Ten Things Your Wedding Planner Won't Tell You from SmartMoney.com

Great article on the business of wedding planning! C+P from here:
http://biz.yahoo.com/weekend/weddingplanner_1.html

Family & Home
Ten Things Your Wedding Planner Won't Tell You
SmartMoney.com
By Ren?e DeFranco

1. "Something old, something new ? and everything over the top." Weddings sure aren't what they used to be. A sharp jump in what couples are willing to spend has boosted the wedding biz to a $120 billion industry, according to David Wood, president of the Association of Bridal Consultants. Today's nuptials, costing $27,000 on average, tend to be "much grander," Wood says. And the grander the affair, the more a couple needs help putting it together. Enter the wedding planner, a profession that emerged in the 1950s. Once catering to the wealthy elite, wedding planners have gone mainstream in recent decades, doubling their numbers over the past three years, to 20,000. Some 270,000 couples hired planners in 2006, up from 200,000 in 2003.

What accounts for the boom? For one thing, people are waiting longer to marry and are often too busy pursuing careers to plan their big day, says Shane McMurray, founder of research firm The Wedding Report. For another, more couples expect to re-create the lavish affairs they see in movies and the tabloids. "Celebrity weddings are influencing this elaborate, the-bigger-the-better theme," says Kathleen Murray, deputy editor of bridal site The Knot. "More couples want that."

2. "You say you need a reference? Well, you're looking at her." When Keisha Barnes and Christopher Johnson, of Cerritos, Calif., first met with a wedding planner, they say she showed up an hour late, then took them to see churches much too far away. After the next appointment, when she recommended Lutheran churches (the couple are nondenominational Christian), they began researching venues on their own. "I felt like I was the wedding planner and that I was servicing her," Barnes says. "She clearly had no idea what she was doing."

Since wedding planning requires no formal training, anyone can hang out a shingle, and a growing number of former brides are doing just that. "Many enjoyed the planning process themselves and have made it their living," says Claudia Hanlin, founder of consulting boutique Wedding Library. So how to tell a pro from a novice? The Association of Bridal Consultants, June Wedding and the International Special Events Society all recommend certified planners nationwide. Or ask a recent bride for a referral. Either way, call up former clients as a background check.

3. "I'll do whatever it takes to keep you calm, cool and oblivious." Just 15 minutes before setup, wedding planner Sasha Souza, of Napa, Calif., found out that the deejay she'd booked had been arrested. In a panic, she called up a sub, who lived three hours away, and told him to get there ASAP. What did she tell the bride? Nothing. Instead, she went to the groom, explaining that the deejay had been in a minor car accident and that a replacement was on his way but would be a little late. Playing the sympathy card worked beautifully: "I'm so worried about him," the groom responded. "Please tell him we're sorry." Says Souza: "I felt bad lying, but it was really for the best. The last thing you want is for the client to freak out on their wedding day."

Indeed, the best planners are those willing to take matters into their own hands when necessary. "There's no such thing as a perfect day," says Souza, who has planned weddings for boxer Fernando Vargas and for Extra host Dana Devon. Celebrity wedding planner Colin Cowie concurs: "If someone comes to me and says, 'I want the perfect wedding,' I'll tell her she's come to the wrong man. Things are always going wrong ? but that's why you need a professional."

4. "I won't necessarily be there on your big day." As the industry continues to grow, wedding consulting has gotten more specialized ? and confusing. Planners now offer tiers of service, from full (meaning they manage the entire process from start to finish and charge about 10 to 15% of the total wedding budget) to partial (they select the photographer, caterer and other vendors for an hourly rate of, say, $25) to day-of (they oversee the event as it happens, usually for a flat fee). In addition, many venues now offer complimentary "wedding planning" as part of their package. Unlike the independents, these venue-employed coordinators operate interchangeably, like a help desk; sometimes, the bride and groom have never met the person who shows up on their wedding day. The problem is, couples often mistake this type of help for a full-service planner, says Robbi Ernst, founder of consulting firm June Wedding.

Fortunately, couples often have more leverage in this situation than they presume: A simple request for the same coordinator to help out on the day of the wedding can be worked into most contracts, Ernst says. Be more specific in communicating your wishes, then "get it in writing."

5. "Congratulations, Gloria and Bill...um, I mean Marcia and Tom!" Tracy and Taj Haynes had timed their Jamaica wedding to begin at 6 p.m., just as the sun set over the Rose Hall Resort in Montego Bay. But they say that by the time the staff finished removing decorations from a previous wedding and redoing the venue, it was after 7 and already dark. Where was their planner? Running between the resort's three locations, where various weddings were taking place. Adding insult to injury, the seating chart for the reception was botched and champagne not provided to the guests. The venue "simply had too many weddings to deal with on that one day," Tracy Haynes says. (Rose Hall wedding planner Charlene Henry counters, "It is highly unlikely that somebody's wedding would be pushed back.")

A good planner knows how to handle high volume while making each couple feel like their wedding is the only one. Start by asking prospective planners how many events they work at once and how they cope with the overlap. "A consultant shouldn't have more than two weddings in a month, certainly not more than three," Ernst says. If they exceed that, "they don't stay in business very long."
Posted on May 18, 2007 at 12:40 pm
married2mrwright
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married2mrwright
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Ten Things Your Wedding Planner Won't Tell You - Continued


6. "Mixed marriage? Ka-ching!" With an increase in multicultural and interfaith weddings, consultants are cashing in on the opportunity to incorporate more than one tradition into a single event. Planner Heather Rohrer of the Wedding Lounge in Annville, Pa., says she recently suggested custom yarmulkes for guests as a way to honor a groom's Jewish heritage, a gesture that runs from $2 to $5 a head. "In our initial consultation, I'll ask if there's anything unique about a client's wedding, and that will open the door," she says. Just how much are these two-fer ceremonies costing couples? They add roughly $10,000 to the total amount, after factoring in additional dresses, tents and extra cocktail hours, Rohrer says. And that's just for one-day affairs, never mind those that run two days or longer.

To minimize the tab on your own blended ceremony, it helps to have a clear vision of what you want and to communicate that in the earliest stages, says planner Charles Banfield, of Charles Banfield Productions in Los Angeles. Also, if you're having more than one ceremony or event to accommodate separate traditions, consider working with the same vendors. "Many times, they'll come up with a special package," Rohrer says.

7. "The early bride gets the worm." Good wedding planners live by the calendar. So when you're getting ready to hire one, it's helpful to take a page out of her book: Start your search well in advance ? we're talking 10 to 15 months ahead of time, minimum. Not only will the planner you hire have more time to realize your vision, but she'll be more willing to cut you a good deal. That's because she'll be able to save money by locking in vendors, such as photographers and reception halls, so far ahead ? and before these vendors effect their annual rate increases, generally every January.

Another way to time yourself into savings is to get married during the "off season" ? typically December, January and February ? when wedding planners may offer reduced rates.

8. "Getting married in Hawaii? I'll bring the suntan lotion!" More than 250,000 couples held destination weddings last year, according to The Wedding Report, and most of them paid a pretty penny for the experience. While there's no getting around the extra fees and added cost of travel accommodations that make excursion weddings an expensive proposition, one place you may be able to score some savings is on your planner. Why? Destination weddings tend to attract a higher class of consultants, who are often more willing to underbid one another to get an enticing gig. "The more appealing the wedding is, the more I'll try to win a client over," says Claudia Hanlin, co-owner of the Wedding Library in New York City. "The Four Seasons in Nevis? We could tack on a vacation before and after!"

And that doesn't apply only to destination weddings ? local celebrations with a unique appeal can likewise land couples a better rate. For example, Hanlin says she might offer a price break when a particular wedding would make a nice addition to her portfolio or is held at a venue with which she wants to forge a relationship. Seattle-based wedding expert Martie Duncan adds that planners may also offer discounts for weddings that could give them entr?e into a specific demographic, such as the close-knit Greek community, where weddings tend to be large and expensive affairs. To finesse such a deal, "it couldn't hurt" to play up anything that is significant or unique about your event to prospective planners, Duncan says.

9. "Custom silk wedding fans, anyone?" Nowhere is the urge to splurge more evident than in the realm of wedding frills being foisted upon eager couples hungry to make their day special down to the last detail. From gourmet chocolate wedding-bell truffles to custom sparklers that guests light when newlyweds depart for their honeymoon, the favors at today's nuptials are plentiful, to say the least. "The wedding becomes an outlet to make a statement about your life," Wood explains. Needless to say, wedding planners have a big stake in this trend. Roughly three-quarters of full-service planners are now charging clients a percentage of the wedding's total budget, rather than setting a flat fee. And since a wedding consultant's commission grows in tandem with her clients' budget, she has powerful incentive to encourage couples to pull out all the stops on their big day ? and virtually none to negotiate with vendors for the best deal.

Fortunately, you can nip this kind of budget inflation in the bud. "This issue begins and ends with the contract," Kathleen Murray says. It's important to request a blueprint up front, everything from a statement of the budget to what the planner will do to meet it and how many hours of service will be given, she recommends.

10. "You don't really need me." When the industry started, wedding planners "mostly addressed invitations, rolled rice and showed up on the wedding day and created havoc," Ernst says. Since then, the magnitude of their responsibilities, as well as their reputability, has improved by leaps and bounds: "Now wedding planners are like Broadway producers for a one-day show," he says. But just as not every play is made for Broadway, not every wedding needs a professional planner. Given the amount of information readily available today ? including bridal magazines, how-to handbooks and the vast array of wedding-related Web sites ? couples can easily put on their own show if they choose to. "It sure isn't rocket science," Ernst says.

How to get started? Ask newlyweds and even big venues, like a prospective reception hall, for referrals for a deejay, photographer or other services, Ernst says. Chances things will go smoothly increase when you hire vendors that have worked together before. Then, once you've selected vendors and collected contracts, devise an event-day schedule and send it out to all your vendors two to three weeks prior to the wedding. The rest is icing on the cake, so to speak. Still daunted? Recruit your maid of honor or most reliable friend to help out. "Everyone wants to give a memorable wedding gift," Ernst says. "So ask for a gift of administrative help on your wedding day." Now, that's priceless.
Posted on May 18, 2007 at 12:41 pm
*Wil*
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I officially love this post.
Posted on May 19, 2007 at 6:02 am
johnandjanet
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johnandjanet

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Great post and great article! I thought this part was especially interesting: "Some 270,000 couples hired planners in 2006, up from 200,000 in 2003."

Truthfully I have never heard of hiring wedding planners until recently. A few years ago all the people I knew who got married did it by themselves (or rather, the girl did it by herself with a little help from the guy). With weddings getting much more elaborate, it makes sense that people are hiring planners since it takes so much work to organize and research everything.
Posted on May 20, 2007 at 5:44 am
hannikan
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07/22/2006
hannikan

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This is a great post!! I really had reservations about hiring a planner when I heard horror stories about ones who did nothing or majorly screwed up. We really couldn't afford one and certainly not to have it be a scam. I know some couples had great luck with them but we just felt like it was too much of a risk. Anyway, this was very interesting.
Posted on May 20, 2007 at 7:15 am
married2mrwright
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09/29/2007
married2mrwright

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Yea...we considered hiring a WC since we're planning a DW for Kauai from San Jose. But, I am such a budgetzilla and couldn't fork the $$$ over for someone to hire the same vendors I could hire myself for cheaper! (Luckily, Kauai is a small island, when it comes to weddings, so it's pretty easy to narrow down the field of vendors).

For example...two WC I contacted quoted me $375 and $400 for the SAME officiant I have hired for $250! Isn't that crazy? Obviosuly the mark-up is their cut! And these are both highly recommended WC's! So it stands to reason, that for the convenience of not stressing about the planning, you pay dearly! Luckily I have had the time and the interest in planning my DW from a far, but I certainly understand why many brides opt for a WC to do it all.

With the internet and email I have booked all of my vendors myself...and I will have an organzied friend do the DOC for me. And, thus far, I have been UNDER budget...so I can do all of the little things like nice OOT bags and multiple favors for my guests.

My best score so far (beside my $80 dress and $40 suit for FI) was the blue glass plates and wine glasses...I am SO happy about that one! When the wedding is small, you can "splurge" on the details like that and still not spend too much!
Posted on May 20, 2007 at 9:00 am
MrsBabySalute
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MrsBabySalute

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Obviously brides who want to do everything themselves are not the type of clients that the wedding planners are targeting. I have had brides who don't want to do a darn thing about their own wedding. There was one who even wanted me to pick out a bouquet for her because she thought it was "too much of a pain in the a**!" She said to me: "Which one is your favorite bouquet? Just order that one for me. I don't want to think about it!" So I had to tell her that I already had MY wedding and MY bouquet, so now it's HER turn to pick HER bouquet! Geez...
Posted on May 20, 2007 at 10:20 pm
srini
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srini

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What are some good DIY websites? How did people find out about them?

Get the word out! :)
Posted on May 21, 2007 at 7:48 pm
connie
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01/20/2008
connie

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Thanks for this post! It definitley gave me more of an insight on planners.
Posted on May 22, 2007 at 7:07 am
meocuenca
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meocuenca

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good info...

Posted on December 3, 2008 at 8:09 pm
Niecy
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09/06/2006
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Great post ....good information....I never understood hiring a planner unless it is really a matter of not having the time to do it yourself,  It definitely does not save you money .

Posted on December 4, 2008 at 5:55 am
heartsetfreebylove
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05/16/2009
heartsetfreebylove

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Great post! I want to be in the wedding idustry. I've wanted to do event planning for a long time (mainly miami club shows) I dont even know how I would get started in the wedding area and what I would do lol...


Which is why I work at sams club! :/


Thanks lori that was some great reading material

Posted on December 4, 2008 at 6:09 am
johanna1965
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07/20/2013
johanna1965

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There is a real need for wedding planners if you don't have the time or creativity to put your vision into place...or even to develop what you envision.  And, if your are spending any sizable amount of money on your events you want to make sure you are getting the best deals.  Planners have spent much more time than a bride can in searching out best deals, who will negotiate pricing, who has the best product/service, etc.  If you're doing a quicky wedding or a simple thing at home, maybe not, but if you are spending a good chunck, chances are the savings a planner has access to and the frustration they will save, it will be well worth every dime spent.  However, that being said, just like in any industry; Buyer beware.  Ask for references, pictures, etc.

Posted on October 17, 2013 at 4:58 pm
MOBRIDE72
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MOBRIDE72

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 For me a planner is priceless and if you do your homework you will find a reputable one. Mine took me dress shopping just the two of us. Not once has she tried to get me to go with a certain vendors. She gives me names of ones she has worked with as suggestions but doesn't try to upsell them.

Posted on October 18, 2013 at 10:56 am

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