#2 – The different types of planning help available

There are lots of places to find help with your wedding, and when it comes to wedding planners–like all things–they’re not all created equal. None of them are all bad, and none are all good, but they each offer their own pros and cons, and you should consider the pros and cons before deciding on the type of help that is best for you!

The Venue Coordinator
I often hear brides say that they “don’t need an outside planner” because their venue has an on-site coordinator, and unfortunately, some brides find out too late that this is just not the case. The on-site coordinator is there to manage the services being provided by the reception hall, and the services they will provide are very different from those that a professional wedding planner will provide.

Pros: A good on-site coordinator will assist you with items like room layouts, place settings and linens and opening the building for vendor deliveries (depending on your venue). They’ll also be on hand during the earlier portion of your wedding day and reception in case of issues with venue services. If this is all you need help with, you’re probably not in the market for a professional wedding planner or coordinator.

Cons: Unlike an actual wedding planner or day-of coordinator, your on-site venue coordinator will not call your vendors to verify anything the week before the wedding, find you vendors that meet your budget (though they may give you a pre-made list), call your bakery with your final numbers, or help you to trouble shoot difficult issues with vendors on your wedding day.  Venue coordinators are usually not on-site through the duration of your wedding, and will likely be gone by early evening. Don’t get me wrong, on-site coordinators are great, but it’s important to understand what they will and won’t do for you, so you can be properly prepared for your big day!


The “In-House” Event Planner

This trend is becoming increasingly popular. Venues and vendors (florists, caterers, etc) are seeing the market for planning services, and offering an “in house” coordinator or planner. Services will vary but in many cases, they’ll offer a wide range of services from helping you at the reception hall with day-of items, to travelling off site to assist with your ceremony.

Pros: They’ll know the ins and outs of your venue and its policies, what works well and what doesn’t.

Cons: Your planner is first and foremost an employee of the venue, florist, caterer, or whoever is technically employing them full time. So you are not offered an un-biased 3rd party opinion, and an issue may arise where your best interests are not kept in mind. For example, if an issue arises with the venue itself or the services it provides, will your planner advocate for what’s best for you, or what’s best for the venue? Do they have experience specifically planning weddings, and relationships with all of the vendors needed, or is their experience solely in one area of weddings, such as venue management, floral, or catering?


The “Hobbyist” Wedding Planner
Just looking at websites, it is often hard to identify a “hobbyist” wedding planner as such. They often have a business set up, are marketed as a professional wedding planner, and offer the same services. However, a “hobbyist” wedding planner is someone who operates their planning business as a side-business to their full time job, or who has set up shop without the relevant experience needed.

Pros: The price will likely be low as this isn’t their full time job or source of income

Cons: They don’t have much to lose–if family issues come up, or they run into issues with their full time job, it’s likely that your wedding will be pushed to the side. Or worse yet, they’ll back out on you. Unlike a professional wedding planner, they’re not relying on your satisfaction, and continued business from other brides, to pay their bills and keep food on the table. You don’t want your wedding to be something that gets pushed to the side when they don’t have extra time. And similarly to the “in house” planner, they likely don’t have the extensive well-rounded knowledge and resources that a professional wedding planner has. Also, their business may not operate to the standards of a professional wedding planner—for example they may not carry the liability insurance and other protections that a full service planner will. Hobbyists, “in house” and on-site planners may also be lacking first hand knowledge of the local industry as a whole, and rely on information they gather online.


The Professional Wedding Planner
A professional wedding planner operates a wedding or event planning business as their main occupation, and has hands-on professional experience in event planning. A strong network of vendors & venues is also the mark of a professional wedding planner.

Pros: A professional wedding planner is extremely connected to the local wedding industry, as well as versed on resources available. How does this help you? A pro wedding planner can tell you which  hotels work best for weddings on holiday weekends, which beaches are best for ceremonies, which vendors will work best if you need to function primarily through email. They’ll have personal relationships with vendors and venues, leading to a smoother planning process. They have first-hand knowledge of the local industry and can provide you with budgeting information that is locally-relevant and not based on costs nationally. A professional planner will provide stellar service, to ensure that you have a great experience, because they’re depending on referral business and good reviews to keep their business going. Professional planners have ample staff, often have additional planners or coordinators on staff and contingency plans in the case of a sick coordinator or staff member.

Cons: The price is likely to be the highest here.

So many choices! If you’re having a hard time deciding, I would suggest meeting with several different planners. Find out how much experience they have, how involved they’ve been in the full scope of a wedding, what they’d do in the case that they were ill on your wedding day or were somehow incapacitated. Will they stay throughout your wedding day? Ask for referrals for former brides that had the same services you’re interested in. If you’re interested in full service planning, be sure to ask to speak with a former bride who also received full service planning. Not every wedding planner is the perfect fit for every bride. You don’t have to be best friends with your planner, but you should feel comfortable with them, enjoy your planning time together, and above all, trust them fully! So meet with several, ask lots of questions, and make the choice that makes you feel most comfortable (and excited) about your wedding day!