As you may have noticed the other day, Justin Douglas helped us out with the pros and cons of a first look. At the same time, he asked me to guest blog for him about hiring a wedding planner. It's great word vomit so I thought I would post over here as well!
I’ll start by defining the difference between an event manager, often coined ‘day of’ or ‘month of’ coordinator, and a full service planner:
Event Manager- this person helps you get launched. They provide tools and resources that allow you to navigate the chaos with direction. You are then responsible for planning the wedding! As your date nears, your event manager steps in and becomes hands on by attending a venue walk through and contacting your vendors. This usually occurs in the last 6-12 weeks and while some event managers offer to be a sounding board throughout, not all do. Also, not all event management teams assign a manager until closer to the date, which is what makes the most sense anyway.
Full Service Planner- this person walks you through each step and depending on the company, does most of the steps with and for you. Each company may vary, for example, some will attend your bridal portraits to assist with wardrobe changes and props and others won’t.
Cool, so we’re all on the same page here. What can one of these pros do for you that you can’t do for yourself? I’m going to answer that question by tackling the most common push-back to hiring a planner. It's timely because I had an inquiry just this week that had some of these questions and I was able to share some of this info with her- spurring a really great conversation.
It’s expensive, not in my budget or more than I budgeted….
And all the planners say ‘good luck to ya’. I sometimes leave weddings feeling like I ran a marathon and I think to myself ‘that would have been an absolute disaster if I wasn’t there…. no way could they have done that without me’. We aren’t being salesy. We just know what it takes and not having done this, you will wake up after the wedding and feel like you got hit by a truck and ironically, will likely have spent more money than if you had just hired the pro. If you think hiring a professional is expensive, wait till you hire the amateur or let a friend / family member help and start spending extra to fix their mistakes. I saved a bride $6,000 last month and while it may not always be that much, it’s usually enough to offset my cost completely. But hear me now and hear me loud: it’s not because we ask our vendor friends for discounts (discounts are a dirty word to vendors). It is because we pair you with the right fit from the beginning.
For a seasoned event manager, one can expect to spend between $2,000-3,000 in Austin. Before you think you’re dishing out $2,500 for 8 hours of service on a wedding day, this usually entails 40+ hours of work. 40+ hours of being the single reason your wedding is a success, costing less than every single vendor with the exception of your baker and sometimes DJ. In addition to the hours spent, they have salaries, rent, taxes, and other business related costs that are very expensive. There are only so many weekends in a year and we aren’t working all of them. A pro simply can't sustain at anything less. Plenty make well over 6 figures with their businesses but take home less than a teacher. All for a position that is considered the top five most stressful in the country above C-Suite execs and among first responders. #transparency!
My venue has someone that helps. They said I don’t need to hire anyone...
Alright, let’s unpack that. The biggest myth here is that they are working for you. Their loyalty is with the venue so on the wedding day, they are stocking toilet paper, fixing electrical issues and making sure vendors don’t park on top of the septic tank. All while managing your timeline? Another thing to consider is that they do events all week; you are a number to them. Based on this, they are spread thin on being able to assist along the way and vendor reconciliation (if even offered) is minimal, leaving room for errors. The biggest thing to ask here: is there a venue manager AND an event manager or is the same person trying to do both? Short and sweet, if the same person, they don’t have the bandwidth you deserve. For more on this topic, from the mouth of a former venue manager, now event manager, pop over here.
I have family and some friends that are willing to help…
Great, let’s find things for them to do but during the days leading up to the wedding, they need clear head-space to be your emotional support and on the wedding day, they need to be a guest. Weddings are reunions and they want to spend time mingling and catching up with old friends. Also, when alcohol and dancing act as a dangling carrot, who knows where the focus may shift. Furthermore, your family and friends are not familiar with policies and even state laws that have to be factored into planning a large event. Most importantly, they won’t have all of the information so when a vendor needs something, they’ll end up asking you anyway and you may as well just be coordinating things yourself at that point. Do they know to ask the DJ if he is bringing a table and linen, because not all do? Do they know the science behind timing on a sparkler exit? Do they know who is laying the linens and did they make sure that person arrives before the florist does? Did they remember to put chairs out for the string quartet and did they inform your photog that you have a videographer and vise versa because that can create conflict? Did you know these things need to be done? Hire a pro.
My vendors do this all the time and can manage themselves….
So you’re going to spend over $5,000 on a photographer and expect them to capture $5k worth of images without someone giving cues? I recently had a DJ jump the gun on announcing toasts while the photographer was in the other room. I SPRINTED to get her so she could take photos of that ‘once in a lifetime’ moment. Tell me how your vendors can manage themselves in situations like that? If you spend tens of thousands on your wedding and don’t put a driver in a car full of vendors, you are walking the plank to a sea of sadness. I’m actually in the process of writing a book about the horror stories vendors tell about weddings that don’t have an event manager. They can’t do their job and when you finally notice, it’s likely too late. It puts everyone in a bad position. Again, hire a pro that can vet the final stages, manage the day and create opportunity for team success.
The blogs have me organized and on my way….
Awesome! I am a blog, Instagram and wedding magazine addict myself. But is that magazine going to conduct rehearsal, light your candles and make sure no one steals your card box? And are those articles specific to your market? Do they have insight on your style and budget? Without a personal relationship and real conversation, they can’t match you with your perfect vendor team and they certainly can’t reconcile details towards the end or manage your day for you.
So now that you have some insight to the heavy lifting, I hope you’ll consider hiring a professional event manager or wedding planner. And for my parting words, please let the idea of a ‘day of’ coordinator go. Seasoned pros just aren’t willing to put their reputations at stake to execute an event that someone else planned.