You've pinned just about every gown, three-tiered cake, and Jimmy Choo on Pinterest. You've torn pages out of magazines, logged some serious Say Yes to the Dress screen time, and allowed visions of do-it-yourself centerpieces and perfectly scribed place settings to dance in your head. You've got the groom, the ring, and a million and one ideas; but, dear bride, do you have any idea of how you will pull this off?
We know. It's a bit of a bubble-burster. But the truth is, regardless of how amazing your wedding vision is, turning it into reality can be akin to turning Cinderella's pumpkin into a chariot. No matter how crafty you are, or supportive your groom may be, we're guessing that when it comes down to it neither of you want to assemble 300 mason jar centerpieces. (Or fret about whether or not the cake arrived in one piece.) The good news? There are professionals who know how (and like) to do the dirty work for you!
You may think hiring a wedding planner is an additional expense you can't afford, but in reality, finding one that's well-connected to local vendors can actually be a great way to cut costs. "I work with vendors that I've been using over and over, and they give me a discount that I pass directly to my clients," says Casey Noelle Bahl of Belle Noelle. "If you're planning on your own, you don't have that long-standing relationship with vendors." (Not only that, but having an unbiased support system with you on your wedding day may just save your sanity.)
So how do you track down the wedding professional that's right for you? Not unlike finding the right mate, finding the right planner consists of selecting someone you can trust—someone who will listen to you and understand your needs, and ultimately have your best interest in mind. Sounds like a daunting task, right? Not necessarily. Aisle File consulted with some of the top experts in the area on five steps to find your perfect match.
Amy Zaroff Events + Design
1) One Size Doesn't Fit All
Here's the thing you may not know: there isn't just one kind of wedding planner. (And none of them are Jennifer Lopez.) The business of wedding planning is more like a spectrum, with professionals who help you tackle your to-do lists and remind you of deadlines on one end, and full-fledged design companies that execute every aspect of your vision on the other. It's important to know how much you're willing to spend and what your specific needs are so you can select the right kind of planner for you.
Amy Zaroff of Amy Zaroff Events + Design says that understanding the different types of planners is crucial in knowing who you'll want to interview. (And you will need to interview them—see #2). "Different planners and designers fit different needs in the community," she says. "If you're looking for someone to check off your to-do's, that's one kind of planner: but if you're looking for someone to take your ideas and execute them in a way that is visually driven, that's another kind." Zaroff recommends pinpointing what your needs are prior to doing any research. Check out their website and credentials, and really hone in on the services they offer. Look at their packages and pricing; do they offer "day-of-coordination?" If so, this service typically translates to having someone work with vendors on the big day. Do they refer to their business as "event design?" This often refers to one or more professionals who will work with you to design your wedding from the ground up. Other planners offer a-la-carte services, such as floral arrangement or invitation design. Read testimonials, and do your research. Because your time is precious, you'll only want to interview people that offer the kinds of services you think you'll need.
2) Face-Time is Crucial
Once you've narrowed down your list to planners who's services match your needs, you'll need to do some courting. You wouldn't just settle on the first fella that came along—finding the planner that you want to spend the rest of your wedding with shouldn't be that blasé either. It's crucial that you actually meet with prospective professionals face-to-face to really find out if they're "the one" for you. As Amy Rubins and Anna Senrick of Fête Perfection note, "The planning process can take anywhere from six to 12 months; that's a long relationship. You have to be absolutely sure that someone can provide all the services you need and is the right fit for you." And all our experts agree that even if someone seems perfect on paper (or their Facebook page), meeting face-to-face is really the best way to get a sense of someone's character. The good news? Most planners offer an initial consultation for free.
Fête Perfection (Photo Credit: Vick Photography)
3) Choose A Planner Who Can Execute Your Vision . . . on Budget
When interviewing, you need to discover which wedding planner understands your vision but can still work with your budget. (Remember that tricky old thing?) Make sure the planner you choose really grasps the ideas you're communicating to them, and above all, choose a partner in crime who's on the same page you are. Senrick and Rubins advise brides to check that someone has previously planned elements that they're interested in incorporating. For example, "don't hire a wedding planner who has never planned an Indian wedding if you want a Sangeet or Mehndi ceremony," they say. "Be clear about what cultural aspects, traditions, or details you are expecting to incorporate." And of course, you'll want to pay attention to the price tag. "If you have a $2,000 budget and you're interviewing a wedding planner who's minimum is $3,000—that's not going to work," says Bahl.
4) Find Someone Who's Connected...But Still On Your Side
All of our experts agree that choosing someone tuned in to the local scene not only saves you time, but money."Long time planners have made great relationships with vendors," Senrick explains, "and they usually have more perks to offer, like being able to grant discounts to you from their preferred vendors." Ask a potential planner what vendors they recommend, prefer, or have worked with in the past. But know that you are never limited to a planner's preferred vendors; nor should you be. As Zaroff points out, an ideal planner should still listen to what you want and connect you to the vendors that will most appropriately deliver the right results. If you already have vendors in mind, it's also your planner's job to establish a relationship with them on your behalf. "It's important to work with people who choose the right vendors for your needs; not just ones that are popular," explains Zaroff.
Belle Noelle (Photo Credit: Staja Studios)
5) Make Sure Your Personalities Match Your wedding planner doesn't need to be your best friend, but you do need to trust them. Bahl recommends choosing someone you can connect with on an emotional level; you'll more than likely need that person to serve as an impartial support system on the big day. "The most important thing is to feel comfortable with this person. You need someone to not only talk over timelines and ideas with, but someone to vent to; someone who can give you an outside opinion without an agenda." On a day when emotions will surely run high, Bahl says planners can often help shoulder some of the stress that naturally comes with blending family and friends. "Your wedding planner has seen it all," she says assuringly. "I really have played mediator for a lot of people!" Go with your gut, and find someone you genuinely like and will want to have around. After all, aside from your soon-to-be hubby, who better to have by your side than a pro who will have your back?