Getting Started

Wedding Planners 2.0

Hiring a professional can give you more than peace of mind

Finding a florist, mailing out invites, booking a ceremony site—most brides-to-be don’t know where to begin on the basics of planning their big day. Add in all the other arrangements that need to be made, plus all your other stressful everyday efforts, and organizing your wedding can be downright daunting. Fortunately, there’s an alternative to becoming a bridezilla before walking down the aisle. Enter the expert: the wedding planner.

“A wedding is only one day, but it’s all the days planning it that makes or breaks it,” says Nicole Walesch of b.inspired events. “Most people today are really busy—it’s nice for brides to delegate work or have someone to send them in the right direction.”

After he pops the question, hiring a wedding planner may be the best decision a bride can make. With years of nuptial know-how and a network of vendors, these professionals can be an invaluable investment. “The Internet is a great resource, but you don’t know who’s reliable,” says Amy Rubins, owner of Fête Perfection. “We can recommend reliable, conscientious, affordable vendors to a couple—that’s a big time-saver.”

Wedding planners can be a big money-saver, too. Their potentially cost-cutting connections with retailers can help budget-conscious couples. “When you hire a planner, you’re hiring their relationships with vendors in the industry,” says Amy Zaroff of Amy Zaroff Events + Design. This means deals, discounts, and upgrades for you.

“It’s all about maximizing your budget, and a planner can help you save so much,” Walesch says.

While there’s a cost associated with hiring a planner, pricing varies, so even brides on a tight budget can afford help. Options range from hourly rates and day-of assistance to full-service arrangements.

But finding the perfect planner can be easier said that done. Plan on booking someone early on in the engagement—this leaves time to find the right fit. Personality is key. Keep in mind that you’ll be spending more than six months with this person, and if you’re uneasy in the initial consultation, conflict will probably arise later on. “Go with who you feel comfortable with,” says Joan Nilsen of Ambiente Wedding & Event Planning. “You want to click with your planner, because they’re with you the whole day.”

You’ll also want to keep in mind what kind of event you want when you’re choosing. Planners sometimes specialize in different kinds of weddings, from destination weddings to ethnic occasions. Some even offer in-house services. “We want to take the event from start to finish within our own expertise,” says Zaroff, who offers customized event design and graphic design, as well as planning. “We collaborate with vendors that can fulfill the design and fulfill the production we create.”

Adds Amy Fuerstenberg of Mi Mi Design, “It’s a niche market. A background in design can be helpful and that experience makes the service a little more well-suited than a traditional planner.” And it’s true—having a hand in everything from the stationery and flowers to the linens and lighting can help streamline the look. At the end of the day—after the vows have been said, the toasts raised, and the bouquet tossed—it’s important to remember what your wedding’s all about.

“When you hire a planner, you can be a guest on one of the most important days of your life,” Zaroff says. Adds Fuerstenberg, “You often get stuck on the idea of the event. Remember to think of it as a celebration.” With a consultant on your side, it’s easier to enjoy yourself.

And when your big day arrives, all you’ll have to do is smile at the one you love and leave the rest to the experts.

The Inside Scoop From The Pros on What’s In And What’s Out

When it comes to mini desserts, cupcakes have passed their prime. But tasty twists on the traditional mini donut and s’more (think unique, fruity flavors) are popping up at receptions.

Don’t worry about an “it” color–it’s OK to mix and match your favorites with neutrals and even metallics.

Try taking the traditional photo booth to the next level by adding personalized props and backdrops.

Spendy gowns are making a comeback: Some brides are spending 20 to 30 percent more on their dresses, Walesch says.

If you’re having late-night snacks, consider swapping out the greasy burgers and fries for a chip and dip bar.

Go green by giving practical party favors, not something your guests will toss on their way out

Self-serve desserts such as pie and cake are still going strong.

From gowns to entire designs, vintage is all the rage.

Out with the mason jars and in with the outdoors: Add branches and organic earth tones as centerpieces.

Cash bars are almost unheard of anymore, Zaroff says, so give your guests what they want.

Joan Nilsen, Ambiente Wedding & Event Planning

Years in the Business: 28

Specialties: Everything from day-of to full-service planning.

Favorite Extra Touch: Additional lighting—it just illuminates the couple, the venue, the evening, and the guests.

One Planning Tip: Put together a detailed, in-depth timeline—down to every five minutes—and give it to everyone from the vendors to the wedding party. Everyone will be on the same page, and it makes the day much more relaxed.

Nicole Walesch, b.inspired events

Years in the Business: 7

Specialties: Customizing and personalizing the event to the couple's personal style.

Favorite Extra Touch: Adding crayons to mirrors and windows—they go on the glass and almost look like they've been sketched in. It can add a nice, budget-friendly personalized motif.

One Planning Tip: Keep track of the budget. Have a clear understanding of what you want to spend and how much you do—you don't want to be surprised and end up scrambling.

Amy Rubins, Fête Perfection

Years in the Business: 13

Specialties: Destination weddings.

Favorite Extra Touch: I love when a bride and groom cater to their guests, when they put themselves in their guests' shoes. There are many ways to be considerate: It can be with transportation—some people have picked out-of-town guests up at the airport—or even just thoughtful gift bags.

One Planning Tip: Keeping your guest list small will make it more memorable and intimate.

Amy Zaroff, Amy Zaroff Events + Design

Years in the Business: 7

Specialties: Design-driven organization with full-service event design and graphic design, in addition to event planning.

Favorite Extra Touch: Personalized details make the couple’s day unique, whether it be with personalized logos on napkins or distinct décor.

One Planning Tip: Guest count drives budget. Simply put, the more people you have, the more it’s going to cost.

Amy Fuerstenberg (with co-owner Amy Steil, left), Mi Mi Design

Years in the Business: 8

Specialties: I have a background in interior design, and my partner is in graphic design. Aside from logistics and budget, we do everything from stationery and printed pieces to overall concepts down to the linens, props, and lighting.

Favorite Extra Touch: I like unique venues. Private homes, art museums, loft spaces, barns—those can make the wedding a real unique experience.

One Planning Tip: Look at the planning process as “big picture.” Don’t get hung up on the little details—that makes it overwhelming.