5 Steps to Hiring a Wedding Planner

Slate gray reception tables with low blush centerpieces
Photo by Ashley Taylor Photography

1. Do Your Homework

Check out prospective planners' websites for photos of recent weddings they have done to help narrow down your list. Notice whether elements seem to have a cohesive look and if there is an overarching style that the weddings share—this is probably what the planner is most experienced with, so decide if it's one you like. If all the weddings that he's planned look over-the-top and glamorous and you're looking for a small, intimate gathering, he may not be the right person for you. Also, look for information about the types of planning services they offer, sites they've worked with, awards, and membership in professional associations (such as the Association of Bridal Consultants).

2. Call Your Favorites

Call your top three or four picks to confirm the following: types of planning services offered, names of sites they have worked with, wedding date availability, and appropriateness price-wise (ask their typical price range and/or cost of the average wedding they plan). If their answers fit your budget and your vision, set up appointments to meet with each of them.

3. Prepare for Your First Meeting

Bring magazine clippings, photos, and even your inspiration board(s) with you when you meet with potential planners. At your meeting, you obviously want to get a sense of the quality of their weddings by asking them about events they've done and perusing their portfolios, but you're also looking at their personalities: Is this someone you can work with intimately for months at a time? Voice your ideas about your style and colors and see how the planner responds—she should meet them with enthusiasm. Then ask how she'd pull off your vision to get a better idea of how she works. A good planner should be able to listen to your thoughts and hone them to make your wedding something truly unique and memorable.

4. Call References

Don't feel pressured to hire a planner you like on the spot. Be sure to call references and ask the following.

  • How closely did she stick to your budget?

  • Can you e-mail me photos from your wedding? (This is a good way to confirm the overall consistency and professionalism of the wedding. Planners' portfolios are filled with their best work, and, of course, they'll offer brides they know were happy with their work for references, so search online for other real weddings they've done as well.)

  • How well did she interpret your ideas?

  • Were the style and wedding exactly what you wanted?

  • What did she take care of for you (guest list, vendor meetings, setup, etc.)?

  • Did she have good vendor recommendations? Did she coordinate with other vendors?

  • Did she respond quickly to your calls or e-mails? Was she nice to work with?

  • Did the wedding go smoothly according to your guests?

  • Did anything go wrong, and how did she handle it?

5. Seal the Deal

Also, take some time to compare and contrast prices, impressions, notes, and, if provided, formal proposals (some planners may draft their overall vision for your wedding and their intended services in the form of a proposal, which would then work as the basis for your contract). Once you've found your planner, call her immediately to express your desire to move forward and have her prepare a contract. As soon as you've signed the contract and paid your deposit, you'll have your right-hand woman (or man) secured.