Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Why the f*ck do I need a Wedding Planner? (Sponsored by Lowe House Creative)

Confession: I'd never heard of Lowe House Creative until Elizabeth approached me about sponsorship.... But based on our rapid-fire, cheerful, INCREDIBLY EFFICIENT email correspondence, I'd happily recommend her to anyone.

Here's Elizabeth:

So, why the f*ck do you need a Wedding Planner or Coordinator? It's just an extra unneeded service that the wedding industry is trying to con you into spending money on, right? Well... not really.

OK, the truth is, you don't need a Wedding Planner. Weddings are by nature a kind of luxury (for the sake of this piece we're going to define "wedding" as not an elopement, or a restaurant meal following a courthouse ceremony, or a thrown-together-in-a-month barbecue, even though those are some of my favorite kinds of weddings), and hiring someone to help you plan your wedding is a luxury as well. A wedding is just a large (albeit special) party, and the truth is that anyone is capable of planning a party.

That said, you might want a Planner. Why? Here are just a few reasons:

1. You've never planned a big party and even thinking about it makes your head hurt. You literally have no idea where to start (pro-tip: start with making your guest list, the number of guests determines everything else), what your options are, where to find a caterer/venue/florist/DJ, what those people normally charge, if it's possible to have the type of wedding you want for the amount of money you want to spend, etc. A fair amount of my clients come to me after having been engaged for quite a while, because they kept getting stuck on one of the above, and finally just wanted to get the damn thing over with already.

2. Your family is difficult, wants super different things in a wedding than you do, and they don't take you seriously. A wedding planner can help convince your mother/sister/cousin-in-law/step-grandmother that actually, yes, the type of wedding you want is not only OK, it's been done before, people will love it, no problem you can actually fit this many people into this space/feed them food off a truck/only serve beer and wine/not toss your bouquet/whatever. You know why? Because we're experts. The type of family member who is going to fight with you about your wedding is also the type of family member who will probably listen to an expert the most.

3. You want to save money. A lot of wedding planners out there advertise that they will save you as much or more money than they will charge you. I won't make that claim. While I do end up saving the vast majority of my clients money, it's just too hard to quantify. Sometimes I save my clients money in really concrete ways: they use vendors I have relationships with who give them discounts,* or they use supplies that I have on hand. But many of the ways I save my clients money are less concrete: I'm able to negotiate contracts down with full knowledge of the industry behind me, tell clients when a particular service they're looking at is overpriced and suggest an alternative, suggest cheaper ways for achieving the aesthetic they want, or tell them where they can cut things that really don't matter. All potential giant cost savings, all hard to quantify.

4. You will (often) get better service from your other vendors. As one of my clients put it, "I'm never going to have another wedding, so these people will never get repeat business from me, and thus have very little incentive to go above normal service standards for me. You, however, have the ability to send them a ton of business if you like them, so it's in their best interest to really impress you." And it's true. Vendors are much more likely to give my clients amazing service because they want to maintain a good relationship with me.

Now, you can get by without a Wedding Planner, but you actually do need a Wedding Coordinator. You don't necessarily have to hire a professional, but you do need to appoint someone to be in charge of the big picture. The majority of my clients tend to fall into two camps 1) really organized, borderline control-freaks who know that if they don't put someone competent in charge they will try to coordinate their own wedding 2) people who really just want to have a good time, don't super care about all of the little things, and want to hand off responsibility to someone competent so that they can party.

Someone should be in charge of setting up, checking in vendors, making sure things generally run on time, that everyone gets fed, that everyone is doing what they're supposed to be doing, that everyone who needs to be paid gets paid, and that things get cleaned up and all of your stuff gets out of the building at the end of the night. 

And this is the thing: something goes wrong at every wedding. It's almost always something that can be fixed -- you run out of wine/cups/soda halfway through the reception, somehow the cake forks/boutonnieres/coffee/napkins don't make it to the venue, the power dies/toilet paper runs out/it rains/the chairs are set up wrong/your bustle rips out/your keys get locked in the car before the ceremony. These things are all fixable, but someone has to deal with them. And ideally that someone is not someone who will be seriously bummed to miss the first dance/toasts/cake cutting.

To finish, a note: if you are hiring a Planner or Coordinator, make sure they are someone both of you like and trust. The relationship between wedding planner and client is surprisingly intimate -- weddings combine three of life's most stressful things together into one big ball of wonderfulness: family, money, and societal expectations. Inevitably some of your personal insecurities and family drama are going to come out. When they do, you're going to want someone around who you feel comfortable with, and who you know has your back. 

And in the end, that is why I love my job -- yeah, I get to plan rad parties and be around lots of pretty things. But really? I get to help super awesome people be a little more sane, a little more relaxed, and have a little more fun while they're making and celebrating a major life step. It's pretty great.

(Photo by Gabriel Harber)

*I have a policy of not taking kickbacks from vendors that is actually written into my contract. If a vendor gives my clients a discount for coming to them through me, my clients get that discount. I don't pocket it or even a portion of it. Not all wedding planners do this, so I'd recommend you ask any potential planner what their policy about this is before you hire them. 


  1. I need the NYC/CT version of Elizabeth. Any suggestions!?!?

  2. Annie,

    Elizabeth is available, I believe, for non-Bay Area weddings. She knows NYC and the East Coast quite well.

    I am one of Elizabeth's clients (you might have seen my skull engagement ring earlier this year on ESB) and I must say: she is amazing. We could not have planned our wedding to be as wonderful and on-budget as she is making it (3 weeks to go!!!). She has been our rock, our resource, our problem solver, our advocate for the past several months and it has been a true pleasure to work with her.

    I plan shit all day at work for other people. When it came to my own wedding, for some reason it was just way too overwhelming and time-consuming. You shouldn't kiss your life goodbye to plan your wedding, you should enjoy your engagement and spend time doing non-wedding stuff with your partner!

    If you call Elizabeth, you won't be sorry. Check out her consulting service if you're hesitant to take the full plunge...but I do recommend taking the full plunge!

    Lowe House is fucking awesome.

  3. We used Meg at La Vie En Rose Events as a day-of-coordinator for our outside NYC wedding.
    Meg took care of all those little details that I wanted to be perfect but couldn't be in charge of and didn't want my out-of-town family to have to do.

    A lot of our wedding was DIY and she helped pull everything together on the day, set up our makeshift photobooth, arranged the cupcakes our friends made, tied up the bunting my sewing club put together, drove our cases to the hotel.
    And when our driftwood huppah fell over....

    Meg is the best combination of fun and bossy.


    Just kidding.

    I would've lost my shit if I didn't have a day of coordinator. This is the one piece of advice I give to anyone, ESPECIALLY those who are type A perfectionists. You need to pass the buck on to someone else, have a drink, and enjoy yourself on your wedding day.

    On a side note, the best piece of advice that I got as a bride was to accept the fact that everything is going to get fucked up. Just know that and move on. We did and we had a blast.

  5. I hired an events coordinator. I just needed someone familiar with contracts and running events - not necessarily weddings. So far she has been amazing - and much cheaper than a regular wedding coordinator. I am not going for an over the top wedding - just a large organized party so she's perfect!

  6. I totally want to know how wedding planners handle bridezillas so damn well!

  7. Elizabeth, I am sold. I want you and need you. Checking out your site pronto.

    But I don't have any idea how much wedding planners cost/how their pricing works... can anyone fill me in?

    1. Please don't hesitate to get in touch!

      Like most things, pricing varies based on the market (if I lived in, say, Idaho, I could charge less, because my cost of living would be way less.) I consider myself pretty solidly mid-priced for the Bay Area - there are maybe a few people out there cheaper than me, but definitely a lot who are much more expensive.