Yesterday, I posted on my blog at Philadelphia Wedding about the pitfalls of hiring the wrong planner. Today, I want to address the many titles that "planners" take on and the difference between planners, designers and coordinators. But, before I do, let me tell you some things to look for when you are looking for the right planner to help you navigate the journey to your most important day.
Experience Versus Education: In your quest for the right planner, you have probably read the message boards, blogs and web sites of many people. Some have years of experience, while others are new to the business- MANY others. They have stated that they have planned their own weddings and have decided that this is their dream job. They have gotten a "certificate" from a local college, association, on line or from another planner who "teaches" new planners. While those certificates are recognized as a starting place for a new planner, they don't really speak to the need for a good planner to have connections in the industry, knowledge of who is a professional with quality product and a network of possibilities for every budget and taste. These are all things that come from doing it. A good planner has years of experience with good and bad wedding professionals. They have a sense of where to guide you based on your needs and budget. And, they have a serious commitment to the difficulties and challenges of the the job "planner". Contrary to popular belief and REALITY TV, this is NOT a glamor job. It is a serious profession and not for everyone and anyone.
Associations: There are many associations connected to the industry, as well as to the catering and events industries. Belonging to these associations, while a good way for a planner to keep abreast of trends, network and enjoy the "perks" of the industry, they are not always a necessary mark of a good planner. The most important mark of a good planner is their experience, their track record and the opinions of the industry professionals that know them.
Cost: Planners charge in many ways. Some charge a flat fee for specific duties , or a percentage of the budget for full planning. Most planners will add other duties on an "a la carte" menu or as an added charge. There are other planners who have "packages". These "packages" range from full planning to day of planning. Each package includes a list of duties that will be performed. Still others charge on an hourly basis. They may combine a package with an hourly charge for additional time. Make sure you understand what is included when you sign a contract. Ask questions about what you can expect from your planner and what will be billed as an extra charge. And, before you discount a planner as "TOO EXPENSIVE", break down what is included with that planner and what an hourly rate would be or an a la carte charge would add to the initial fee. You can't always dismiss a planner based on price. Remember that this is a profession, a livelihood and a skill set that has been honed over time. And, if you have a good planner, the time involved in helping you plan your wedding is priceless.
Now, let me explain the differences in titles. This is an area that creates a great deal of confusion. So, if you understand the differences and what you can expect, it will be easier to choose the right fit for your needs.
Planner: A planner is a professional that will guide you along the path to your wedding. Assisting in choosing vendors, developing timelines and budgets, facilitating your rehearsal and wedding day. A planner will accompany you to meetings, tastings. And, a planner will help you to realize your vision. Again, you must understand what a planner charges for these duties and what is included in the initial cost and what is an extra charge. But, a planner should be your personal assistant, your advocate.
Designer: This title is self explanatory. An event designer does just that- designs your wedding. Your palette, your tablescapes, your flowers. A designer will facilitate the execution of how your venue looks on your wedding day. Many event designers have "planning" as part of their advertising. They may have a planner on staff or have a relationship with a planner. When you hire an event designer, be sure that you are also hiring someone who will follow all the aspects of your wedding and not just how it looks. And, be sure of how these firms charge.
Coordinator: Most venues have an "in house coordinator". Literally translated, this is the person in charge of the venue on your wedding day. They are an employee of the venue- not you! Their loyalty is to the venue- not you! And, their job is to see to the food and set up at the venue on your wedding day. What happens before the wedding, what happens if your have a dress disaster, a limo that is late or a photographer that doesn't show up is not their job! They are NOT your advocate. They are NOT going to handle your mother or get you down the aisle. They are there for the good of the venue. So, when they tell you NOT to hire a planner because they have it covered- don't listen. Also, beware of "day of" coordinators. What is that? How can someone have one meeting with you a few weeks before your wedding and then show up and have ANY idea how to ensure you have a flawless day? The answer is- they can't! If you are going to invest in a planner, make a wise choice and hire someone who will be involved at some level throughout your planning process.
Finally, a note to you DIY brides. While it is widely assumed that doing your own flowers, cake and favors is a great way to save money and put your "stamp" on your wedding, it may not be true! Unless you are superwoman with nothing else to do with your time during the planning process, this can be a costly and stressuful mistake! There are certain things that you should just leave to the pros! And, if you do plan to add those DIY projects, remember that SOMEONE has to implement those projects on your wedding day. So, if you decide to do your own design, do yourself a favor and hire a planner to help you. Remember, on your wedding day you can not be the florist, the baker or THE PLANNER. And,neither can your mom or your maid of honor. Invest in the insurance that is an invaluable asset to any wedding day. HIRE A PLANNER!