The Skinny on Wedding Planner Prices

- Lisa Nelson of Elegant Event Design

You will find that many of my entries are inspired by people that I have met with or talked to. I have a good one this week!

I had a couple who was interested in hiring a planner with 4+ years experience, was certified, had at least 5 vendor and bride references and had a knack for style. They were interested in partial planning, and gave an unrealistic budget for all the planning they required. They then asked for a quote via email and choose a planner based solely on the quote.

My first bit of advice - don’t do this.

Yes, the Bride and Groom must be comfortable with what you are paying. I understand the importance, especially in these difficult economic times. I also understand that time is extremely valuable. But, planning a wedding is so personal and intimate. It is absolutely imperative that you are comfortable with the planner you choose and your styles are very similar, especially if he/she is going to be making design recommendations. I would never recommend that you visit 10, but interview your top 2 or 3.

So, with this in mind, I thought would review the different ways in which planners price their services, and how this pricing might not make sense for you. We will discuss “the flat rate”, “the percentage package” and “the hourly charge”

1. Flat rate packages – A planner will tell you that he/she will plan your wedding for a certain dollar figure. Often times, wedding day coordination services will be billed on a flat rate. Brides are often intrigued by flat rates because they seem all inclusive. There is no possibility of the price going up. Be careful. Make sure you know exactly what you are getting for that rate and that all your needs are met under that price umbrella.

The problem with one size fits all pricing, is that there is not a one size fits all Bride. Different Brides have different needs. Also, every Bride has a different definition of a full service planning. For example, some Brides say that they need full service planning, but they want to attend all the meetings themselves and do not need the planner to attend. They want to go dress shopping by themselves or with their Bridesmaids without the planner. In other words, they want to do some of the planning themselves. Then, there are other Brides who want the planner to do everything with them and always want the planner to be with them. Under a flat rate package, both Brides would pay the same price. My question for you is – why should the Bride who is doing some legwork herself pay the same price as the Bride who has a planner by her side every step of the way?

It’s definitely easier for budgeting purposes….but be careful. The planner has to charge a rate, assuming that the Bride will be using her a lot. Often times, the rate is higher for these packages.

2. The percentage package – The planner will charge a certain percentage of everything she helps you to book. Typically, the commission will be 10-15%. For example, the planner helps you to find a site and the site fee ends up being $1,000.00, she would take her commission based on the site fee. If she charges 10%, she would charge the Bride $100.00 for her effort in helping her find a site. For budget purposes, take your estimated budget, multiply by the percentage, and that will be the final fee.

You must be careful here. In this day and age of the ever expanding wedding budget, you might end up paying more than you would like.

This package is definitely better for the Bride stated above who does her own legwork. Since the planner only charges commissions on the things that she helps the Bride book, the Bride wouldn’t pay a commission on her dress since the planner didn’t have a hand in helping her choose the dress – for example.
Make sure you are very clear on what constitutes a commission owed to the planner. Does making a phone call entitle her to a commission? Make sure it’s clearly stated in the contract.

3. The hourly package – This package is pretty straight forward. The Bride pays hourly for all the planning that is required. After the consultation, the planner will be able to give the Bride an idea on how many hours it’s going to take to plan the wedding.

I think most Brides hate this pricing the most because it always has the potential of going up. Like the percentage package, the more you ask the planner to do, the more it’s going to cost. I don’t know - it makes total sense to me.

This package is excellent for the Bride who wants to do some of the planning herself. It’s also great for the Bride who wants a more customized approach. This package is extremely bad for the Bride who wants the planner to attend every vendor meeting, each dress fitting, etc.

Also, because of its potential for going up, it’s more difficult to budget. A knowledgeable planner will give the Bride an idea of what the final costs will be based on the needs.

This is not an all or nothing situation. Many planners use a combination of all of these packages. For instance, planners might bill on a flat rate for the wedding day services, bill on a flat rate for a certain amount of partial planning, and then go hourly. Then, they might bill on a percentage for the full planning. Or, they might bill on a flat rate for most full planning and a percentage for their largest weddings. Or, they might charge a flat rate for day of services and bill a percentage for all the planning.

You have to think about what your needs are, and then decide what pricing is best for you. If you like a planner that doesn’t offer the package you like, negotiate with him/her.


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