What Happens When You Don’t Hire a Planner

November 28th, 2016
table setting

A planner can ensure that everything is in place. Photo by hannahelaine photography (hannahelaine.com).

You’re planning a wedding, or any large event, and you’re thinking of hiring a planner, or at least a day-of coordinator.  But you’re also wondering if it’s really worth paying all that money when there will be nothing to show for it.  After all, when you hire a florist, you get beautiful flowers; when you hire a caterer, there’s delicious food.  But when you hire a planner, what do you get?

Let’s look at that question in reverse:  What do you get when you don’t hire a planner?

I’m in a lot of online groups for wedding vendors, and one thing I see happening constantly is musicians and florists and hair stylists asking the group to recommend other vendors.  Just today, a musician was trying to help out her client by asking for recommendations for flowers, uplighting, and a chuppah.  Now, a musician is no expert on those vendors.  But a planner is.  If the couple had hired a planner or coordinator–like, say, me–they would have the benefit of my extensive vendor list at no additional charge.  But because they haven’t hired a planner (yet), it takes much longer to get recommendations.

There have been occasions when I have been hired very close to the wedding day, when most of the major decisions have been made already.  There’s nothing really wrong with that, but if I had been hired early and had input into those decisions, I might have helped my clients make better or easier decisions.  In this case, what my clients didn’t get was expertise to make their planning process easier.

And, of course, if you don’t hire a day-of coordinator at all, what happens?  Someone has to do the work that a coordinator does on the wedding day:  putting out place cards, making sure the tables are set properly, starting the processional on time, keeping photographers informed, alerting people making toasts, adjusting the temperature, calling cabs…and so on.  If you don’t hire a professional, who will do all the things I do?  Either you will press one of your guests into service or wheedle a vendor whose job it isn’t to do them, or they just won’t get done.

These are just a few examples of what happens when you don’t hire a planner. And just because they are intangible doesn’t mean they aren’t important.  Sometimes, the things you can’t see are the most important ones of all.

What To Expect When You Call

November 21st, 2016
Is this your vision?  Image by theblondephotographer.com.

Is this your vision? Image by theblondephotographer.com.

Do you hesitate to call a wedding planner (even though you know you need one) because you just don’t know where to start?  What questions should you ask? What are you likely to hear from her/him?  Well, I can’t tell you what every planner does, but here is how it usually goes when I answer the phone.

When you call a planner, whether you need planning services or coordinating, the first information I want to know is your name and when your wedding is.  Or, if you don’t have a date, that is also very useful information.  Why do I want your name?  Because I want to get to know you and your needs, and that seems like an essential first step.  Why the date?  Because if I am not available, then I don’t want to waste your time.  Feel free to ask me if I am available on your date.

If you’re shopping around, you probably also want to know about prices and services.  If you tell me what you need, I can tell you if it is a service I offer and, if so, at what price.  If not (or if I am already booked), I might be able to refer you to other people I trust.

After I have that basic information, I’m likely to ask you a few questions about what you need, so I can get a fuller picture of your plans.  This is also a good time for you to ask questions of me.

After you’ve had this phone call (which sometimes happens by e-mail), what happens next?  If I think we can work well together, I am likely to suggest an in-person meeting.  I always offer a complimentary 30-minute meeting so that we can get to know each other.  We are going to be working closely together, so we need to know a little bit about each other.  I think sitting down over coffee is the best way to find out.  Or, if you live out of town, we can always settle for a long, detailed phone conversation.  That works, too.

That meeting is a good time to lay out your plans in detail and find out how I will address the problems you foresee.  You can ask about my background and experience, and how I approach various situations.  Find out if the way I see your wedding is the same as the way you see it.  Make sure I have the skills you think are important in a wedding planner.  See if you think you will enjoy working with me.

If you are ready to move forward, that is the point at which I can send you a contract and a firm price for the work you need accomplished.  And then you will have booked your planner or coordinator.  Easy!

What I Know About Tipping

November 14th, 2016
"Shall we tip the limo driver?"  Photo by Happy Buddy PhotoArt.

“Shall we tip the limo driver?” Photo by Happy Buddy PhotoArt.

Here’s something I haven’t touched on in a while:  I am asked by clients sometimes about tipping wedding or party vendors.  Now, I’m not an etiquette expert, but here is what I know:

It is customary to tip people who provide a service to you if they are employees of a company.  For example, servers, bartenders, hair stylists, and drivers who are employed by a caterer, a service company, a salon, or a limo company are very usual recipients of tips.   If those people are self-employed, however, tips are not customary.  In other words, if your limo driver is the owner of her own company, then she sets her fees, so it is not required to tip her.  That is in contrast to the hair stylist who works for an hourly wage at a salon.  He is generally tipped.

At the same time, it is never wrong to tip someone if they have provided you with exceptional service.  If someone goes above and beyond the call of duty, you will never be wrong to show your appreciation in a tangible way.

Be sure to read your contracts, though.  Some vendor contracts (especially catering) already include a gratuity.  Some contracts will specify that a gratuity is appreciated but not required.  Some, of course, won’t mention it at all.  If a self-employed vendor’s contract requires a tip, you might want to discuss that provision before signing.

I also understand that it is not customary to tip musicians.  But the rule still applies:  Anyone who gives exceptional service might merit a reward.

And how much should you tip?  That is up to you and depends on several factors.  One way you can gauge the correct amount is as a percentage of the total you are paying to a vendor.  10% to 20% is the usual range.  You probably also want to take into account the level of service.  At a recent wedding, the bartenders did lots and lots of extra work to keep the guests happy.  The bride and groom made sure their tip was generous.  You can also ask your planner or coordinator if anyone working on the day of your event merits a tip–or doesn’t.

These are, of course, only general guidelines.  Common sense will help you figure out the rest.

Book Now for Best Prices

November 7th, 2016
Chris & Lincoln 0012

Photo by Peter Coombs.

As usual, my prices will increase on the first of the year.  That means that right now is an excellent time to book me for a 2017 wedding or event.  I’m planning a modest increase to my day-of coordinating fee that will also have an impact on my full-planning prices.

I held my prices at the same level for several years in a row when the economy was so bad.  Now, I have a cost-of-living increase that goes into effect on January 1.

The moral of the story is this:  If you’ve been thinking about getting in touch with me about your party or wedding next year, don’t wait until January.  I’m always happy to meet with you at no charge to get acquainted and figure out how I can help you.