I tell them that once they hire me, they can call me or send me an e-mail any time if they need guidance or a vendor referral or just someone to bounce an idea off of. My function is to make sure that the day of the wedding goes smoothly, and that means that I start working toward that goal as soon as I am hired. If I can prevent costly mistakes or solve a problem months in advance, then I am doing my job as day-of coordinator.

Maybe you have been to a wedding and thought it all went so smoothly that there was no need for a coordinator. That is actually the highest compliment you can pay to a day-of wedding coordinator. From the point of view of the guests, it should all look effortless, and that means that someone has put all the details together into a beautiful wedding day.

Some Tips on Hiring a Wedding Coordinator

January 5th, 2009
This is me, doing what I do best as a day-of coordinator: sweating the details so my clients don't have to. (Photo courtesy of Artisan Events, Inc.)

This is me, doing what I do best as a day-of coordinator: sweating the details so my clients don't have to. Photo courtesy of Artisan Events, Inc.

If you have plans to get married this year, you are probably thinking–right about now–about hiring a wedding planner or a day-of wedding coordinator. If you’re getting married this year and are not thinking about any such thing, may I recommend that you do so before the best planners get booked up for the summer and fall seasons?

It’s not too difficult to hire a day-of coordinator. You will actually come up with more choices if you do an internet search for “wedding planner,” rather than “day-of wedding coordinator.” Any wedding planner worth her pay is also a day-of coordinator. Craigslist is another place to look. You can also place a free ad there for planners to respond to.

Once you have found a handful of prospects, it’s time to interview them. You can start with an e-mail, of course, but I don’t recommend that you hire anyone until you have met them in person. Sometimes this is impractical, of course, especially if you live in a different city from the one you are planning to marry in. In that case, be sure to have a detailed telephone conversation before signing a contract. Some of the things you may want to consider are: the planner’s experience and expertise; the planner’s personality and how it fits with yours; the kinds of ideas she or he can bring to the table; the fee charged and what you will get for what you pay.

Don’t necessarily think that the lowest price is the best deal. As with any vendor, you get what you pay for. Sometimes the person with the lowest price is the best one for the job, but other times someone with a very low price may not offer as many important services as someone who charges a little more. Get enough information on the services included in the fee so that you can tell the difference. Find out what the price range is by asking several coordinators. You don’t have to hire the most expensive one, but you will probably find one in the middle of the price range who has all the characteristics you want.

Before you hire, get references. Don’t just get names and phone numbers or e-mail addresses. Call those people or e-mail them and ask them questions about their experience with the coordinator. Ask them if they would recommend the person. Ask them if they think they got value for their money. Ask if there were any unresolved problems.

Finally, don’t pay anything until you have a signed contract with the coordinator. (This is actually good advice for hiring any vendor.) The coordinator will probably send you a contract, but don’t assume that this is a “take it or leave it” proposition. All contracts are negotiable. If there is a clause you think needs to be in the contract, ask to have it added. If you don’t like something, ask if it can be removed. You may have to give something in return, but it is always worth a try. Don’t be intimidated by legalese. If there’s anything you don’t understand, ask to have it clarified. And only sign the contract once you are sure you understand everything and agree with it. It takes some work, but it is always worth while to have a good contract in place. It protects both parties.

And once you have hired a wedding coordinator, keep them informed of your decisions. If they ask for information, get it to them as soon as possible. They are looking out for your best interests and need to know what you want and what you are doing so they can take care of all the details while you are busy getting married and enjoying yourself.

A Festive Birthday

January 4th, 2009
Simple and pretty, the decorations livened up the room

Simple and pretty, the decorations livened up the room

I got a call last March from a woman who wanted to do something different. She was planning for her 40th birthday and wanted to have a big party. She had gotten married a number of years ago in a small town downstate where there were few choices in vendors. You used the caterer and the baker who were local because that’s what there was. And they weren’t going to import a band, so they did without. So, she decided to make it up to herself with a big birthday party this year. Only she didn’t quite know where to start. The advantage of small town event planning is that you don’t have to go searching for anything, because there are so few choices. Here in Chicagoland, there are way too many choices.

Last spring, we got to work narrowing down her choices. She wanted a nice location on the North Shore where she could have appetizers, drinks, and a band. Fortunately, there is any number of nice locations in her area. There is a Women’s Club and/or a Community House in just about every town, and I gave her information on about a dozen of them. The Winnetka Community House has a new addition with a very pleasant party room. They have only one in-house caterer, and my client liked their food when she went for a tasting. Suddenly, the two biggest decisions were made. She said I saved her hours by narrowing down the number of venues available and steering her toward the ones I thought would be suitable.

After that came decisions about the menu, decorations, and invitations. I advised her on anything she had questions about, including invitation wording and suitability of decor. For decorations, she decided to keep things very simple and inexpensive, and it worked beautifully. She found some small artificial flower arrangements online and ordered a dozen and a half of them, and then got about six dozen votive candles and holders. The flowers were in bright pinks and oranges, and they looked very nice. The room is all in neutral colors, so the bright flowers really stood out on the white table cloths. Everyone commented on how nice it looked with the candles twinkling near the bright floral arrangements. I was impressed at how much she was able to do without spending a fortune on decor.

The party was last night, and I think it was everything she had been hoping. Family members came from all over, and friends converged. There were around 75 people there, eating, drinking, and having a good time. The band was just kicking things into high gear when my work was done. It seemed as if it was the celebration it was intended to be and a very happy birthday.