Mr. Rhee noted that partial planners start work four to six months before a wedding. They do all of the above, while also referring vendors, advising on floor plans, seating, tastings, and making final decisions. Full-service planners, especially those with designer backgrounds, “typically work a year out and produce your wedding from start to finish,” Mr. Rhee said. Last on the list are on-site wedding coordinators. These planners meet the needs of the venue rather than the couple. “They focus on anything pertaining to the venue instead of services or logistics that happen outside that space,” he said, “such as the invitation process, guest list management, and guest accommodations.”
What do wedding-planning services specifically include and exclude?
“No two planners work the same way or offer the same services,” said Jacin Fitzgerald, the owner of Jacin Fitzgerald Events in Atlanta. “It’s just as important to know what you’re getting as it is to know what’s not included. Couples assume everything is, especially if they’re paying for concierge level.” To prevent anxiety and disappointment, Ms. Fitzgerald suggested requesting to see a planner’s comprehensive list of services. “Most professionals have these bullet pointed in a document or spelled out in their contract,” she said.
She also advised creating your own list of services you expect to be included. “If you want something that’s not on their list, don’t be shy about asking or negotiating,” she said. “If there’s no wiggle room or they can’t recommend a vendor or specialist to do what you’re requesting, say creating a wedding website or stuffing wedding bags, then that’s a flag.”
How is the money disbursed? Are there hidden fees? And what is your cancellation policy?
Money and contract questions should be a crucial part of the conversation. “Some planners work on a flat rate to produce the wedding, others work on commission, charging 10- 30 percent on the subtotal of the final cost of the wedding,” said Ryan Hill, the owner of Apothersis Events in Manhattan. “Others work on a hybrid of both.” Some planners may also receive money from vendors they have suggested for the job. “My contracts state I don’t do that, so it assures clients that I present the vendors best for the job rather than something I’m going to get from the back end,” said Mr. Hill, who presents vendors’ invoices to the couple for direct payment.
“You also want to ask how my fee is structured, what is the payment schedule, and what my fee does not include,” said Mr. Hill, which for him are hotel rooms, meals and travel. Because the pandemic was especially disruptive to the wedding industry, couples should ask planners what financial penalties are incurred for rescheduling or canceling. “Couples should also ask if the planner has personal liability and professional indemnity as a business, and have a full understanding of force majeure,” Mr. Hill said. “Because it dictates the terms and conditions of liability for both parties when major occurrences beyond the control of both parties occur.”
What new approaches have you incorporated because of Covid?
Covid demanded that planners learn new skill sets, like an increased ability to pivot, having back up plans for their back up plan, and taking a more proactive role in guiding couples. “We’ve learned to encourage clients to book a multifaceted venue that offers several alternatives, like indoor and outdoor spaces with tenting options, so if we need to pivot at the last minutes, we don’t need to find another space,” said Guerdy Abraira, the owner of Guerdy Design in Miami and Brooklyn. “In case we go back to size restrictions, invites to A-list guests are sent two months earlier so they can respond first, or we layer the invitation distribution process.”