Plan on a planner

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In the months before your wedding, the planner you hire will witness everything from family fights to last-minute jitters, making the choice of wedding planners one of the most important decisions you will make while putting together your special day.

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

First, choose a planner who you get along with.

"Even if their reputation is great, you need to feel a connection with that person," Waldman said. "This is an intimate relationship. You work very closely with a planner."

Your planner meets your family, sees the emotions of the wedding process and is with you during all the problems that go along with planning a wedding.

"This person needs to mesh with your personality and with your family," she said.

But don't let a good feeling blind you to the financial side of the planner/bride relationship.

Do not hire someone who charges a percentage of your budget, Waldman said. Instead, hire a planner who charges a flat hourly rate. "If they are getting a percent of your budget, they have no incentive to help you save money. The higher the budget, the more money they'll make."

After a planner has been chosen, be fair about the amount of work you expect that person 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 time allows you to coordinate your wedding in a more relaxed fashion rather than feeling rushed, and the earlier you plan, the better chance that the vendors you want to hire will be available," 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, arrange lodging and transportation as well as the entire wedding weekend.

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

"The average wedding takes 60 hours to plan," Waldman said.

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

After the financial issues are decided, it relieves a source of stress for the rest of the planning process.

After the budget is decided, the venue is chosen. Up next is the photographer, florist, band, attire and cake. The rehearsal dinner is planned and lodging and transportation is arranged for the guests. Itineraries are set, and party favors are chosen. Gift baskets are made, and presents for the wedding party are 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 worry about when the cake is coming out or if all the photos are being 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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