To Hire a Planner, or Not to Hire a Planner

If you watch as many bridal reality shows as I do (all in the line of duty), you could quickly come to the conclusion that hiring a wedding planner is as inevitable a part of wedding planning as choosing a bouquet. The vast majority of shows are either about how couples who have hired planners delight in the results or how celebrity planners can swoop in and save an inept bride from her own pathetic tastes and lackluster abilities.

The truth is, though, that planners are hired in only a small fraction (I’ve heard as low as ten percent) of all American weddings. Some of these planners are hired only as day-of coordinators, too. It’s not inevitable. It’s simply one option available to a modern couple.

So how do you decide if a wedding planner is for you? Read on and find out.

How organized are you? Really think about this. Do you meet deadlines well, or do you put things off until it’s too late to get what you want? Do you keep good records or do you lose important notes at critical times? If you’re naturally organized, you don’t really need someone to organize things for you, do you? If, on the other hand, you’re usually a bit scattered, having someone more organized to help you keep on track might not be a bad idea.

How much non-professional help do you have access to? If you’ve got lots of family and friends willing to help out – and willing to take your direction – then having a planner could turn out to be redundant. If you’re an orphan of the storm or the people around you will only lift a finger on their own terms, it could be useful to have a professional by your side helping you negotiate for what you need.

Do you get intimidated by vendors? If so, the right wedding planner could be hugely helpful in getting your ideas and requirements across to other vendors… but only if you find one you can communicate with easily. If you’re used to talking to people about contracting services, chances are you don’t need the negotiator.

Are there tasks you can’t/don’t want to handle? Sometimes there are plenty of things you can do for yourself, but one or two aspects you just can’t be bothered with or aren’t any good at. If you’re not going to do it and you can’t count on someone else in your circle to do it, it might be worthwhile to hire a planner to take care of just a couple aspects. or to coordinate matters on the day itself.

How much research do you need to do? If you have no idea what venues, caterers, photographers, or linen rental companies there are in your area, hiring a planner could well make sense. (S)he will know the vendors available and have a pretty good idea how reliable they are. Give a planner a list of what you want, and let him or her winnow down the choices so you don’t waste a lot of time going from one place to another only to be disappointed. If you’re getting married at your childhood church with a reception held in your uncle’s restaurant and your cousin’s band is playing, clearly this is not a service you need.

How close are you to the wedding site? A lot of weddings are held in places where the bride and groom don’t live anymore… or never did live. If your mother lives there and wants to plan (and you trust her to do so to your tastes!), then you’re probably fine letting her take care of details. But if good old mom doesn’t live there anymore, either, or if her idea of a wedding and yours are similar only in the fact that someone gets married, send in a local pro and relax a little.

How hands-on are you about projects? Look, some brides care about making every decision themselves. Others would prefer to just show up and be told where to stand. There is nothing wrong with either approach or any in between, but it makes a huge difference in whether or not a planner is for you. I was a DIY, fingers in very pie sort of bride. By the end of the process, a planner and I would have wound up being the two cats of Kilkenny and slaughtered each other. Not having a planner allowed me to just relax in my own way. I knew I had dotted every i and crossed every t to my own satisfaction. It made me terribly zen. My sister-in-law, however, probably could have used a professional to hold her hand and calm her down.

There’s no right or wrong answer to the question of whether to have a professional wedding planner. There’s only what works – or doesn’t work – for you.

2 Responses to “To Hire a Planner, or Not to Hire a Planner”

  1. Toni says:

    Another question is, will one of your already hired professionals de facto take over the planning issues? My wedding photographers were veteran professionals, and had lists of vendors and pre-made timelines ready for me to use. Granted, I’m sure the “suggested vendors” list was a mutual promotion type of thing, but I trusted them enough to know they would only make reliable recommendations. Also, the timelines were also for their benefit, so they’d know when and where to be for important photo ops, but it was also hugely helpful in letting me reverse engineer the day so I knew when things needed to happen so that there’d be time for everything.

  2. Looking back, I think I would have sprung for a planner if we could have figured out a way to make it work within our budget, simply because I was planning a wedding in Central Florida from my headquarters in Boston. I was basically flying blind, putting trust in vendors (luckily it all turned out all right) that I never met in person, choosing cake without ever having a nibble, and so on. It was kind of a nerve-racking process! And frankly, I had so little hands-on help that I would have been happy to sit back and let someone else make the decisions!