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Wedding Planning Series: Do You Need a Wedding Planner?

Throwback to Lead Planners Emma & Sarah on the job with our photographer BFF Ashley Durham... we love what we do!

You're engaged, now what? Check out the third part of Grace & Gold's "Wedding Planning Series," on whether or not you need to hire a wedding planner right now... or saving for that dream day-of coordinator farther down the line. 

Do you really need a planner?

So you have your budget, an idea of how many people you want to invite, where you might want to the wedding, and an approximate date… let’s do this thing! This is where I’m going to jump in for a little bit of a self-plug (as I am a wedding planner), but also another reality check.

There are days that I think wedding planning is super easy; other times it is pull-your-hair-out-by-the-roots infuriating. And everywhere else in between, even though I am not the one making all of the critical decisions! I would say, on average, this is the approximate amount of time I spend on wedding planning:

Day-Of Coordination: 30-45 hours

This includes building your timeline, checking in with your vendors, having at least 2 in-person meetings with my clients, about 10-15 hours of emailing or talking to clients on the phone about details, running the rehearsal, and 9-12 hours of work on the day (including setting up the ceremony/cocktail hour/reception décor, overseeing vendor load-in and load-out, loading gifts and cards into your car, overseeing cleanup).

Partial Planning: 75-90 hours

This includes everything I’ve done in day-of, but throw in all of the researching and negotiating of vendors for my clients (could be one vendor to all of them). There are about 5 in-person meetings, more emails/phone calls about the design, details, planning calendar, budgeting, etc.

Full Planning: 100-125 hours

Doing everything in partial planning, but most likely finding all of the vendors AND researching/finding the perfect venue. I’m attending meetings at some of the venues to help the couple decide, also assisting the couple to create a hotel block, maybe their wedding website, Pinterest boards.

Here are some things I don’t do (I can do the things with an *, but we need to discuss):

  • Creating your guest list
  • Assigning guests their final tables
  • Making the actual decision on vendors*, signing contracts and paying vendors
  • Creating your invitations and other paper goods*
  • Mailing your invitations*
  • Trying on dresses/tuxes/attire and selecting the winner!
  • Creating or buying any additional DIY décor*
  • Getting the marriage license
  • Doing your hair and makeup trial

Whew. Yeah, there is a lot there, and I know as soon as I publish this there will be something big I forgot to put in there. So, now I’m going to ask you to consider this list and ask yourself: what are you willing to tackle yourself? How much time can you really put in?

I’ve met plenty of go-getters who can handle nearly all of this (except for the day-of coordination stuff, they actually need to get married!), but it can be incredibly overwhelming. There are tons of resources out there to help you find vendors, venues, décor, etc., to make everything more manageable. I promise you that wedding planning on your own is totally doable. Just remember that at the end of the day, your time is valuable too! If you and your partner have full-time jobs that only give you evenings and weekends to plan, you might want to consider paying for extra help unless you really want to dedicate that time. And keep in mind that there are things you MUST do in-person, like seeing your ceremony or reception venue, trying on a dress/tux, etc.

A few other quick notes on time and it’s value…

DIY Décor:

I meet tons of brides who want to make a lot of their own décor, but you need to evaluate the cost to time ratio. When you take into account the time to buy the supplies, organize them, plan the design, and build the darn thing, what is the real cost? At our company we make lots of wedding welcome signs and seat assignment mirrors—even though we have the supplies ready, they still take us anywhere from 2-5 hours depending on how big the project is.  And these are things we are experienced in making!

Day-of Coordination

Yup, another plug. I implore you, no matter what your budget is, please try, try, try to put something in there for a day-of coordinator. You may be responsible for:

  • Crafting a timeline of events that are happening before the actual ceremony (when does hair and makeup start, when is the first look, how is grandma being transported, etc).
  • If you have a separate ceremony and reception, assigning someone to bring anything from the ceremony to your reception
  • Hunting down your vendors til the last second to verify when they are coming to setup
  • Assigning setup AND cleanup to someone (that means putting down your guestbook, cardbox, specialty décor, favors, millions of votive candles, this list is endless)

Sure, your venue may have a “venue coordinator,” but 9 times out of 10, then are NOT responsible for most of these things. Look at their job title: their responsibility is the venue (and they are usually overseeing a large team there!); a wedding coordinator’s responsibility is the wedding. There are some amazing venues where staff goes above and beyond, but you have to be extremely clear on everything you coordinator can guarantee that they can do.

Asking a Friend to Do This For You

Do you really want to ask someone to spend anywhere from 30-125+ hours helping you out? If you have a friend willing and capable, you can maybe go for it but keep in mind that you need to compensate them in some way… BUT, can they really be there on your wedding day? Don’t you want your friends and family to enjoy the day, not work it?  I have had the wonderful opportunity to help a close family friend plan their wedding, and it worked because they paid my full professional rate and I never would have expected to be invited to the wedding in the first place. The foundation of trust we had established made the whole process easy, but at the same time, I felt tremendous pressure to impress everyone because they were people I have had in my life for nearly 20 years!

So I encourage you to think about it now. Between this moment and your approximate date, can you get all of this done? As I said earlier, there are things you will absolutely have to do, but a full-service planner can manage most of it for you. Additionally, you can always bring someone in later in the process if you think you have a good foundation, but again, stash some money away for it! At a minimum, put away $1000-1500 for a day-of coordinator (yes, you can find them cheaper), it’s an investment I promise you will not regret!

If you think you need the extra help, start asking friends/family for recommendations, read reviews on The Knot or Wedding Wire, or if you have a venue, ask for a preferred vendors list. While I’ll go into more depth about this later, make sure you talk to your planner/coordinator at least on the phone to make sure there is a connection, chemistry. You are trusting this person with a lot of the major lifting on your big day, make sure you feel good about hiring them!