When I saw this headline last week, I was shocked and curious to know more about the reasons why hiring a wedding planner is a good investment. To help me out, I spoke to our client Vanessa Harness, director of the professional wedding planning service Rocks and Frocks Ltd.
“Bride ‘dumped by fiancé at reception after she misses her own £12,000 wedding’
The reason? A series of disasters occurred that unfortunately occupied so much time, the bride left her groom waiting at the altar. Problems included make-up going wrong, bridesmaids cancelling due to ill children and the wedding car not having enough seat belts resulting in the bride attempting to drive her children and self 20 miles in 30 minutes.
One could argue that it’s a very harsh decision by the groom to completely ditch his bride-to-be, but let’s put that to one side and use this wedding as an example of why couples should hire a wedding planner.
Time is the biggest challenge for couples
Vanessa and I start discussing the biggest and most obvious challenge, time. The couple should be relaxed on the big day, not running around organising suppliers and worrying. Nine times out of ten, allocating such responsibility to a family member will not result in a smooth wedding due to a lack of experience.
Vanessa continued by saying ”There was a local wedding taking place in a marquee at the groom’s home. The father of the groom was tasked to perform last minute touches and ensure suppliers arrived and set up promptly. As a result, he was running late to the ceremony and got stuck in a massive traffic jam. The mother was furious because the father missed the entire ceremony.”
The itinerary; a wedding planner’s biggest asset
I wanted to dig deeper into the routine of a wedding planner. It all starts with an itinerary. Rocks and Frocks create one for all days prior to the wedding and it’s distributed to all suppliers. Because Rocks and Frocks are fully clued up, they can co-ordinate other suppliers much more effectively such as communicating with the photographer to ensure they are present at key moments throughout the day maximising the opportunity to capture those crucial shots.
Vanessa told me how some photographers who have worked at unmanaged weddings said other suppliers constantly asked them about the wedding schedule because there was a lack of communication from the couple. Interruptions like this added pressure on their ability to take those all-important photos.
Couples can create their own itinerary in advance but here lies the eventual problem if an unmanaged wedding runs late. During the summer, the ceremony venue may need to prepare for another wedding; the registrar has other couples on the day, choirs and musicians hired for the ceremony have other things to do afterwards. Before you know it, the day gets later and later which adds uncertainty down the line.
A planner will ensure if a wedding runs late for reasons beyond their control, the schedule is altered accordingly such as communicating with caterers to ensure food and drinks are not prepared prematurely minimising the risk of spoilage. The couple or their family will not have the time or the experience to do this on the big day. Therefore, if a couple really has their hearts set on organising the majority of their wedding, I would recommend they hire partial planning services which are offered by professional planners. For example, the couple choose the suppliers, themes and menu, the planner then ensures on the run-up to the wedding that all services are executed cohesively as well as managing everything on the big day.@RandFweddings say 'A planner will ensure if a wedding runs late for reasons beyond their control, the schedule is altered accordingly.' Click To Tweet
How a wedding planner fixed a melted cake
I was keen to know more examples of how Rocks and Frocks manage different problems that may pop up unexpectedly. Vanessa said “During a wedding, we explicitly instructed the cake maker to leave the cake in the house because the marquee was too hot, however, our instructions were ignored. As they were building the cake one of the tiers ended up melting. We quickly responded and aided the cake maker when removing the damaged tier and touching up the rest. In the end, the cake was successfully presented to the couple who didn’t even realise a tier was missing because they were so occupied with everything else. The couple were very surprised when we told them what happened the following day and commended us for providing an immediate solution without worrying them.”
How a wedding planner dealt with a flooded tipi
I asked Vanessa what other problems she had experienced. She explained “The tipi where the reception was due to occur flooded as a result of early morning torrential rain. This is the biggest risk for all outdoor weddings and that’s why we always turn up with brooms, buckets and wellies. We mopped out as much as possible, flattened all cardboard boxes from the alcohol and food delivery, laid down additional hessian left over by the tent suppliers and then offered piggybacks to ladies later on.”
There was no one on site that early in the morning. Imagine if no planner were hired to manage the wedding, it would have been a disaster! What you should also remember with tented structures is the supplier is usually present for setup and break down hence why it’s important to hire a planner so you have a back up just in case.
How a wedding planner managed late suppliers
Another interesting topic Vanessa and I discussed was what would happen if your photographer or caterer doesn’t show? Many couples do not include backup suppliers when planning their own wedding and this is where things can get really tricky.
On the other hand, a planner’s core role is rooted in a network of suppliers. Their reputation depends on their ‘little black supplier book’. Therefore, if a supplier fails to show, a planner may easily be able to arrange an emergency replacement and adjust the schedule to accommodate this scenario. You are far less likely to experience a supplier not delivering your wedding if you use a planner and their trusted suppliers. However, there are always factors that can make suppliers late and your planner is able to draw on their experience to overcome any eventuality.@RandFweddings say 'You are far less likely to experience a supplier not delivering your wedding if you use a planner and their trusted suppliers.' Click To Tweet
Vanessa said, “At one of our weddings, the cake maker was very late due to traffic. We got them to drive across a field and bring the cake through a back door before final preparations. To allow extra time and delay guests entering the main reception room, we organised the catering team who fed guests extra canapés and alcohol buying us 30 minutes.”
The difference between a wedding planner and coordinator
Sometimes the venue may assign a wedding coordinator and the couple can mistake this person as a planner. I asked Vanessa about her opinion. “In many cases, the co-coordinator provided by the venue is there to look after the couple from the moment they walk through the door. This may not extend to suppliers arriving in advance and requiring info before setting up. If for example the wedding runs late and there is no planner, communication between the venue and wedding party can become sparse leading to problems similar to what we have detailed above.”
Co-ordinators commonly work in shifts, therefore; the person who has been dealing with the couple for 12 months may end up finishing their shift between dinner and the first dance. The next co-ordinator may be unfamiliar with the couple creating uncertainty. It’s the planner’s job to find out all of this information in detail beforehand so they know exactly what is happening.”
Wedding planner services and fees
How many weddings have you attended that was managed by a professional planner? After asking that question to many people I know, the responses indicate that most weddings occur without a planner. Let’s use two common explanations.
If the couple hasn’t got a budget for a planner, consider this. A wedding planner’s livelihood depends upon a superb network of wedding suppliers. Planners are also capable of ensuring your budget is apportioned to provide the best suppliers that meet both your creative and financial brief, especially if the couple lack experience dealing with the wedding industry. This can ensure that the planner’s fee is a good investment overall.@RandFweddings say 'A wedding planner’s livelihood depends upon a superb network of wedding suppliers.' Click To Tweet
We’ve discussed how partial planning may be the best option for couples wanting to organise the major elements of their wedding and have their schedule double checked, but what about full planning? Some planners charge a set fee; some charge a percentage of the total budget. Whatever option you choose, remember that the fee covers a lengthy period of planning that may go up to 24 months in some cases. When you break down the fee and compare it with all the work required, it actually makes financial sense to hire a planner. This is why many of the clients who hire Rocks and Frocks to fully manage their weddings are most likely busy professionals getting married in the family country home, away from the city they live in. They are time-poor or have no experience dealing with the wedding industry.
How should couples choose a wedding planner?
You spend an enormous amount of time with your planner. The couple and their families must get on with the planner. If you don’t get on, things can get tricky that’s why it’s crucial you choose wisely. Here are Vanessa’s top tips:
- Always have a meeting and take advantage of a free consultation. If there is no creative spark there and then during the consultation, chances are the relationship will never work for the couple or planner. If the couple is struggling for ideas, the planner should be able to draw enough information to give them a resonating vision of what the wedding will be. If that ‘eureka’ moment doesn’t occur, or you do not instantly feel that this person is someone you trust implicitly to deliver your exceptional day then move on to the next consultation.
- Ask if the planner has appropriate insurance. Suitable cover shows a distinct level of professional integrity.
- Ask to see the planner’s portfolio including an example of the wedding day itinerary during the consultation.
- Ask to speak to a previous customer as well; don’t just rely on online testimonials.
- Ask the planner how long they will be with them on the day. Instead of being with you on your day for a time limited period of say 8-10 hours, we are always at the wedding before the first supplier and leave after the last guest has left regardless of time.
- You’ll most likely require a planning team with a minimum of two people. You never know when you’ll need an extra set of hands especially ensuring all guests are safely on their way after taking advantage of a free bar.
Want to know more about Vanessa and Rocks and Frocks? Visit their site and get chatting!
Adam is the brand evangelist for the Wedding Insurance Group. He continuously researches how the wedding industry is changing by liaising with our clients. Connect with Adam via our social media channels where he publishes informative videos on a regular basis.