Weddings serve as an excellent creative outlet for many couples but executing a large-scale event of this size while focusing on your nuptials can be a tricky balance. Employing the expertise of a planner allows you and your family to focus on what’s truly important throughout your celebration.
So, what does a wedding planner specifically do? Well, that depends on you and your planner’s preference:
- Day-of wedding coordination includes managing pre-wedding activities and wedding day logistics
- Full-service wedding planning guides everything from the initial brainstorm session to the day you step onto the airplane and set off on your honeymoon
- Many planners have different levels of service to match each budget
Explore our guide below to determine the best way to approach your wedding planning experience.
What do wedding planners do during the first meeting?
During the initial consultation, you may discuss their service packages, brainstorm and talk about the budget. The wedding planner will also discuss their specific expertise and how to best help you along the way. You may brainstorm initial inspiration and determine a wedding planning schedule.
This then determines how much a wedding planner costs—as cost depends on the different levels of service, number of hours traveling, arranging and attending appointments as well as the day itself.
At this meeting, be sure to bring the following, along with anything additionally discussed in your initial chats:
- Inspiration photos, colors and websites of vendors
- Information for vendors that you’ve booked or want to book
- Your approximate budget
- Guest estimate/invite estimate
Best way to contact you and/or your family
What do wedding planners provide?
Wedding planners are well versed in the details of the wedding industry. They have a keen eye for contracts and working with vendors, taking away the guesswork in decision-making and for advising on what often works and what doesn’t.
A wedding designer, often confused with a wedding planner brings an artistic eye to the table:
- Choosing venue decor
- Selecting the theme and style
- Managing the overall color scheme
Wedding planners can guide these choices based on their experience but focus in on the logistics of arranging their services based on your decisions. The services they provide include:
Creating an estimated budget is one of the earlier and most crucial tasks of the process, as it speaks to every decision thereafter. Wedding planners assist in this process by are also aware of the underlying costs throughout the process. Though the budget can—and most likely will—change as the months go on, these numbers advise each vendor search and contract negotiation.
Whether you contract your planner for full-service assistance or day-of coordination, many planners also offer guidance with:
- Bachelor and bachelorette parties
- Rehearsal dinner
- Welcome lunch
- Send-off brunch
Choosing a stationery suite may look straightforward at a distant glance but it has more moving pieces than most people know. The wedding planner can help you pick designs, order or send:
Decor + Design
This is where the role of a wedding planner and wedding designer diverge. While a designer can direct and execute each aesthetic decision of the day, the planner helps you coordinate each category of design to fully meld together. The planner may:
- Help you cultivate a vision
- Book and negotiate your decor and design vendors/ rentals
- Keep you on budget
Weddings are packed with traditions—all of which are optional depending on your background and personality. Either way, tricky questions will constantly arise, such as:
- Do I invite distant family members if we aren’t particularly close?
- What about plus ones?
- When should the invites go out?
- How do I create a seating chart?
In addition to the questions above, your wedding planner will be able to walk you through any other wedding etiquette questions that you may have.
Wedding venue contracts often include a dizzyingly long list of add-ons and varieties to their menu. A planner can help you navigate your choices, taking things into account such as:
- Guests’ dietary needs
- Entrée variety
- Meal timing
- Menu stationery
- Budget choices
- Open bar coordination
- Communicating with the venue as RSVPs arrive
Arranging all your bridesmaids, groomsmen, attendants and parents to coordinate their outfits can be a challenge. A wedding planner may:
- Set the dress or suit boutique appointments
- Handle contracts
- Manage the timing of fittings and alterations
- Coordinate fashion accessories such as jewelry, shoes, veils and shawls
One of the largest investments of the wedding day, choosing a DJ or band is often booked rather early on, making this a priority in your initial meetings. The planner can help you:
- Arrange appointments to meet
- Manage your deposit and contract
- Act as the point person for their arrival on the day of the wedding
- Coordinate equipment and outlet needs with the venue
Your planner will work hand-in-hand before, during and after your wedding day. Depending on your package, the planner can help:
- Select the right photographer
- Negotiate the photographer contracts
- Communicate the wedding schedule to the photographer
- Keep the photographer on schedule on day-of
- Communicate with your photographer post-wedding
Emotions of all kinds run high during such a prominent milestone and with so many personalities and new people in the mix, planners can:
- Act as a neutral party to manage logistics and group coordination
- Negotiate contract details and clarify small print
- Stand in as the point person for questions during the wedding weekend
- Create a buffer when tensions run high
Your planner can provide much needed day-of services and take the pressure to coordinate off of the couple. On your wedding day, the planner:
- Ensures that a detailed schedule of the day or week has been compiled and distributed to those who need it
- Acts as each vendor’s point of contact
- Communicates between the venue/ceremony space and the wedding party
- Assists in ceremony timing and coordination
- Troubleshoots anything that arises throughout the day
- Checks in with the couple for extra assistance
No one can promise a glitch-free day, it’s only natural that little things go awry—the planner can advise how to move past it as soon as you can so you can focus on enjoying your wedding.
Extra tasks may include:
- Marriage license and accompanying documents
- Distributing tips to vendors
- Helping with venue accessibility for guests with disabilities
- Coordinating a location switch in the case of bad weather
- Returning any rented equipment to nearby vendors after the event
What is the difference between a wedding coordinator and a planner?
Traditionally, a planner spends over 200 hours walking you through the months of preparation required to choose and manage vendors as well as execute the day itself.
Day-of wedding coordinators:
- Step in a few days leading to the wedding to handle all rehearsal dinner, wedding weekend events and the wedding itself
- Make sure the event goes smoothly behind the scenes
- Often do not help with the early stages of brainstorming and contract assistance
Remember, each planner and coordinator will have their own scope of work and ways to personalize the best way to utilize their skills.
How do I choose my wedding planner?
Meet with 1-3 potential planners until you find one that feels right and be sure to discuss any concerns in your initial meeting. You will work directly with your planner more than anyone else during the process. If you prefer to handle certain aspects of the big day on your own, you’ll want to have an open communication from the get-go.
As is the case with all vendors, it’s best to begin with basics:
- How much does the wedding planner cost
- Services offered
- Their ability to travel
- Ensuring your personalities mesh
Planners are particularly crucial if you have a busy job, a large family or are generally daunted by the planning process. If you can work a planner into your budget, their skills can guide you through every celebratory stage of the process, from the first dress fitting to the final send off. Don’t forget to send your planner a big thank you gift for all of the hard work they put into making sure your wedding is everything you’d ever dreamed of.