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Week 2: Searching for Wedding Planners and Designers
Hey! Welcome back!
This is Week number 2: Searchign for Wedding Planners and Designers. This is week of my four-week program on how to find the best Wedding Planner or Wedding Designer for you and your specific wedding needs. I’m glad you’re here! Last week, we went over Wedding Planning fundamentals, discussed the state of the industry, common terminology, the significance of a Planner’s planning and design style and how their personality is just as important as their
work. At the end of the article (planning tip #3) I suggested creating a “top 5 priority list” for your wedding day so that you have a clear understanding of what is most important to you, and ultimately how much you will want to invest in a Planner/Designer. Did you do the homework?? I’ll take that as a yes since you’re reading week two!
So, this week, I am going to talk about how and where to search for a Wedding Planner/Designer, what to look for once you’ve found a few that you feel you have connected with, and how to budget appropriately for planning and or design services.
Week #2 - Searching for Wedding Planners/Designers
If you ask me, it’s best to meet face-to-face with a potential Wedding Planner before making any decisions or booking services. You’ll remember from last week that personality is one of the biggest factors in hiring a Wedding Planner, and there is no better way to get to know someone than to meet with them in-person and have a conversation. Also, when you meet with a Planner in their studio or office, you can get a much better idea of their style, their approach to wedding planning, their design aesthetic, the quality of their work, how accommodating they are and their attention to detail. Which will all be important to you during your entire planning process.
I personally recommend meeting with two or three Planners. Unless you receive a raving referral from a close friend that you really trust (with a strong emphasis on really and trust), I think it’s important to at least meet with two Planners so that you have something to compare each to, even if it is just to validate your instincts. I think that meeting with any more than three is excessive. Us women tend to overthink things too much so meeting with more than three Planners may push you to indecisive mode and nobody likes an indecisive bride!
Planning Tip #1: Make a list of three Planners/Designers that you really want to meet with in person and jot down what attracted you to them and their business.
If you still haven’t found the right Planner or want a few more options to consider, you can resort to Google. If you search for “<your city> Wedding Planner (or Designer)” then it is fairly safe to say that the Planners/Designers on the first four pages will be great options. Google rewards websites that have lots of activity, frequent updates and those that have been around the longest.
These are all good indicators for you but remember, that does not take into account other things that may be more important to you than those factors. I would even take it a step further and include any unique characteristics you want in a planner. Maybe you want a Planner who has planned an event at a particular venue? Then type “Wedding Planner (or Designer) <venue name>“ or maybe you want a planner who is familiar with your culture (i.e. Jewish, Nigerian, Indian, etc.) then type in “<your culture> Wedding Planner in <your city>).
Where You Can Search For a Planner And/Or Designer
“Well, Bisola, how should I start searching for Planners/Designers? Well I’m glad you ask! In the world of Google and limitless information, you can really go crazy searching day and night for the info you need. So to save you some time, I have provided my top three recommendations of where you can focus your search below:
Ask For Referrals Form Your Close Friends or Family Members – Statistically speaking, most of your close friends are within the same age range as you so it only makes sense that you guys would go through similar life changes together. Focus on your close friends that have recently got married within the last five years. Ask them what Planner/Designer they used and whether they were happy with the overall experience, the customer service, and ultimately, their wedding day. Do they have any pictures you can see? Maybe you attended their wedding, how did you like it? Was it memorable? Did everything run smoothly?
Ask For Referrals From Your Wedding Professionals – What better referral than one from a vendor in the industry who has seen or worked with a Planner before and can vouch for them and answer some of your questions before you research them further in person. If you have secured any of your vendors before finding your Planner/Designer. The individuals and businesses that you hire for your wedding day (florist, photographer, reception venue, etc.) collaborate and work at weddings every weekend. They usually have an indication of who’s good, who’s not so good, who you should run in the opposite direction from if you see them in person and who delivers the best quality to their clients.
This next recommendation may be the biggest secret in the industry (shhh…let’s keep this between us, OK? Promise?). It’s probably one of the most effective ways to search for any type of business online. Turn to Facebook. I don’t mean just look up business names on Facebook or ask friends, you can use Facebook’s built-in “Search” just like a Search Engine. It returns results that are geographically relevant, based on your profile and friends list and they are uniquely generated for you. It’s very cool! Like I said, it’s one of the biggest secrets in searching for businesses, and it’s highly relevant when searching for Wedding Planners/Designers. Go to Facebook and type in “Wedding Planners liked by my friends”. This will show you the top Facebook pages that your friends on Facebook like.
Planning Tip #2: Use a combination of recommendations and search results to research. If you happen to see the same few Planners/Designers coming up time and time again, then that is likely more than just a coincidence.
"It's best to meet face-to-face with a potential wedding Planner/Designer before making any decisions."
Gorgeous gowns at CTO Bridal Boutique
Researching Potential Wedding Planners And Designers
Once you find the Planner/Designer online, that isn’t enough. You have to connect with them, their style and be sure that you can trust them in planning one of the most important day of your life. Start with their website to “pre-judge” them, and let that lead you to narrow down your choices for who you’d like to meet in-person. Just think of it this way, if a planner can’t put together a logical, easy to read and visually appealing website, what makes you think they can help you plan your wedding? Now, the website is only the first step, and what follows is a list of what you should look for in a Planner on their website.
The two most important factors in finding the right Planner/Designer for you is their overall style and personality. But what do you look for first? I think that’s a “chicken or the egg” question, so, I suggest looking to see if their style aligns with your preferences first, and then move on to discovering them as a person. Is their event planning style in the right ballpark for you? Now granted, a Planner’s job is to take their clients vision and bring it to life but an experienced Planner usually only takes on clients that have their similar tastes as well. So pictures of their previous events can give you an idea of what their personal taste is, what kind of vendors they work with, who their target market is and what they are capable of.
Step #1 – Style: Start by looking at their work and first decide whether their style is close to what you’re looking for. Next, move on to reading more about them.
Step #2 – Personality: Is there a picture of them on their website? You’ll be surprised how many people do not have one. If they do have a picture, does he/she look like someone that you’d be able to connect with? Read about them on their “about” or “bio” page, do you connect with their approach, their story and their philosophy? Do they have a video on their website, or a link to their YouTube page? Videos are a lot more telling than pictures so do they have any videos of them in action, talking or showing the “behind the scenes” at all? If you can see yourself connecting with them as a person, then you’re headed in the right direction.
Step #3 – Further examine their style: You’ve briefly satisfied both sides (style and personality), and now you can further examine their style. Keep in mind that it may be difficult to really get an idea for quality when looking at a small computer screen, but you’ll be able to get a good idea. Ultimately, the best judgment of a Planner’s work will be seeing it in-person at an event or in person at their studio in a table mock-up/display.
If you’ve gotten this far and you really do connect with their style and their personality, then you can move on with further research about this Planner/Designer. Here are some things that you will want to look for that can give you a further indication for quality, reputation, customer service, their level of experience and how trustworthy they are:
Have they been in the media at all? Are they recognized in their community? For a business owner to get press and recognition, they have to be doing something remarkable and newsworthy. This counts towards their credibility and reputation.
What kind of accomplishments, awards or designations do they have? Most professional Planners/Designers are always striving to improve their craft, and so they’re constantly submitting their work for competitions, working towards certain designations or looking to have their work featured.
When you hire a Planner/Designer, you are putting your trust in them before you even have a chance to see them “perform” the work for you, and so reading, hearing and watching testimonials from past clients is valuable and informative. Most Planners will have testimonials on their website and so that is a great place to start. Look beyond the “our event was great” statements, though, and see if there is more said about their experience with the Planner, the customer service that they received and the way the Planner made them feel on their wedding day. Don’t just stop there, though. Planners will (obviously) put their best testimonials on their website. You can do some exploring and investigating yourself to get other objective testimonials. Google the Planner and see what else is out there on blogs, forums and other websites. Search for their Facebook Page and see what others are saying. Are they on LinkedIn or Twitter? You can find out a lot about a person or a business by how they interact online, and the things that others have to say about them.
Real Event Design by BE Wedding - Photo by Fotos by Fola
Not that numbers mean everything, but what are their followers like on Social Media? Usually the more reputable and trustworthy Planners/Designer will have a greater following on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, and so on. They have a loyal following for a reason – because they are excellent, consistent and likeable.
Do they have an active blog? Are they regularly planning events and producing consistent work? Look back several months to get a good idea for the kind of work that they’re creating on a regular basis. There is a saying in the wedding planning industry that is important to note here, and that is that “you’re only as good as your last event”.
Look for galleries that consist of images from the same wedding as opposed to galleries with images from multiple weddings and seasons. This will give you a better idea for the type of event that the Planner/Design will create from each and every wedding, as opposed to the best of shots from several weddings.
Can you tell from their website/bio that they are a full-time Planner/Designer? You may need to save this conversation for your in-person meeting if you can’t tell from their website. This is an important distinction. Not only does a full-time Planner/Designer have their entire work week to dedicate to their clients, but they are often more invested in their success (and ultimately the happiness of their clients) because they depend on it. They will also be more available for meetings, phone calls, quicker with correspondence and offer you a timelier turn-around time the wedding with your images.
Above all else, one of the biggest telltale signs for the experience and customer service that a Planner is going to offer you will be in how he or she handles their correspondence. After you’ve connected with a Planner/Designer on their website using the criteria listed above, get in touch with them. Here you will be able to see their level of professionalism, their passion and their dedication to you as a client. A reliable, trustworthy and experienced Planner will:
Respond to you quickly (within 12 hours)
Be professional with correspondence
Be thorough and detailed
Care about your wedding
Show a passion for event planning
Be accommodating but not desperate
Real Event Design by BE Wedding - Photo by Fotos by Fola
Planning Tip #3: When looking for Planners/Designers, it’s important to first connect with them as a person and then make sure you love their style. Next, thoroughly investigate them and be sure that they are reputable, consistent, reliable and professional.
Pricing and Budgeting
I’ll end this week’s article with a quick conversation on pricing. Here are some guidelines on pricing and budgeting for your Wedding Planner:
Assign a realistic and appropriate budget for your Planner.
Understand that there will be a range of prices, but that is because event planning is completely un-regulated and overwhelmed with many amateurs.
Expect to pay a good amount for quality work.
A Planner/Designer who “discounts” their prices does so because they know that they don’t offer a product that is equal to their prices. Be aware of this.
Planners/Designers know what their service and skills are worth, and they will charge accordingly.
You get what you pay for. Is your wedding day something you want to risk by going “budget” or “cheap”?
With regards to actual numbers, it’s hard to say what the “average” package will be from Planner to Planner (we’ll talk about Wedding Designers further down in this page), because it really does vary. I can really only refer to prices in my local area (Atlanta, GA) because it’s what I’m familiar with. That being said, here’s a general breakdown of price ranges for a Planner offering a full service wedding planning package meaning helping you plan your wedding from beginning to end:
$2,000 and under – This is a new Wedding Planner or a student. You likely won’t get great quality work or professionalism. I don’t recommend hiring a Planner in this category. You’re better off finding a student or a friend who is training or looking for experience, who will plan your wedding complementary in exchange for the experience.
$2,000 to $3,000 – This Planner may be decent, but they are likely still very new and won’t have much experience. This is the price range I recommend for “budget” brides who are looking for an OK option and average wedding day.
$3,500 – $5,000 – This Planner will likely produce great work and is likely running a full-time business with plenty of experience. They will be dedicated to delivering the best to you as their client and will know how to deal with all of the many challenges that entire planning process a wedding day can present.
$5,500 and up – This price range will encompass Planners who are the best of the best in the area.
Once you’ve established a budget, found Planners/Designers, researched them, and created your “short list”, the next step is to set up your meetings. Meet at the Planner’s place of business (their studio or office), as it’ll be the best way that you can get a full appreciation for their work, their style, their personality and their attention to detail. Next week we’ll talk about this meeting, what you should ask and what to look for when you’re with them in person.
That concludes the second week. If you’d like to go back to week 1, click here. Next week, I’ll be touching on what to ask during your in-person meetings and what to pay attention to. In the meantime, I would love to hear your feedback. If you found this week’s article helpful, please e-mail me and let me know.
If you’d like to be social with me, you can head on over to my Facebook where I share interesting wedding related articles, tips and tricks, behind the scenes planning and design info and my latest weddings, Instagram where I share images from my day-to-day life, client and industry events and my personal style and fashion sense. If you’d like to learn more about me and what makes me tick, you can also visit my little pocket of real estate on the internet at www.EventDesignByBE.com.
Until next week lady! Dream big and stay inspired.
All Rights Reserved. Photo credit: Fotos by Fola, Event Design by BE