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A little bit of this, a little bit of that and BAM! you’re over budget! What happens next? You cannot cancel your contracts because most deposits are nonrefundable, and it’s difficult to negotiate a contract that has already been signed. According to John’s Golden Rule of Negotiating Contracts, “If you ask for something from the other party before you have a contract, it’s called “negotiating”. If you ask for something after you have a contract, it’s called “begging”. Taking this into consideration, hiring a professional event planner is an important decision. They will play a vital role in keeping you within budget. They have all heard “but I must have this!”, and can help you make wise decisions to keep you focused on what’s truly important.

Not everyone that says I’m a wedding and event planner is a true professional. You’ll see many postings on Craig’s List and other sites advertising $500 full wedding and event planning packages. BE WARY! You will get what you pay for, and at $500…that’s pretty close to nothing. Although a degree or certification is not required to be a wedding planner, it takes a very dedicated, organized individual with solid relationships with excellent vendors to help you stay within budget and never skimp on quality.

There are reputable associations like the Association of Bridal Consultants, ISES and NACE whose members must go through ongoing training to maintain their standing and be listed as a professional event planner. The following questions are a guide to help you find the wedding and event planning professional that will help you create your vision. Do not be afraid to ask as many questions as it takes to help you feel comfortable with the person that will be responsible for giving life to your event. 

1. How many weddings do you plan per year? More weddings do not mean that planners are better than others. Some planners choose to coordinate less weddings and events because they prefer to pay closer attention to their clients. Planners that coordinate a larger number of weddings per year have a larger staff to assist them.

2. Can I contact previous clients? With so many online review systems, you can probably find great reviews from a planner’s past clients. However, ask for a list and contact them yourself. Ask what they most liked about the planner… and what they least liked. Do not base your decision only on their positive comments. Make sure that you feel comfortable with your planner. You must like their personality and their skills as a whole. Remember, they will play a large role in your life and planning process. You want your experience to be a positive one!

3. Who will be my planner should you get sick, or cannot be physically present due to unforeseen illness or circumstances out of your control? Most planners have at least one assistant that works each wedding through the preliminary stages and execution of the event. Ask to meet that person and become acquainted with them. They also work with other professional planners that can step in if a emergency occured. You as the client should not be responsible for any additional fees the replacement coordinator would charge, in any.  

4. Do you coordinate small and/or large weddings? Coordinating a 500 person wedding and/or event is no easy task. Ask if your planner has experience with large groups if it applies to your event. You should ask this for small weddings and events too. Some planners have established minimum budget requirements.

5. Will you attend all appointments with me? Many planners have outlined packages and the level of services they include in each. If you need a planner to attend each appointment with you, or possibly for you, you’ll want to hire the planner for their full planning package. Selecting a lesser package and adding more services later can add up quickly.

6. Will you negotiate all contracts before I sign the agreements? Planners will contact a few vendors within your style and budget to verify availability and schedule appointments for you (depending on the services you have requested from them). Most contracts, if not all, will be sent to your planner. They should discuss pricing and negotiate with the vendors on your behalf.

7. What type of packages do you offer? Many planners have their packages listed on their website. The most common packages are Full Service, Custom and Day Of Coordination (applies mainly for weddings). Custom packages can be discussed based on what you need from the planner. Remember, the planner can be involved as much or as little as you need them to be.

8. Can I hire my own vendors? While experienced planners have a preferred vendors list, many are open to working with new vendors. Keep in mind that they cannot vouch for their services if they behave unprofessionally.

9. Will you be the primary contact for my vendors and bridal party? Yes, you’re planner should have the phone number for every person in the bridal party and the couple’s parents. They should also have each vendor’s phone number at hand should any situation or emergency arise. This applies to Day Of Planners also.

10. Do you plan destination weddings? If your wedding is not local, ask your planner if they have experience planning a wedding at your destination? Seeking help from a professional planner at your destination is helpful as they know the vendors in their area.

11. Can you help me with proper etiquette? Yes, planners can assist you with proper wording and etiquette for each type of invitation, delivering messages to your guests nicely and how to let your guests know where you are registered.

You MUST feel confident in your planners ability to deliver your vision. Do they fully understand what you need? Do they offer suggestions to help you accomplish your goal? Always follow your gut instinct. If you do not click with a planner during the initial consultation, contact others in our area.

Quote from The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Meeting and Event Planning by Robin E. Craven and Lynn Johnson Golabowski.

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