Planners make sure events go smoothly

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— Choosing a wedding planner is the most important choice you'll make while putting together your special day. But first-time brides are often naÃive and end up paying more than they should or giving into pressure to hire someone they may not like.

Jill Waldman, owner of The Main Event, gives several pieces of advice.

First, do not hire someone who charges a percentage of your budget, she said. Instead, hire a planner who charges a flat hourly rate.

"If they are getting a percent of your budget, they are not going to help you save money," Waldman said, "and you'll end up paying for services you don't necessarily need."

Second, choose a planner you get along with on a personal level.

"Even if their reputation is great, you need to feel a connection with that person," Waldman said. "This is an intimate relationship, just like the one you have with a doctor."

Your planner meets your family, sees the emotions and is with you during all of the problems that come along with planning a wedding. "This person needs to mesh with your personality and with your family," she said.

Third, don't hire a planner who has a minimum number of hours they will work in order to take the job.

"You may just want to have a five-hour consultation and do the rest yourself," Waldman said. But also be fair about the work you expect the planner to do. Don't expect a 200-person wedding to be organized in 10 hours.

Because of the number of details involved in planning a wedding, Waldman suggests starting a year in advance.

"More is best," she said.

Not everyone needs a wedding planner, but Waldman suggests hiring one if you have a large group of people coming in from out of town. The wedding planner will put together the itinerary for your guests and arrange lodging.

She also suggests that brides who have full-time jobs hire a planner for the big event.

"The average wedding takes 75 hours to plan and you will need one," Waldman said.

When Waldman meets her clients for the first time, she cuts right to the most important subject -- budget.

A lot of people have a "figure it out as we go" attitude, but Waldman said that is a bad idea.

"Every parent has a dollar figure and a comfort level," she said. "It usually takes a while, but we need to get to the bottom line in order to keep everyone happy."

When the financial issues are decided, it relieves a source of stress for the rest of the event.

"It's very stressful if you don't know how much you are going to spend and who is paying," Waldman said. "And what happens is it gets messy."

After the budget is decided, the venue is chosen. Then the photographer, florist, band, attire and cake. The rehearsal dinner is planned and lodging and transportation are arranged for the guests. Itineraries are set and party favors chosen. Gift baskets are made and presents for the wedding party purchased. Finally, the menu is designed and caterers are hired.

A wedding planner can do any or all of these things.

"Using a planner definitely helps you and your family enjoy the day so you can focus on your wedding and not when the cake is coming out or if all the photos are getting taken," she said. "These are all things that someone has to deal with and it better not be the bride, and to ask a guest to do all of it takes away from them enjoying the day."

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