Many brides hire the services of a pro these days and find their services invaluable. However, for those who have yet to tie the knot, what a wedding planner does is largely just one big mystery. In fact, ask your average single woman what a wedding planner is and she'll probably mumble something about J. Lo, bad movies and 'someone you pay to steal your fiancé'. As it turns out, that would not be one of their major functions. So what do they do then, you ask?! Anything you want, actually.
"We can be involved with anything and everything to do with your wedding", says wedding planner Kate Callanan of CT Weddings. "We can book the Priest and the Church, organise the venue, guest accommodation and dress fittings and secure reliable suppliers, from the DJ and band to the florist."
But don't worry; they don't have to run the whole show. "Wedding planners can be involved as much or as little as you like", says wedding planner Sandra Kelly of The Specialist. "Naturally, we can organize any and every aspect of your wedding but we can also play a more advisory role. We can offer inspiration and ideas for your wedding, drawing on our experience and past ceremonies, which is particularly useful if you're having a themed wedding. We can also recommend good suppliers for the various aspects of the wedding, pointing you in the direction that would most suit your needs and wishes and saving you time and energy."
But wedding planners aren't just for the disorganized and time-poor. They're also ideal for those who have it all organised and just want to sit back and relax in the run-up to the big day.
"Perhaps the bride would like me to step in the week of the wedding so she can spend some girlie time with her friends and family and have some stress-free time to herself", says wedding planner Judy Mullins of 'I do Weddings'. "I would then meet with all of the brides vendors and contact them again the day before the wedding. I would also be at the Church on the day and be on hand at the reception venue for the first hour until the happy couple are announced for dinner, to make sure it all goes off without a hitch."
Well, almost. Hitches and glitches are par for the course when you tie the knot and even wedding planners can't always stop these from happening. What they can do, however, is stop them from spoiling your big day. How? By ensuring that if things don't go to plan, then they go to plan B. "This is where a wedding planner on the day is indispensable", says Judy. "Should there be any hiccup with a vendor, I would have a back-up plan to act as a replacement on standby for the date of the brides wedding who could step in. This is a particularly important role of any planner, to make sure the bride isn't spending her big day stressing out."
The bride's sanity aside, the most important thing for your planner to take care of is getting you the best service possible at the best price. "As a wedding planner, you're only as good as your suppliers", says Kate. "The contacts and knowledge we have within the wedding industry enable us to get you the best service for your needs and your budget. Any vendors we recommend are always within your limitations. We don't aim solely to get you the best service nor the best price but rather, a combination of both."
Speaking of money, how do you measure the cost of hiring a wedding planner? Having someone to organise the most stressful day of your life is a service you'd do well to consider but, as with all good services, it comes at a price. But don't worry, you don't have to say 'I do' to a planner before you even know what's on offer. In fact, the initial consultation is often provided free of charge. "This is a preliminary meeting I have with any bride who gets in contact with me", says Sandra. "It is very informal, maybe a chat over coffee where we discuss what the bride wants. The main purpose of this meeting is to discuss the range of services you offer and for the bride to see if she feels comfortable and wants to avail of your services."
Once you decide to avail of their service, that's when the costs are incurred. While travel expenses and the time spent planning your wedding are both taken into account, the costs - like the functions of the wedding planner - depend largely on what the bride wants. Complete wedding co-ordination – where the planner organises practically everything – is generally measured by taking a percentage of the overall cost of the wedding, often with a minimum charge. "For the all-inclusive package, I charge 10% of the overall cost for instance", Judy explains. "Of course, we don't charge for things the bride sorted herself, such as the dress for instance." Partial co-ordination, on the other hand, is based on packages offered at set prices. "I offer a range of packages", says Sandra. "The advisory package would be quite cheap and then the more involved packages, based on décor or entertainment for instance, tend to be up in the high hundreds onwards."
However, just as every wedding is different, so too is the cost and the packages offered reflect this, acting more as guidelines than fixed services. "The packages I advertise are simply guidelines for what I can offer the bride at an approximate price", Judy explains. "The packages can be altered to suit a brides wishes and I would always advise the couple what, in my opinion, would suit them best so in that way, the cost would reflect the amount of work that I would be hired to do."
Whatever you pay though, you want to be sure that you get what you want. So how do you choose the right planner?