As we move into late spring into the even warmer months of summer, some of you are planning those summer and fall weddings. If you are considering hiring a planner, this post is for you. First let's get a little reality check, WEDDINGS ARE EXPENSIVE! Yes, I said it. I'm not trying to scare you or anything like that, but they are. Don't go pulling your hair out, there are plenty of ways to cut cost and put those savings towards the honeymoon or a family vacay.
Check out a post I did a while back, The Pinterest Effect | 19 Money-saving Tips for Your Next Party, HERE.
One of the best ways to help save money is to hire a planner. Many of my clients started out with big ideas with a little planning, but then they start running into problems. By problems I mean, the costs list is now a full page long. My job is to take that long full page and trimmed it to at least half of that. How do I do that?
I answer the questions that my clients didn't or don't know to asked, (this would be a great time to save this post). Most people come into a meeting with with the million-dollar question, "how much can you do a wedding or event for X amount of dollars?" My answer is and will always be depends. In my opinion there's not a set amount that you can put on a party. What's the saying parents with multiple kids say, "every child is different." The same goes for every party or reception. Now there are exceptions to the rule, a 50-guests party is a lot easier to estimate the cost then that of a higher guest count. One of the reasons is with a smaller guests list, spending for 50 is not bad, but let's say your guests list is 200 and you spend for 200 and only 100 shows up, you just overspend a lot of money for empty seats. You see the math? and trust me the dollars and cents adds up.
So then, what exactly should you be asking your planner? and remember this post is not just for wedding planners, any event coordinators can benefit from this list. Whether you're hosting a benefit or fundraiser, child's birthday or family reunion, these questions will help save you hundreds.
1. Do you have specific vendors that you worked with?
Very important question. Most planners or designers have a preferred list of vendors that they work with and that relationship can translate to big discounts for you.
2. What kind of discounts I can get through your vendors?
This goes with question number 1, but needed it's own number on the list. Once you find what about the preferred vendor, don't be afraid to ask, how can going with one of their people will save you money. If they quoting you the same $7.00 for 7-feet rectangular poly table cover as an outside vendor, then there's no savings. And by bringing that up to your planner, you may be able to get a discount and pay $6.00 for each cover. Remember dollars and cents adds up.
3. Forget price, (yes I mean it). If your planner gives you a set quote for "everything." without knowing the details of your event, then be sure to asked, what does your quote covers?
If planner says "I can do it ALL for $500", before you get all happy, find out what does $500 covers. Nowadays, cutting corners is the new way. Will they help setup? take down? any vendors included? decorations? etc... Take out your pen and paper and get everything down in writing.
4. How do you want to be paid?
Some planners won't accept personal checks, while others have PayPal set up for collecting payments for services rendered. Be clear on your payment options and any cancellation fees.
5. Have you worked with this type of venue layout before?
Some rooms are square, some rectangular and others circle shaped. You need someone that understands the difference. You may think adding a table here and a table there is a great idea, but you may not be taking into account walkways, dance floor, DJ setup area, food and drinks area. I have to add, just because your planner have never had an event in a particular venue or hall, doesn't mean they can't handle the task. Some venues or halls have their own round tables while some only uses rectangular tables and you're really set on round tables. Make sure you AND your planner is made aware of these little details. I worked on a baby shower where the hall only uses rectangular table and mommy-to-be wanted round, so I was able to get her a discount through one of my vendors and got her the round tables.
6. Can you elaborate on your experience
This is not so easy to answer, some planners are new to the industry and what they lack for in experience they more than make up for in creativity. The opposite can be said, some seasoned and experienced planners may be able to do the job, but their time and attention are spread thin. If you're planning a big event, I would strongly suggest going with someone who have worked that type of event size. That suggestion is made in part that a more experienced planner, won't get overwhelmed by the job, while a newbie missed key details. One of the weddings that I worked on was for 200-plus guests count. A few years ago, I might need a shot of vodka to calm my nerves. So how do you handle that question? Sit down and listen to each other. Your planner should be able to give you ideas, while listening to yours.
7. Can you work in my budget? (what can I increase or decrease in my budget)
Going back to number 3, since you already have an idea on how much you want to spend, it's a good idea to mention it to your planner. If your budget is $5,000 after your meeting, your planner should have a better understanding whether it's possible or not. I had one client who told me her budget for decorations was $1,000 but after talking to her and listening to her vision, I explained that her budget and vision are not inline. We made the necessary changes and came to an agreed amount that we were both happy with. Most people don't really know the cost of renting table and chair covers or the cost of centerpieces made of hydrangeas and peonies. So you as the client must be mindful of that. I always ask my clients to give me three things or ideas that they will not compromise on and be open with the rest.
8. What are your hours and availability?
I know better than to not address that question before leaving any meeting. Changing the layout of the room IS NOT an emergency. There's no need to call your planner at 10:00 PM. I have designated time to answer emails, phone calls, blog post and social media. I don't keep my schedule strict, life is all about balance and adjusting, however I will not make myself available to any one client 24-7, well okay unless you're Beyonce but I think you guys can forgive me on that. Everyone wants to feel important but they are boundaries in order not to abuse your relationship with your planner. If they have a 9 to 5 hours, then be sure to call within those hours. I love email and find it easier to work with while multi-tasking. Figure out which form of communication will work for you two and don't abuse it. Imagine your boss calling you at 8:00 PM to discuss numbers.
9. Will you be there the "day-of?"
What you're looking for is a day-of coordinator. Your planner DOES NOT have to be there the day of, well, that is after setting up and making sure everything is done. But, if you're looking for someone to coordinate your actual event, you may have to hire someone else or ask if your planner can to it for a fee OR is that included in their fees.
10. Do you have a partner?
Emergencies are part of life, what if your planner have an unforeseen emergency, does he or she have someone there to make sure your event is all set up and things go on as planned? It might be the OCD in me, but I always contemplate different scenarios and have a contingency plan in place for all those, "what-ifs." Some planners are solo acts, which is fine, just make sure EVERYTHING is outlined, planned and set up to avoid any misunderstandings.
I hope you've learned something from this post. As I moved forward in my career and in life, I learned what works and appreciate learning from what didn't work. I'm less afraid to ask questions and more willing to compromise on the small things. The planning process should be fun, yes it can get stressful, but it shouldn't be so worrisome that you loath hearing the word planning. If you're going though a bottle of wine each time you sit down to plan, it's time to call in reinforcement and hire a planner.
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