Many couples know that hiring a wedding consultant is the right thing for them from the very start. Other couples think this is an unnecessary expense and that they can do it all on their own. My philosophy is that if you trust your taxes to a professional, your health to a professional, why would you not want to trust this once-in-a-lifetime event to a professional? Each planner does things his or her way, but here is how I have been providing services for my clients for 25 years:
Full-service planning: I will plan and design the details of the wedding from start to finish. Additionally, I and my team are there at the wedding to direct the day's events and coordinate everything that needs to happen and keep things on time.
Partial planning: This level of service is pretty much the same as full-service, but this is if a couple should have their venue selected and then get to the point of "Okay, now what are we do?"
"Day of" coordination: This is the common term for wedding-day directions services. I am not a fan of calling it "day of," because it is so much more than just what it sounds like. I review all your contracts, meet with a couple before the wedding and put together the timeline. Then I pretty much take over all the final confirmations and last-minute details. I am there with a staff to direct the day's events and take the stress away from the couple, their friends and family, making sure everything they have planned and selected happens correctly and on time and as well as assist with any unexpected occurrences.
Hourly consultations: I offer this service for couples who really want to do this on their own or cannot afford full or partial planning services. I am hired on an hourly basis to review your plans, give you advice on etiquette, guidance on what will work, and more importantly what won't work, as well as vendor recommendations. This is a great way to tap into my knowledge and expertise at a very minimal investment.
Once I know I am available for their date, I set up an initial interview and discuss their expectations. We talk about the event in detail. You will need to have an estimated guess count and wedding budget. From here, I know if their expectations are realistic. If they are not, one of two things must be done: either increase your budget or decrease your guest list so that you have more money to spend on the details that are a priority. This is where my expertise comes into play in assisting them on deciding on what's most important, and how to make the best of their wedding budget.
This also gives us a chance to meet and interact. It also lets us both know if this is going to be a productive and enjoyable relationship.
It's at this initial interview that I can come up with a cost for my services. Every wedding consultant charges a different way. Some charge by the hour, some charge a percentage of your budget. I charge a flat fee based on the amount of detail to your wedding. Since our weddings are different, the fee structure varies.
Once we have set up a contract, I set up an initial meeting. Here I determine the couple's style by asking a series of interpersonal questions to each member of the couple. We also then talk about each facet of the wedding and the vendors that will be involved. With my 25 years of experience, I can easily fit vendors whose price and style work best with the couple's budget and expectations. I check those vendors availability then forward the information to the couple for their review. From here, we set up meetings with vendors they like the most. Keep in mind every vendor that they choose, the couple contracts with each vendor directly. I, unlike other planners, do not subcontract any vendors.
This planning process can take several weeks or even months, depending upon how much time we have before the big day. Many clients do not live in the Chicagoland area, so we arrange FaceTime meetings and conference calls on a regular basis. I then guide the couple through each intricate detail, use my creative flair to add unique and personal touches and to manage the whole event. When the big day arrives, my team and I are there to manage all the details of the day and keep things flowing according the agenda.
There are dozens and dozens of wedding consultants out there. I highly recommend you research consultants fully before hiring and going into a contract. Make sure that you ask for references and check online reviews. See what professional credentials and affiliations they have. However, what's most important is hiring a consultant you trust and feel comfortable with. Beware of anything that seems too good to be true regarding price. I always recommend the old saying, "You get what you pay for."
Just as every planner does things differently, each planner charges in a different way. The most common is an hourly rate, percentage of budget or flat fee. I charge a flat fee, so the client knows exactly the amount of the investment they are making, as well as the freedom call, email and meet with me as much as they need to.
Hiring a wedding consultant/coordinator/planner is not for everyone, but the benefits of having one involved in some capacity of your wedding planning is an "insurance policy" for you. It is such an immense benefit to the couples to give them peace of mind and less stress during this very emotional time in their lives. This way, you can be a guest at your own wedding.