Should you hire a wedding planner?

Dec 18

The truth about wedding planner myths you should know

SO many times I hear brides ask themselves “Should I Hire a Wedding Planner?” You’ve come to the right place today!

I am so excited to share this guest blog post by an amazing New Jersey Wedding planner I know – Jenny Orsini!

The wedding planning profession actually has not been around all that long. Because of it’s relatively “new” stature, there are still a great deal of misconceptions about this mysterious and somewhat elusive profession. I’m here to debunk the myths and help brides find the RIGHT planner for them! 

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My name is Jenny Orsini, and I am a wedding planner. Like so many other planners, I did not grow up dreaming of becoming a professional wedding planner. I also didn’t watch Jennifer Lopez in “The Wedding Planner” and say “OMG…what a fabulous job, that’s sooo going to be me!!!” (Side bar:  I was already in the wedding business when that movie was released so I saw right through its over sensationalized and flat out erroneous plot…but I digress). What I did learn from that movie (and by the way I will probably make several more references to this cinematic masterpiece) and so many other books, articles, online chat rooms, conversations with clients etc, is that brides continue to misunderstand what a real wedding planner does.

They also seem to repeatedly hire planners for the wrong reasons and with somewhat unrealistic expectations.  I can only guess this continues to happen because brides don’t know what brides don’t know! So I’m going to break it down and shed light on some popular myths out there and tell you all exactly what we do, why we charge what we charge, and what you need to know before you hire us. More specifically, I will help guide through the wedding planner interview process so that you cover all your bases and find the planner that matches you and your needs perfectly!

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Myth #1 All Wedding Planners charge an arm and a leg. 

I started with cost because that always seems to be the biggest point of contention in the wedding planning world. Do some planners charge tens and tens of thousands of dollars? Yes. Are there planners who charge substantially less? Yes. It’s like buying a car! There’s a Honda, Mercedes and Rolls Royce for everything. Only you know what you’re comfortable spending. During the interview process the planner will certainly ask you “What’s your budget?” So to save yourself some time and frustration, have a somewhat accurate ballpark and range in your head. 

Some planners charge a flat fee while others work on a percentage basis. The more seasoned planners usually customize their services for each client. For example I personally do not have any cookie cutter “packages.” And before I provide a client with a quote for my services, I ask them a ton of questions so that I have a very clear idea of the scale and caliber of the event. That’s the only way I can accurately predict the scope of my work.

Let’s break it down…the amount of work I do for a small intimate, understated, restaurant style wedding will pale in comparison to the work and hours I dedicate for a 300 guest tented wedding on a farm with all the bells and whistles. Therefore my fees for both weddings will be drastically different. So when you’re interviewing planners be sure to explain to them the size and scale of the event you’re planning as well as the general level of assistance you’re seeking. A good planner will be hungry for details…so don’t hold back. 

Myth #2 Planners go EVERYWHERE with you and your fiancé during the planning process.

I can’t help but think of the scene in The Wedding Planner when Jennifer Lopez is walking around beautiful gardens with the Groom (Matthew McConaughey) while marveling at all the ancient Greek statues. I’m pretty sure I don’t need to say this…but that would NEVER happen in real life. First off, planners rarely accompany grooms anywhere during the planning process. Secondly, truly professional wedding planners do not need to be at every single wedding planning meeting or outing with you. It’s just not necessary. A good planner will typically assist with and provide invaluable advice on budget, timelines, menus, decor, logistics, contract review, music etc. But they do not have the time to walk around gardens with your fiancé discussing the masculinity of ancient Greek statues. That being said, each planner has a different style and approach to scheduling meetings and overall workflow/productivity. It’s completely acceptable to inquire about their intentions to accompany you to certain weddings planning meetings and excursions. It’s ok to ask if they can join you for dress shopping, your menu tasting, or even take you to meet stationers. I realized several years ago that many of my brides felt confident enough to meet with photographers, videographers, bands, try on dresses, etc on their own/ without my presence. I respect that! They preferred to have me present at design/floral meetings and venue walk throughs. Every bride has a different set of needs. Be honest about yours.  Finding a planner who understands your “face to face”expectations as well as your level of assistance is extremely important.

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Myth #3 Your planner must have prior experience working at your venue and with all of your vendors.

If I had a dollar for every time a bride asked me “Do you have any photos of designs you’ve done in our ballroom?” I’d be rich enough to retire! Is it slightly advantageous to have a planner who is chummy with your Catering Director? Possibly. Will you save an hour if your planner already knows the measurements of your cocktail hour space? Maybe. But should it be the deciding factor in which planner you choose to hire? Absolutely not. I have done some of my best work in venues in which I’ve never stepped foot before. I personally love working in new spaces. I get a thrill out of designing with a clear head. I also look forward to building new professional relationships and venues are quite often a great source of business for planners. So a smart planner will likely work extra hard for you because they want to forge a long lasting referral relationship with this new venue. It’s simple: A good planner is like a strong vacuum. It works well in ALL rooms. (That’s my quote, not J.Lo’s!) 

Myth #4 Wedding Planners get brides discounts on everything.

I’m sure this myth is going to make many brides go “Whaaaaaaaaat????” And I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news but it’s simply not true. Do planners go out their way to provide you with bang for buck? Absolutely! But can they promise you thousands of dollars in discounted vendors fees? Unfortunately, that’s a big fat “NO!” As a planner I make every effort to sufficiently understand my client’s logistical and aesthetic needs as they relate to her budget. I then allocate funds appropriately, always allowing some cushion. I will search high and low to find good deals and sales on as many items as I can. If their budget is 75k, I want that wedding to look like they spent 85k!  But when it comes to other vendors and their fees…I am personally not comfortable taking food off other people’s tables. Vendors work hard. And while there is usually some room for fee negotiation, it’s somewhat insulting to ask them to dramatically lower their prices. Do I have an amazing arsenal of professional vendors that will go above and beyond for my clients? Yes! But I’m not going to ask them to slash their prices for a client. If you are the type of bride who wants an amazing deal on everything, then be sure to inquire about discounts when you’re interviewing planners. But be weary of planners who over promise and guarantee unbelievable discounts. Some things are simply too good to be true. 

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Myth #5 When you hire a wedding planner you’re stuck using their vendors.

This topic always comes up during consultations with potential clients. I would be lying if I said I didn’t prefer working with vendors I know and trust. Look at it from a planner’s perspective…we are discerning, detail oriented people with very high expectations. We only look as good as the team that is behind us. Weddings are big events and working with your tried and true “dream team” is a pretty awesome experience. From a selfish stand point, we don’t have to worry about “Will they get along with others?” Or “How do I know he will be on time?” We trust our recommended vendors because they have a proven track record. However, I also LOVE working with new vendors! I always do my research, check their reviews, talk to other vendors…it’s a bit of extra work, but it’s part of the job. I personally never make a bride hire someone I know. If she has someone in mind and I haven’t worked with them before, I will do my best to create a relationship and build trust with this person. There’s always a small element of risk when you’re working with someone new, but if your planner establishes parameters and sets proper expectations, there should be no problems at all!

In summation, when hiring a wedding planner be sure to touch on all of the important points: their process, how they work with vendors, where their strengths lie, and their pricing structure. But more importantly, be sure you have a good vibe and feel a strong connection with them. Regardless of their level of service, you will most likely be working for months and months with your planner. You really have to like them so that you can enjoy the process. Wedding planning has the potential to get ugly…so having someone on your side who can ease your worries, and make you laugh it off is priceless! Hiring a planner is not like hiring an accountant. It’s more than numbers, spreadsheets and the occasional conference call to discuss your annual write offs. It’s a relationship that is built on trust. A good planner can make your wedding planning process efficient and stress free. And if you’re lucky you can find one that also makes the experience actually enjoyable! 

Happy planning!

Should I Hire a Wedding Planner? by Jenny Orsini Events – Guest Post!

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