Image: David Bastianoni
Today I’m delighted to be introducing a very awesome guest poster, the divine Anna MacDougall from Bride & Glory. Lovely Anna has written a very enlightening piece on the hows, whys and wherefores of wedding planners. Should you, shouldn’t you, what should you be looking for if you do want one, and what exactly will you be getting for your wonga? Anna has all the answers…
Hello my Darling STG readers — I couldn’t be whooping with joy any louder for having the pleasure of writing to (and for) you today. I have a habit of yacking, so I shan’t ‘preamble’ too much and will dive right in. If, however, you do want to know more about why I may know a thing or two about this topic, just have a look here.
HIRE OR FIRE
Soooo — to hire a wedding planner or not, that is one of the questions you may or may not have been contemplating on your wedding planning journey. Please don’t think “oh here we go, a hidden sales piece”. This truly isn’t — it’s just to give you a little insight and perhaps food for thought.
And if you only take one nugget of information away from this then please please let it be that no, wedding planners are not like the movies (I’m really nothing like J-Lo) and we’re also not clipboard-wielding tyrants who will take over your day. At least most of us aren’t.
Jennifer Lopez in the 2001 romantic comedy, ‘The Wedding Planner’
WHAT IS A PLANNER
Perhaps the best way to think of a wedding planner is like an additional safety net — he/she has been hired to look after you and your family and your collective interests and to make sure your wedding day runs exactly the way you planned it. So whether you need to be sewn back into your dress after an unfortunate rip, whether we need to be there with a fan and a paper bag if the heat and excitement of the day makes you hyperventilate, whether you want to us to replicate the pictures of how you want your grandma’s vintage trunk display to be laid out, whether you want us to help charm the registrar into holding off for just another 5 minutes until the drizzle stops and you can have the outdoor pagoda ceremony you so desperately wanted — there is very little any wedding planner worth their weight won’t do for you.
But let’s start with a brief terminology insight you may have come across and gotten all confused about. So what’s the difference between a wedding designer, planner and coordinator?
THE THREE ‘SPECIES’ OF WEDDING PLANNER
Although there are crossover areas for all three, very broadly speaking, a wedding designer is someone who will mainly help make your vision come to life by giving you ideas and sourcing the elements that complete your wedding day in terms of style and design. They usually style your venue on your wedding day but don’t get involved with the operational side of supplier and schedule management etc.
Wedding planners sit somewhere in the middle — they mostly work with couples for a longer period of the wedding planning process and help to source and manage some or all of the suppliers, can assist managing the budget, can be involved with the styling process and are often there on the day to make sure everything runs to plan — to name but a few of their duties.
And then there are wedding coordinators, which is mostly what I do. As opposed to the above, wedding coordinators mostly help to take over the operational and logistics side of the wedding day so that all the elements you so painstakingly planned are put in place just as you pictured them. In a way, a wedding coordinator is the guardian of your vision (to quote my mentor), or as I always say to my couples, I’m there to become the event manager ‘you’ so you can focus on being the bride and groom ‘yous’.
THE TRUTH ABOUT WEDDINGS
Weddings are big productions these days, and I truly get that you want the day to be perfect, bells, whistles ‘n all. Please don’t forget though that you’re not doing all of this because you decided to spend an enormous amount of money on a big party on a whim — the main reason was/is to promise your best friend to spend the rest of your lives together, and that’s what your head and heart should be focussed on when you wake up on your wedding day.
Bride & Glory bridal SOS kit (Image: Kate Hopewell-Smith)
SO WHO HIRES A WEDDING PLANNER/COORDINATOR?
Contrary to popular belief, wedding planners are not just for the rich and famous. I’ve worked with couples with budgets ranging between £11,000 and £95,000, from 40 guests to 290. Their wedding days couldn’t have been any more different but they all had one thing in common: they all worked hard in their day-to-day jobs, had a limited amount of spare time and wanted to make sure they didn’t wake up on their wedding morning exhausted and still worrying about the weather, if the band really was going to rock up on time and whether the caterers did remember that Auntie Mae is severely lactose-intolerant.
A lot of couples these days don’t like to go for a ‘package’ style wedding, where everything is prescribed to them. Instead, they want to spend their hard earned cash on creating exactly the day they’ve pictured. I think this is simply wonderful — there’s nothing nicer than walking into a wedding only to think “Oh this is so Jack & June”. What it does mean though is that you may end up having to source and manage somewhere between 14 to 20 independent suppliers, which is where the exhausting part comes in. No matter how much you love your spread sheets and how beautifully colour-coordinated your wedding folder is, the reality of keeping on top of contracts, deposits, final balances and logistics is that it’s time-consuming and pretty darn dull.
Do you recognise yourself in any of the above? If so, you may want to explore the option of hiring someone to help take that administrational and operational side off your knotted shoulders so you can free up some time to enjoy the planning process.
In a nutshell: couples who hire a planner or coordinator are often busy at work with a limited amount of time to do the legwork. They mostly know what they want, they just need a little help to get access to the right suppliers and for someone to take over the tedious operational part. They are often project- or event managers (or very organised people) who know themselves well enough to understand that they won’t be able to relax on the day until they know there is someone there to do it all on their behalf. Or the other extreme, they are very disorganised, break out in hives at the thought of a spread sheet and just need someone to guide them through the wedding jungle. And then there’s the ‘DIY Bride’, who has spent a lot of time sourcing decorations and specific details and just wants that one person she can brief on how to put it all in place on the day.
AND WHO DOESN’T
Hundreds of weddings take place every day without the help of a planner or coordinator and most of them will come together just beautifully. If you surround yourself with a team of professionals who carry out their jobs with utmost efficiency and care, you may not even need to think about the extra expense for a planner. I’ve worked with caterers and venue managers who have been the most fantastic event managers, stepping in wherever needed and making sure your day was flawless. Some of them literally couldn’t do enough for the couples, which was just wonderful to see and in those cases, we all just worked together like one big happy-clappy team.
In a nutshell: couples who don’t work with a planner tend to be very organised and positively thrive on wedmin. Contrary to some others, they may have more time to spare on the wedding planning process and don’t mind spending a lot of evenings and weekends searching for venues and suppliers to create the wedding day that perfectly suits them. They often have an incredibly good team around them, both in terms of suppliers and their families and friends, who help to ease the pressure on bride and groom by taking over wedding duties, both prior to and on their wedding day. They may also have a fantastically proactive venue manager who guides them through the planning process and who they fully trust to run things on the day. Or the other extreme, they are so fantastically laid back they’re practically horizontal and are happy to just go with the flow.
Anna McDougall with one of her brides (Image: CP Photography)
WHAT MAKES A GOOD WEDDING PLANNER
Which brings my to last point before I release you back into your world of wedmin: how to find the aforementioned ‘worthy planner’. What you absolutely must know is that wedding planning is an unregulated profession and anyone can call himself/herself a planner on a whim. This means that, for every utterly professional and hard working planner out there, you’ll find one that won’t quite live up to the same standards. We’re a bit like builders: some are amazing, some not so much.
When picking the right planner, two aspects are most important: their professional credentials and whether you like them. To cover yourself on the former, make sure you dig deep in your research.
Do they have a professional website and do you like their style? How long have they been in business? Are they able to put you in touch with former clients so you can hear from the proverbial horse’s mouth whether they’re any good? Are they covered by the relevant insurances (mostly Public Liability and preferably also Professional Indemnity)? What are their T&Cs?
Once you’re happy that you’re looking at a professional and you’ve checked that their pricing works with your budget, the only thing standing in your way is whether you like them. The best references in the world can’t make up for your personalities not clicking. Remember that you’re bound to become pretty close to your planner and that speaking to them should feel almost a little like yacking with a friend. Don’t be afraid to keep looking until you find the one that’s just right for you. He or she is out there!
And with that, my Ducks, I shall love you and leave you for today.
I sincerely hope that you found the information useful and please remember that, if you do have any questions, I will always gladly help so just give me a call, send me an email, release a carrier pigeon — you know where to find me if you need me.
Love, rockets and noodles of love,