A wedding planner is a professional service provider whose job it is to organize and execute all the details of a couple’s wedding. A wedding planner can be contracted at any stage in the wedding planning process to help to any degree the couple is willing to pay for. Wedding planning is similar to event planning in that a planning team handles the coordination of multiple wedding elements including catering, venue, guests, entertainment, decor, transportation and more. Anyone who has ever been involved in a wedding can confirm that wedding planning is hard work. Experience brings wisdom when it comes to avoiding or resolving day-of challenges. There is no legal regulatory body that oversees or certifies wedding planning as an industry. Anyone who chooses can call themselves a wedding planner. When looking for a wedding planner, be sure to read reviews, and make smart hiring decisions by asking about licenses and insurance.
Pulling off a large, complex wedding or an elegant, small affair requires juggling myriad details, including the officiant, food, drink, wedding cake, entertainment, transportation, rehearsal dinner, photography, equipment rentals, venue reservations and more. A wedding event coordinator can help you keep track of these details, overseeing the planning process and managing everything on the day of your wedding. Each wedding coordinator (and wedding) is different, but in general you can expect an event coordinator to:
- Help you devise a realistic wedding budget and hold your vendors to it.
- Map out a master plan that includes all of the details including ceremony music, favors, the guest book and more.
- Suggest ceremony and reception locations that fit your wedding size, budget and vision.
- Suggest florists, photographers, bands, caterers and other vendors that fit your budget.
- Negotiate vendor contracts for the best deals.
- Create a timeline for the day of the wedding that includes each vendor and member of your wedding party.
- Mail invitations and track RSVPs.
- Answer questions about wedding etiquette and current wedding trends.
- Manage the wedding day from supervising vendors and setup to handling last-minute emergencies.
Wedding planning is a full-time job — unless you hire a professional to handle the hard work for you. The cost for a wedding planner will depend on the level of service you desire. The least expensive wedding planner option is day-of coordination, then partial service, then full-service.
The national average cost for wedding planning is between $990 and $1,300. Costs are greatly affected by region, with rural or smaller-town wedding planners often far more affordable than planners in higher-cost cities. Here are some examples of the various levels of wedding planning and their potential average costs:
- Day-of-wedding coordination: $800-$1,700. Day-of services can include the planner finalizing all details, creating a timeline, confirming vendors and overseeing all setup, day-of activities, and cleanup. The couple does all the front-end planning and contracts all the vendors. Time commitment could be about 15-25 hours, depending on pricing.
- Partial service: $1,500-$3,800. Here the planner works with the couple from the beginning, helping contract vendors, creating a timeline, and overseeing all details of day-of execution. Time commitment could be about 30-60 hours, depending on package and pricing.
- Full service: $3,500-$8,000 or more. Here the professional handles all wedding and planning details including working on design, securing rentals, getting the venue and vendors, and handling complete execution of the event. Time commitment could be 50-150 hours or more, depending on package and pricing.
- Consulting: $50-$150 per hour for design, vendor, reception and other wedding planning consultation.
Even if you’ve handled every detail of planning your wedding, you might appreciate having a day-of wedding coordinator in your corner. Usually, the coordinator meets with you a few weeks before your wedding to put together a detailed timeline of everything that needs to happen on your wedding day. Then, on the big day, the coordinator makes sure everything goes according to plan — and handles any emergencies that pop up, such as party crashers, missing tuxedos, late vendors, disappearing bridal party members and more. Most wedding coordinators also handle:
- Distributing the wedding day timeline to all of your vendors.
- Coordinating all of your vendors, including the photographer, florist and baker.
- Conducting the wedding rehearsal.
- Helping the bride and her wedding party get dressed and take photos.
- Checking floor plans, lighting levels, cake placement, menus, favors and more.
- Collecting the wedding gifts and keeping personal items safe and accounted for.
Even if you don’t think you need a wedding coordinator, check with your venue. Some require that couples hire a day-of wedding coordinator for the day of the event.
When you hire a wedding coordinator, you want to make sure he or she gets you and can execute perfectly your vision of your dream wedding. To find the very best fit, it’s important to ask these five questions:
- Are you available on my wedding date? If the coordinator isn’t available on your big day, there’s no reason to continue the interview — unless you’re willing to shift your date to accommodate their schedule.
- What’s average cost of most of your weddings? If the coordinator’s usual wedding is outside your range, they might not be the right coordinator for you. Ask whether the coordinator requires a minimum wedding budget. In general, the wedding coordinator’s fee should be about 15 percent of your budget.
- What is your speciality? Some coordinators specialize in day-of coordination, some create the overall vision, and others act as a producer. Make sure your wedding coordinator provides the type of services that will most help you create the event you have in mind, such as selecting vendors and handling their contracts, or managing the guest list and invitations.
- What are your ideas for fulfilling our wedding vision? After you describe your dream wedding — rustic or sophisticated, traditional or funky — the wedding coordinator should be able to suggest appropriate venues, menus, decorations, etc..
Do you have a portfolio? Ask to see photos of their favorite weddings, especially if they’ve managed any that are similar to what you have in mind. This will help you see if you like their style and if their ideas seem fresh and creative.