Hiring a Wedding Planner

Susan Selig ClassenPlanning, StagingLeave a Comment

We had everything planned,” says Meghan. 

“We were driving from New Jersey on a Thursday and getting our marriage license in Currituck County on our way down. On Saturday, I decided to give the license to our wedding planner for safekeeping until the ceremony in a few days. That’s when I realized the wrong Social Security number was written on all the paperwork!” 

Mind you this was a July wedding when summer traffic is at its worst. 

The Currituck County offices on the mainland were more than two hours away from their Corolla wedding site. The geographical reality of trying to make it back to the office was just the sort of problem a wedding planner solves. The day before the wedding found the bride and bridesmaids getting their manicures and spray-on tans as planned, while a wedding planner was taking care of the hassles.

The following are just a few of the benefits you’ll enjoy by bringing in the planning pros:

Save Your Family

In Meghan’s case, her mother was confused about the “destination wedding” concept. “Mom was concerned about the distance. The no church thing.” But our planner did such a good job setting the stage for a beach wedding that now, even my toughest critics have not stopped talking about our wedding.”

Also, with so many egos to bruise along the way, sometimes it helps to have a neutral party who doesn’t bring ego and expectation to the wedding, just expertise and experience. Your planners will happily take the heat for not making the distant grandniece the flower girl. Even if you assign your planner a dozen tasks, you won’t worry that they’ve been asked to line up for an important family photo at exactly the same time. 

Something else to consider, if either of you is a second-timer down the aisle, is the fact that blended families often need creative handling. An experienced wedding planner is masterful at seating charts and finding perfect roles for each family member. 

Save Time 

Imagine that over the course of the next year, you and your partner are starting a new career that you are not trained to do (and never plan to do again). Planning a destination wedding can feel like telecommuting for a part-time job from many miles away. If both of you are already working full-time jobs, there may not be enough time to meet wedding deadlines that many vendors need. 

In Meghan’s case, the only vendors she met in person on the Outer Banks were her photographer and officiant. The wedding planner helped her navigate the hiring of others using phone calls and Skype.

Save Your Priorities

Meghan says, “With a wedding on a beach, I was worried that the ‘first look’ that people got of me was going to be when I was walking across the street to get to the beach or while the photographer was taking some outdoor shots before the ceremony.” 

Her wedding planner worked with the trolley driver and photographer to figure out a solution.

Instead of using the most direct parking area, “the driver found a side lot to pull up and drop me off where no one would see me until my formal entrance. So the important thing is that the planner knows what’s important to you,” says Meghan.

Save Money

Many associate hiring a wedding planner with having a big budget affair, but planners go with budget-conscious brides, too.

The average cost of a U.S. wedding in 2016 was $35,329 and more than 50 percent of all couples end up spending more than what they budgeted. And it’s not just the bride’s parents who are footing the bill anymore.

Surveys of recently married couples reveal that the bride’s family covered 43 percent of wedding costs; the marrying couple contributed another 43 percent; the groom’s parents paid for 12 percent; and the last 2 percent came from friends and family members. 

A planner living in the community of a destination wedding can be more accurate with estimating true costs and can anticipate the unexpected costs that are likely to occur. 

While a wedding planner’s fees can seem like yet another line item on an already long list of expenses, a good planner will, in fact, help the couple stick to their budget, plan for the unexpected expenses, and even may pass along discounts from vendors to make the wedding tab smaller in the long run. 

Save Your Sanity

The hotel Meghan booked left their largest hall empty in case it rained and was needed. The wedding planner and florist were ready to move the dance floor, lighting, and décor indoors if necessary.

“For me, I didn’t want people to get smooshed” if it rained and the wedding was moved inside at the last minute.”

Sarah D’Ambra Photography

Save Your Vacation

A bride who is planning her own wedding can easily slip into the role of a travel agent and reservationist for every guest, in addition to writing vows, selecting music and other details. With a wedding planner, the couple is able to enjoy their beach wedding instead of working out logistics with caterers, photographers and guests. You will have time and energy reserved to enjoy everyone who has traveled to celebrate your special day with you. 

A wedding planner who lives on the Outer Banks can handle all aspects of your destination wedding, allowing you to sail away on your honeymoon stress-free.

How to Interview a Wedding Planner

In addition to the obvious requests for cost estimates and customer referrals, here are a few tailored questions to ask to help you find a planner who is well-versed in Outer Banks weddings. 

How do you plan around wedding season and Saturday check-in dates? 

Peak wedding season on the Outer Banks is not summertime. There are two peak wedding seasons, which are spring and fall. During these “shoulder” months, rates are low, summer traffic has thinned and the weather leans toward the spectacular. Also, with Saturday check-ins at many rental homes, couples frequently do not plan to tie the knot on a Saturday. Couples should also expect pricing fluctuations reflected by peak wedding dates, weekend hours, and four-wheel drive access expenses. 

What have you done in a previous emergency situation that saved the day? 

Not only might you discover quirks about your Outer Banks venue, but you may also find out what another couple did when they ran into difficulties.

Gingersnaps Photography

What was the most unusual wedding request you’ve ever had? 

You’ll find out how flexible your planner is and if your tastes match.

How many weddings will you be managing on any given weekend? How much of the work will your assistant(s) perform? 

While your planner may have an entire team of assistants, their performance at your event may be taxed by too many emergencies. Also, you may have shopped around and finally found a planner with whom you click, only to find out that they delegate much of the work to less experienced assistants. You will want to meet or interview anyone who will be making major decisions on your behalf. 

How do you prefer to communicate with your clients? 

A planner who is well-versed in e-mails, text and social media is well suited for the distance planning involved with destination weddings.

How involved are you with the rest of our wedding party? 

Find out now if family members can call your planner directly with their questions or if you will be charged for extra contacts. 

Matt Lusk Photography

How to Customize a Wedding Planner for Any Budget…

A wedding planner’s expertise does come at a cost, but there are different levels of service that will make it a custom fit:

LEVEL 1: The Wedding Consultant

Let’s say you want a realistic budget tailored to everything you need to get married on the Outer Banks, but you plan to negotiate with vendors and do much of the planning yourself. When a couple needs help with just a few aspects of the event, they may hire a planner at an hourly rate to act as a consultant. A wedding consultant will help you come up with a timeline of what needs to be accomplished and a blueprint for each wedding event. The couple will do much of the work while asking for some ‘a la carte’ assistance from the planner. 

LEVEL 2: The Day-of Planner 

A bride who is hands-on about planning every facet of her own wedding may opt for a day-of wedding planner. A day-of planner, as the name implies, is there for the entire wedding day to ensure that the actual ceremony happens without any hitches so the couple can enjoy a stress-free day. Somewhat of a misnomer, however, a day-of planner also tends to put in plenty of hours prior to the wedding day. When you consider how much they will be held accountable for, it makes sense that a day-of contract typically includes assisting at the rehearsal, making phone calls to vendors, and some in-person meetings in the weeks prior to the ceremony. 

LEVEL 3: The Full-Service Planner

This level of assistance is what most people envision when they hear the term wedding planner. A full-service planner, perhaps with the help of several assistants, will toil hundreds of hours on your behalf for many months leading up to the big day. Services typically include budget preparation (and adherence), negotiating vendor contracts, tracking RSVPs, guest accommodation coordination, wedding party gifts, rehearsal coordination, and countless scheduled check-ins with the marrying couple. 

Some full-service planners will charge a percentage of your overall wedding cost, while others will charge a flat fee. Your full-service planner will always have a ‘Plan B’ in case of emergencies, mishaps, and inclement weather. ♥

Top feature image courtesy Outer Banks Productions.

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