A professional wedding planner will serve as a guide throughout the wedding planning process; anticipating your needs; offering suggestions to allocate funds where they will make the most impact; foresee and help prevent costly and stressful mistakes; create a production timeline including getting ready, setup, the event itself (i.e. overall flow, entertainment details, food/beverage service logistics, photography/cinematography coverage, etc.), and cleanup; orchestrate the ceremony rehearsal and wedding day; or some combination of these tasks to ensure your plans are executed as desired. This can be one of the most daunting wedding vendor categories to hire as every company will have different offerings and pricing structures, making apples-to-apples comparison shopping feel virtually impossible - and, in a sense, it is.
So what’s an engaged couple to do? Let’s start with the basics.
WHAT TYPES OF SERVICE ARE AVAILABLE?
It’s worth noting, a wedding planning firm can offer more than one type of service, according to their individual business structure. Most services can be generalized into three categories: 1. Planning, 2. Design, and 3. Management/Coordination.
Let’s take a deep-dive into each type of offering.
Full Service Wedding Planning
Ideal for couples who...
Want step-by-step expert guidance
Are overwhelmed by the minutiae
Are too busy to devote the necessary time to the research, scheduling, vendor communication, paperwork, etc. involved in wedding planning
Find peace of mind in the knowledge that the host of critical details are in the hands of an experienced professional.
This service integrates the planner into every aspect of the process, positioning them as the main point of contact for your vendors, and provides the most robust support available to you throughout your engagement. They will be involved in every aspect of planning and execution of your event, guiding you through each phase of planning, equipping you with information and context required to make informed decisions, and ensuring nothing is overlooked along the way.
If you already have your venue booked and some vendors locked in, Full-Service Wedding Planning may still be the best option for you. Wedding planning is a lot to balance and you wouldn’t be the first couple to realize they need help until after you’re already overwhelmed.
It’s a common misconception that Full Service Planning is reserved for couples who have not yet begun planning on their own. In actuality, it is applicable to any couple who determines they would benefit from hands-on involvement of a professional, regardless of the time remaining in their engagement.
IF YOU ALREADY HAVE YOUR VENUE BOOKED AND SOME VENDORS LOCKED IN, FULL SERVICE MAY STILL
BE THE BEST OPTION FOR YOU
Destination Wedding Planning
For couples planning from afar, a destination wedding planner is a crucial member of the team. If you and your future spouse can’t readily visit the location of your event, having a trusted professional as “boots on the ground” is helpful. Conversely, it can be equally valuable to have a local planner who is intimately familiar with the unique challenges of planning a destination wedding to liaise on your behalf and provide guidance.
Wedding planning firms who offer this service will connect you to vetted vendors in the area, keep you abreast of important details including region-specific information such as travel requirements, societal norms and cultural customs, and coordinate the many additional logistics that contribute to a successful event outside your hometown.
If you prefer to take on the majority of planning yourself, but recognize “we don’t know what we don’t know,” then this is the level of service you’re looking for.
Wedding Management is similar to, but more comprehensive than, the archaic “Day-of Coordination” or “Month-of Coordination.” This service focuses on the reconciliation and execution of the plans you make, with the addition of ongoing support and communication throughout the process.
Depending on the firm, the planner may assume the role of primary point of contact anywhere from 6-12 weeks prior to the event. During this time, your planner may create a timeline and floor plan, review contracts, reconcile orders, arrange deliveries, fine-tune your logistical plans, confirm vendor services, communicate your priorities, and complete a site visit with you, all of which are critical to identifying and preventing foreseeable problems.
On wedding day, they will orchestrate the ceremony and reception, manage unforeseeable challenges behind the scenes, and coordinate with vendors, guests, and VIPs so you can be fully present in the moment.
À la Carte Services
Firms may also offer a select set of additional services commonly paired with their existing packages. Examples include, among others, planning consultation, budget advice, attendance at additional vendor meetings, planning and coordination of other events such as rehearsal dinner or post-wedding brunch, decoration of the wedding night suite, return of rented décor, and event design. These a-la-carte offerings are either billed hourly or by task.
Some planners will offer a customized collection of a-la-carte services and call it “Partial Planning”. You may also see this referred to as “Hybrid Planning” or “Guided Planning” with the actual services provided falling somewhere along the spectrum between Management and Full Service.
Wedding Designers / Wedding Stylists
Firms who exclusively offer design and styling services focus solely on the aesthetics of your event. They may curate a custom mood board and color palette, design your tablescape, identify specific rentals to achieve your vision, and source custom-fabricated décor. They will either perform, or partner with a trusted provider to translate their ideas on the following: floral, draping, lighting, etc. They will schedule delivery/pickup and oversee setup/teardown of all design elements. Their primary goal is to create a cohesive, memorable experience for you and your guests.
WHAT'S THE RIGHT SERVICE FOR ME?
When searching for the right service and provider, it’s important to take a genuine inventory of your capabilities including, but not limited to the time, energy, skill, and emotional and mental bandwidth you can reasonably afford to earmark to wedding planning. Remember, time is our most precious resource.
Before booking, make sure you have a clear understanding about what is and, perhaps more importantly, is not included in your planning package to adequately prepare your expectations.
Professional wedding planners serve you in so many capacities beyond what you see superficially. It simply cannot be understated how impactful a planner’s involvement can be to enhance your overall experience.