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How To Tell If You ACTUALLY Need A Wedding Planner

Welcome back to the Wedding Planning Collective blog. Let's talk all about wedding planners, what type of planners there are out there, and what is the difference between an independent planner and a planner you find at a venue.

If you've ever seen J-Lo in the wedding planner, or maybe Frank in Father of the Bride, you probably picture a wedding planner as the person that fluffs the dress, arranges the flowers and makes everything look beautiful. While there are definitely many exciting moments that come with the gig, wedding planners spend most of our time meticulously arranging and coordinating details, reviewing quotes, creating spreadsheets and building timelines in order to pull off the perfect day. If this doesn't sound appealing to you as a bride, it might be time to think about adding a wedding planner to your vendor team

Many hesitate at what they believe will be the high cost of hiring a wedding planner, while others don't like the idea of giving up control of their wedding planning to someone else. But the reality is that there are many different types of wedding planners out there offering a true range of both costs and services, which means you most certainly do not have to break the bank or give up control to take advantage of a planner's expertise. Let's talk about the different types of planners and how to determine what is best for you and your fiancé.

Most wedding planning services can be broken down into one of three categories: full service, day or month of coordination, and partial planning services. Categories one and two fall at opposite ends of the wedding planning spectrum, while category three (partial planning) falls in between. Let's talk about what each is and how it compares to simply using the coordinator at your venue.

A full-service wedding planner is going to be there with you every step of your wedding planning journey. They're going to help you determine your priorities, break down a budget and keep you on track throughout the planning process. Most couples have never planned a wedding or a large event before, so having a planner on the team will make sure that nothing has been missed and there you're able to enjoy the entire process without getting overwhelmed. Most of my full service couples come to me right after they've secured their venue.

They find that suddenly they aren't quite sure what comes next after they've locked in the location and date. However, if you think you're going to bring in a full service planner, I highly recommend you do it as early as possible. This way they can review the budget and design details with you and make sure that the venue you’re looking at works for both. Some couples worry that having a full service planner involved will dilute their wedding planning experience.

I am a firm believer that as long as you hire the right planner for you, they will only enhance the experience you have while planning your wedding. Their goal should be to remove the stress of coordinating the logistical minutiae, allowing you to take part in the fun elements. Let's look at a classic example, choosing a bakery for your wedding cake. A planner can take an extensive list of different bakers, narrow it down to the ones that match your availability and budget and set up the tastings that will fit to your schedule.

Then you can go to the tasting and talk about the design directly with the Baker. Your planner will likely have saved you at least several hours of online research, emails, and phone calls with this one vendor alone. And you can still participate in the major and delicious decision making process.

Additionally, a full-service wedding planner can help you save money with potential discounts, save money by avoiding costly mistakes, save time and sanity by keeping you on track with your checklists, manage vendor communications, create room layouts, create your wedding timelines, make hotel and transportation arrangements, manage stationary and RSVPs, and plan the auxiliary events like showers, rehearsal, dinners, and brunches. And of course the full service planner will be there with you on the wedding day itself to make sure everything runs smoothly.

Now, let's talk about the other end of the spectrum with the day or month of coordination. First, let's talk about the title. This is a big debate in the world of wedding planners, because there really is no such thing as a day of coordinator, at least not of the quality that would be of much help. If a planner tells you that they just show up on the day of the wedding and take care of everything, take that as a huge red flag. The phrases month of coordination or event management typically means the same thing, but are a little bit more realistic in their descriptions.

Whatever they call their services, a professional wedding planner will typically start getting involved about a month before the wedding to begin working on the details. For my day of services, I meet with the clients about six to eight weeks before the wedding to go over the details of the day. We chat about each of the vendors, all of the design details, the timeline and the layout.

The goal is for me to step in and handle the logistical details in the weeks leading up to the wedding, so that the couple can enjoy every moment leading up to the big day without overly stressing about those details. Having a day, month, or event coordinator (or whatever you want to call it) is perfect for couples that have the time to do the logistical work involved in planning a wedding, but they don't want to be stressed out on the wedding weekend itself. I also like to say that it's like having a professional review your work.

If there's something you've missed in the planning process, we can address and correct it before the big day. Almost every couple can benefit from having an independent coordinator on their team so they can avoid assigning jobs to their wedding party or family. So, in between full service wedding planning and day of coordination falls the very flexible option of a partial planning service.

It's important to know that every planner does this differently, but for the most part the baseline of the service is going to be that day of coordination. That's locking that day in and making sure that they're going to be there to help you with all of those logistical details we just talked about, but gives you the flexibility that you don't necessarily need to add in all of the planning services that comes with full service.

So from that base, the planner can add additional hours or help in the areas you're struggling the most with. For example, I've had clients book partial services because they know they need a day of coordination, but they were also struggling with rentals and finding appropriate vendors for their budget. We put together a custom package that included the help that was specific to their needs, and they felt comfortable handling the rest.

They didn't need someone to help with everything, but they needed a bit of help in addition to what the day of option covered. Some planners have set packages for partial planning options and others customize it based on the help that's needed. This is a great option for couples that don't have the budget for a full service planner, or maybe they just need a little bit of extra help or support, but not necessarily the full service planning option.

Partial planning services are definitely growing in popularity. So make sure to ask about it if it's not listed as an option on a planner's website. Now let's chat about what the difference is between a venue event planner and an independent wedding planner.

A question I get asked all the time is what is the difference between an onsite event planner at the venue and an independent wedding planner that you hire separately. Again, every wedding is going to be different, but most follow a similar model for how their sales and event planning team works. I'm going to share my experiences, what I typically find at most venues, but make sure you talk specifically to your venue about what their expectations are on the day of the event so you know if you need to bring someone else in to help out.

The biggest difference to note on the day of the wedding is that the venue planner is employed by the venue and likely has many other responsibilities on event days. They're also going to be responsible for answering phone calls, doing tours, managing their staff, and maybe even handling multiple events at the venue at the same time.

So while they are there to help you, your wedding will not be their sole focus. Additionally, they're typically not going to be the ones actually setting up the details. So place cards, favors and other personal items are generally going to be set up by the wait staff who take care of those details. Now, this might be an issue if your items are fairly straightforward, but if you have a specific idea of how you want something done, those details might get lost in translation.

An independent planner, however, is employed by the couple. So their only focus is going to be on the details of your specific wedding day. They'll not be working on anything else, but your wedding details. Their one and only focus is going to be you and your wedding. This allows them to be focused on your specific details and not how things are traditionally done at the venue. When deciding if you need to bring in an independent planner, think about the offsite and ceremony details.

Most venue coordinators don't get involved in anything prior to the actual reception, whereas an independent planner is going to be able to help you with anything that's happening that day. For example, if your ceremony is offsite or you're getting ready, taking pictures or doing anything beforehand, they're not going to be available to help you with any of those details. One big deciding factor for bringing in an independent planner is whether or not you have someone to help with the actual ceremony who will be lining up the wedding party and cueing the music.

Even if your ceremony will take place at your venue, make sure that this is something your venue planner will be doing for you. If your wedding isn't their sole focus on that day, they might be working other events or taking calls and tours and not able to organize this. You definitely do not want to be giving orders to your family, friends and wedding party, as you're about to walk down the aisle. So make sure you have somebody there that is going to help with those details.

And finally, a venue planners involvement in things like the timeline and communications with the vendors is most likely going to be limited only to how it's impacting their role at the venue. They may have a preferred vendors list that they will recommend, but it typically stops there. As the date gets closer, the venue planner might answer basic vendor questions and communicate with them about load in load out details and the timeline, but they generally don't actually manage the arrivals or logistics of what is happening. For example, they might know that the rental company will be arriving at 11:00 AM, but they won't necessarily know what they're bringing or how they're to set it up.

So if they bring in a wrong item or have questions, they won't have those answers. It's very helpful to have somebody as a big picture person that can help with those details. I often say that the independent planner serves as a captain of your vendor team. They're there to make sure that everyone on the team is prepped and ready for the big game and able to provide them with all of the resources and support they need for a win.

An ideal scenario would be that you have an independent planner who can help you with these big picture details that's also able to work in close coordination with the onsite venue planner.

So what do you think, do you need to bring in an independent planner, or are you good with what your venue provides? Head on over to the Facebook group and let me know what you think. Thank you so much for joining me today, and I will see you again soon.

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