On average, planning a wedding can take as much as 400-500 hours of work. And this is where we have to say: there’s no shame in asking for a little help. Wedding planners and designers can be lifesavers when it comes to pulling off the biggest party of your life. Not only do they have the experience and know-how, they also have the connections to save their couples time and money when pulling it all together.
Event stylist Jenn Elliott Blake provides an easy rundown of the different types of wedding pros: “The simplest way to think about it is a planner deals with the logistics (when you walk down the aisle, what time the first dance starts), the designer helps you create and execute decor ideas (you show them an inspiration photo and they help you find a way to interpret it and create that vision), and a stylist is someone who will be there on the day to perfect all the decor details for photos (the brides dress in formal photos, the details on the dinner table). Sometimes a planner can also be a designer, sometimes the designer can also be the stylist. Be sure to ask up front when you are considering someone to help you with your day what area they are most comfortable with.”
As you decide whether or not you need a wedding planner, designer, or stylist, and what kind of wedding pro you need, ask yourself if you want someone to help you from the beginning through your big day or if you’re just looking for an extra hand through the final push. “It’s worth meeting with two to three planners. It’s also worthwhile to ask your friends or coworkers if they have any recommendations. Consultations with wedding planners are typically complimentary so why not,” says Lauren Sozman of Loli Events.
Set up consultations with at least three different planners / designers to find out which one is right for you.
FINDING THE RIGHT WEDDING PLANNER
Your wedding planner and / or designer’s job is to make your life easier, and your job is to let them handle the details while you focus on the big picture. You’ll know you’ve found the right wedding planner or designer when he or she gets your vision and puts you at ease. If you feel comfortable putting your party in his or her hands and confident that what needs to get done will get done, then you’ve found the one.
When asked what couples should bring to their first consultation, event stylist and planner Jessica Sloane says, “Nothing. I actually prefer that we start with a clean slate! But of course, I want them to come with their questions, so that I can answer those. And my clients always have a notebook with them to jot stuff down since our work is very collaborative.”We’ll target narrowing down your choices and signing the paperwork in two weeks time (and we’ll remind you again on week 35)
If you plan to get married in a house of worship, the venue and the officiant are usually a package deal. One of the pastors, rabbis, or religious officials associated with your church, temple, or house of worship will officiate, and you’ll meet with them to set your ceremony date and time. If you have an idea of who you’d like to marry you, but he or she is not associated with a particular house of worship, reach out to get an idea of his or her availability so that you can make sure it lines up with the dates that your venue is available.
Even if you’re already familiar with your officiant, it’s a good idea to set up a consultation and run through a few basic questions so that you have a good idea as to what his or her typical wedding ceremony looks like. Depending on the religion or denomination, your officiant might want to meet with the two of you for premarital counseling sessions before the big day, and he or she might have feedback as to how long your ceremony should be, what kinds of readings should be included, and whether you’re allowed to write your own vows.
Though it’s unlikely that your officiant will request a specific fee, they usually have a suggested donation for their time (especially if attending your wedding will involve travel). It’s a good idea to ask about this upfront. Once your officiant is on board, remember to include him or her on the guest list for the reception and as well as the seating chart as a way of showing thanks for having made your marriage legal and binding.
Finally, if you want a friend or family member to officiate your wedding, you’ll need to check your state’s laws regarding what is needed to legally officiate a wedding. Some states offer programs that allow anyone to be deputized for a short period of time to perform a marriage ceremony, or your friend can look into the requirements to be legally ordained to perform marriages. If you choose to go this route, allow a couple weeks for your friend or family member to go through the deputization or ordination process.
SIGNING THE VENUE CONTRACT
Once you’ve found the right venue or venues, look over a contract to make sure it includes all of the information below:
- Who: name and contact info (your’s and their’s)
- What: everything they’ll be providing (ceremony location, reception location, rehearsal space and time, tables and chairs, and terms for guests and vendors)
- Where: the location of your events
- When: dates and times of event and length of time venue is available to you
- How much: cost of venue
- Receipt: the deposit paid, the balance due and due dates
- Uh oh: cancellation and overtime policies and emergencies
Additionally, ask for a floor plan of your venue if it’s not already included. You’ll use that later as you or your wedding planner or designer decide how to make the space work for you. Once you sign the contract, make a copy and file it in a place that will be easily accessible throughout your planning process.