Why We Didn’t Hire a Wedding Planner… But Wish We Had

12 Jun
J-Lo works her wedding planner magic

J-Lo works her wedding planner magic (“The Wedding Planner”, Columbia Pictures)

One couple’s experience
In preparing for our big day, we decided not to employ the services a wedding planner… but in hindsight, oh, how I wish we had!

Why we didn’t
There was very little discussion in the Reflective Couple about whether or not to bring a wedding planner on board. Quite simply, I wanted us to handle all the preparations and vendor research ourselves. I thought it would be fun to do the research, and also felt that us looking into all the different suppliers was the only way to know all the options, so that we could make a truly informed decision and ensure we got the style we liked at the most reasonable price. My groom was more than happy with this conclusion, since it saved us an extra line item in our bridal budget – and we were indeed worried that a wedding planner would be quite expensive.

Why we wish we had
Wedding planning isn’t always fun. Sure, it’s a ball to ooh and aah over cake designs or swoon over pictures from potential photographers… but there’s nothing enjoyable about researching mini-buses for guest transport or making seating charts. And, unless you’re a lawyer or accountant type, there isn’t much joy in reviewing vendor contracts or keeping track of payments either. Contrary to what I had thought, hiring a wedding planner doesn’t mean outsourcing your entire wedding; a wedding planner only handles the areas you want them to handle (it could just be five hours of support at the start to get you on the right track, on-the-day coordination only, or indeed the whole shebang) so a planner doesn’t take over and choose your final bouquet design for you. That means that if you want a bigger role in your wedding planning, you can focus on the fun parts of wedding planning, and leave the boring bits to someone else. Hoorah!

Stress Wedding planning is stressful. Unfortunately, wedding planning is not the romantic experience one might expect it to be. There are a lot of details to take care of, meddling family and friends might drive you up the wall, and vendors can be a source of much drama. I’ve spoken to several new brides who in the final month said that they were so tired and stressed that they just wanted the day to be over. This was definitely true for me: in my final week I lost two kilograms from stress, burst into tears a couple of times, and my groom and I were snapping at each other. This was not how I wanted our wedding planning to be, and it is not how anyone’s wedding planning should be. I wanted this to be a time for my groom and I to work as a team, bond, and enjoy our time together as we head into this next stage of our lives. Bringing on board a professional planner to help and take some of the workload off our hands definitely would have made sense. (Since they have helped out at many weddings, they can probably give you advice on how to deal with your nagging mother-in-law, slow vendors and other big day dramas.)

We weren’t that great at choosing vendors after all. So despite my reasoning that researching vendors ourselves was the only way to ensure we knew all the options to make the best decision, as was revealed in last week’s post reviewing our wedding day vendors this didn’t work out so swimmingly. Out of 15 or so wedding day vendors, it was only three – the beautician, mini-van provider and bridal party car provider – that we were actually happy with every step of the way… and some of the other vendors we were extremely unhappy with (cough, cough, photographer, cough!). Three out of 15 is not a good hit-rate. Clearly, researching yourself does not necessarily lead to a better result. When we started out planning, we had organized less than one wedding… why did we think our judgment would be better than that of a professional, who has seen these vendors in action at more than one (and perhaps several, and perhaps many!) weddings? Why did I think a planner would force us into choosing a vendor we weren’t completely happy with?

wedding-planner1 We didn’t know what to look for in a vendor. Other than a little Google research before interro- gating potential vendors via email, we really had no idea what to ask. For example, after contacting 20 differ- ent hairdressers for price quotes I realized I had to specify how long my hair was and if I was planning an up- or down-do in order to get accurate pricing, and had to email them all over again. It also didn’t dawn on us that the “free engagement shoot” offered as part of our photographer’s package (and the main reason we chose that photographer) might mean that the shoot is free but we have to pay for the photos. We asked cake makers for price quotes for cake tiers of different diameters, but it didn’t occur to us to ask about the height of the tiers… until two months before the wedding when we found out the magnificent wedding cake we were paying hundreds of dollars for was only eight inches tall and we’d now have to shell out twice as much money to get it to the grandeur that we wanted.

Wedding planning takes time. Until you really get into the preparations for your big day, it is impossible to fathom how much work is involved and how many details need to be taken care of at a wedding. I know brides who have taken long-term leave from work in order to have more time to prepare their weddings, and I myself used two holiday days to catch up on planning (boy, was I embarrassed asking my boss for that time off). If you work long hours, have lots of hobbies or children to look after, and don’t want to be completely drowning in to-do lists during your engagement, a wedding planner handling some of those tasks for you could be a real lifesaver. Also, you really don’t want to get in trouble at the office by getting caught doing wedding planning on company time!

planning Things do go wrong at the last minute. As mentioned in last week’s post, the day before the wedding the baker for our cake buffet claimed they never received our order, and our dancefloor provi- der phoned that they hadn’t been paid and immediately demanded my credit card details halfway through our bridal party lunch. That night while setting up the reception room, we realized one table setting was missing, so we had to frantic- ally call the decorator that a seat cover and sash needed to be delivered, and contact the kitchen to re-confirm the number of guests. All tiny things, but they were unnecessary and added up to a general feeling of stress. The day before the wedding felt like it was only spent running around, and my groom and I were cranky and exhausted by the end of it. We had planned it to be a lovely, relaxing day. Someone to handle those details for us would have been amazing. We were lucky that nothing went wrong on the wedding day itself, but – yikes! – what if something had?

A wedding planner can help with costs. The perceived cost for a wedding planner was one of the reasons we decided against hiring one. I have not looked into prices for wedding planners since our big day, but here are two things that I do know for sure: 1) Planners know what different services cost, and they can better spot when a vendor price is exorbitantly high or too good to be true. They know most – if not all – local wedding vendors, and can help you get the best value for your budget. 2) As with any other wedding vendor, you will agree in advance what services you want from your planner and how much that will cost. It is not in their interest to hand you a bill that you can’t afford to pay at the end of the wedding. Wish we’d realized all that earlier!

wedding-budget-wedding-cost It can be difficult to find help elsewhere. It is not possible to handle everything for the wedding planning yourselves, so if you don’t have a wedding planner you either have to ask help from others or handle everything things yourself. Even if you do have someone offer to help, you may not want to burden them with tasks. For our own wedding we would occasionally ask our family or bridal party to help, but none of them ever actually themselves offered to do so, so we felt awkward asking. This on its own led to more work for us than we expected. On the wedding day when my groom should have been rehearsing vows and getting ready, he was driving all over town picking up cakes and buttonholes, and when he arrived at the ceremony he had to set up a refreshments table. We asked one friend if she could arrive at the ceremony an hour early so that she could SMS us that the officiant, musicians and decorator had all arrived on time. These are all tasks that an on-the-day wedding planner could have coordinated for us, rather than burdening ourselves or our guests.

We planned from the other side of the world. Not only were we prep- aring our wedding from the opposite corner of the globe, we were also doing it with a nine-hour time difference, which made it difficult to chase vendors in their business hours. We had one trip to the wedding location (my hometown) where we met the DJ and officiant, plus saw several ceremony and reception options, but other than that we had to rely on internet research. We couldn’t go to see the wedding cars we’d hired for the bridal party (the cars worked out fine though), we had to trust TripAdvisor that the restaurants we’d chosen for our rehearsal dinner and welcome drinks would be okay (erm, yeah, one wasn’t), and we weren’t able listen to our ceremony string trio at a rehearsal or other perfor- mance (and, boy, did that one bite us in the butt). Local support and someone in the same time zone to chase our vendors would have been wonderful.

Wedding_planning_help_wantedMy Reflective advice? At the beginning of your wedding planning, sit down as a couple and consider how much time, how much budget and how many helpers you have available for big-day preparations. Consider which areas you could do with professional support, and which planning areas you’re less interested in and happy to outsource to someone. Look into wedding planners in your local area; even if you’re hesitant, it won’t cost you anything to give them a call and find out the range and price of their services. It could be your best way to a smoother, less stressful and more romantic wedding planning experience.

Did you hire a wedding planner for your big day? Why or why not? In what ways is your wedding planner assisting you with the preparations?

(Second image from Memorable Occasions by Alice, third image from Howitoo, fourth image from Sublime Bridal, fifth image from New Wedding Planet.)

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4 Responses to “Why We Didn’t Hire a Wedding Planner… But Wish We Had”

  1. Timsmith December 30, 2013 at 11:56 am #

    I am glad to see your article as you had described about the difficulty of selecting the best car from the variety of cars and also you had described the services offered by the car renting companies.THANKS!

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