How to Choose a Wedding Planner

Between the excitement of your engagement and the joy of your wedding, there’s a whole lot of work to be done to plan your big day. If the thought of orchestrating your wedding leaves you feeling overwhelmed, then you might want to consider getting some help. Wedding planners—also called wedding consultants or wedding coordinators—offer a range of services, so your first step is to decide what level of help you want.

If you already have a venue in mind, check if it has an on-site coordinator before you spend any time searching for a wedding planner. Many larger venues that host a number of weddings each year, such as hotels or country clubs, employ on-site coordinators whose services are usually included in your rental fee.

On-site coordinators explain what the venue provides, help plan the menu, provide written cost estimates, oversee the setup for your event and more. At places, some of the decisions are made for you. For example, you may be obligated to use the venue’s catering services, but for other decisions, such as music, the on-site coordinator should be able to make recommendations if you need them.

Types of Wedding Planners

  • Full-service planners are with you throughout the process, working on all the details from the beginning through the wedding day itself. They work closely with you to get to know your tastes, needs, budget and timeline. They have relationships with vendors, and can find the ones that fit your style and budget. Full-service wedding planners keep the process on track, create a timeline for your wedding day and make sure everything runs smoothly.
  • Partial planners step in a few weeks before your wedding to make sure all the details are finalized and the rehearsal and wedding go according to plan. Partial planners also can be used to help with specific tasks, such as catering or floral arrangements.
  • Day-of wedding planners ensure that everything goes well on your wedding day so you can relax and enjoy yourself. If you’re using a day-of coordinator, you select all the vendors and make all the arrangements, then you meet with the planner prior to your wedding day and go over everything that has been arranged. They handle all the vendor coordination leading up to the final days before the wedding and the wedding day itself.
  • Another alternative is to have a consultation with a wedding planner to get one-time help early in your planning process so you start on the right path. The consultation could include help with your timeline, budget and to do list so you know what needs to be done, when to do it and how you can create or stay within your budget. Your wedding consultant may also make vendor recommendations.

Finding the Right Fit

Now that you’ve decided to get some help, you need to identify potential candidates. The best way is to ask family and friends who they have used. If you’re among the first of your family or friends to get married, or none of them used a planner, ask a trusted local vendor, such as a florist, for recommendations. Your church or reception venue may be able to recommend wedding planners, or you can use the locate a wedding planner function on the Association of Bridal Consultants website (

After you’ve gathered a list of potential planners, your next step is to check them out online. Look at photos of weddings they have done to see if you like their style. Also see if they tend to specialize in anything. For example, if a planner focuses on large weddings for the rich and famous, maybe she’s not the right fit for your small intimate affair. Look for information about the services she offers, professional associations she’s a member of and clients she’s worked with.

Once you’ve identified a few you like, find out if they are available for your date and their price range and cost. These are the two biggest obstacles you may face, and you’ll be wasting your time if you set up a meeting only to find out the planner’s not available or is way out of your price range.

Set up a meeting, and note how easy or difficult it is to do that. Did the planner return your call right away? Was it easy to find a mutual time to meet? Did she seem excited to get together with you? The most important part of the meeting is to find out if you can work with this person for potentially months on one of the biggest events of your life. You may have gotten a feel for this person’s work from her website, but this phone call will provide your crucial first impression. If she’s abrupt with you, it could just be that she was in a rush, but be wary if she continues to be brusque in your face-to-face meeting.

Before the meeting, gather any Pinterest images, magazine clippings, swatches or other ideas you’d like to share. Gauge the planner’s reaction to your ideas. Is she enthusiastic? Does she listen to what you’re saying?

You’ll find many lists of questions to ask a wedding planner posted on the internet. These lists cover everything from how many other weddings she will be working on during your timeframe to her pricing structure to whether she has insurance. Take some time to look at some of these lists and compile yours based on the things that are important to you and relevant to your situation.

After the meeting, check some of the wedding planner’s references. Call a few recent clients and see how things went. She’s probably not going to give you names of people who were unhappy with her services, so don’t just ask if they were satisfied. Ask specific questions to uncover any issues. What was the planner was responsible for? (You may be looking for a full-service coordinator and this reference only hired her for day-of services.) Find out if anything went wrong and how the planner handled it. Ask about the vendors she recommended, how easy it was to reach her during the planning process, and whether she executed the couple’s vision to their satisfaction.

Once you’ve found someone who’s available, you have a rapport with, who fits your budget and embraces your vision, you can relax and enjoy this special time.

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