How to Hire Wedding Decorators to Bring Your Decor Dreams to Life
While some people are born with the gift of creative and visual design—others know what they like but not how to turn it into reality. Hiring a wedding decorator or designer to turn your dreams into a beautiful wedding experience is worth the investment for couples with a clear vision. But what are wedding decorators and designers? How much do they cost? And how can you select the right vendor that matches your aesthetic and style? We spoke with professional wedding designers and decorators to provide the 101.
In this article
- What Are Wedding Decorators?
- How Much Do Wedding Decorators Cost?
- When Should a Couple Hire a Wedding Decorator?
- How to Choose a Decorator for Your Wedding
- How to Coordinate With Your Wedding Decorator After Booking
What Are Wedding Decorators?
A wedding decorator or designer is a creative professional with design training and expertise that can elevate the full context of a wedding, explains Cathleen O'Connell, the owner of COJ Events in La Quinta, California. Typically, a wedding designer partners alongside your other vendors—like your florist and your wedding planner—to enhance every element of your wedding. "This includes floral decor, tabletop, stationery, signage, lighting and every other element that provides creative expression to the event," O'Connell says.
Remember some wedding planners and/or florists are also trained wedding designers—but not all. Ask about their professional experience and for examples of their design-specific work before hiring. "A professional wedding designer will develop a full style and concept for your wedding, crafting a full visual experience for your guests," she adds.
How Much Do Wedding Decorators Cost?
As you can probably guess, the cost of hiring a wedding designer varies widely and depends on where you live, the size of your wedding, the amount of time required, the time of year you have your wedding and the overall work needed to execute your vision.
Generally speaking, couples should expect to pay a fixed fee depending on the scope of their project or, in rare instances, an hourly fee, says Jacqueline Vizcaino, the owner of Tinted Events Design and Planning in Atlanta, Georgia. For a full scope of services that includes designing the entire guest experience, having an in-house design team, coordinating with vendor partners and so on, Vizcaino estimates the following:
A small wedding: $3,000 to $8,000+
A mid-range wedding: $12,000 to $25,000+
A high-end and large luxury wedding: $45,000 to $75,000+
"It is also important to know that this professional fee does not include the elements in the overall decor/design investment, which includes all categories essential for a designer to make your dream come true: touch, sight, smell and sound," she continues. "Those components build upon each other and, with a cohesive design, will transport your event to a place and time that will have that couple's unique signature written all over it."
Another way to plan your spending is by percentage. O'Connell estimates 10 to 20% of the total event budget is the typical fee for a wedding designer. Or if your wedding designer is also your wedding planner, expect their fee to be 15 to 20% of the total budget.
When Should a Couple Hire a Wedding Decorator?
For the most seamless wedding planning experience, hire a designer and planner as soon as you pick your wedding date, recommends Diane Kolanović-Šolaja, the creative director and owner of Dee Kay Events in Howell, New Jersey. Even before you select the venue? Absolutely, since a designer can focus you on what you want to see visually on the day and guide you on aesthetics, thus giving you, your partner and your wedding planner time to find the ideal venue.
"If you have already booked the venue and need help creating something spectacular, I recommend hiring a designer at least nine months prior, so there is ample time to put in orders for rentals and flowers," she says.
How to Choose a Decorator for Your Wedding
When it comes to finding wedding decorators, your best bet is visiting The Knot Marketplace, where you can search for pros in your area, read reviews and more. Before that, though, you'll want to do some initial research to ensure you'll make the right choice.
Research to understand what you need.
First things first, get clear on the type of vendor you truly need. There's a difference between wedding decorators and designers and it is essential to ensure that you are hiring the right professional for your wedding, Vizcaino says. A simple way to think about it is strategy vs. execution. A wedding designer does it all, maps out the game plan, finds the right people to execute and fits all the pieces together. A wedding decorator is the executor—and you (or your planner) may have to step in to direct the show.
"Many times, couples find it challenging to explain what they envision," Vizcaino says. "They use words such as 'romantic,' 'elegant,' and 'luxurious,' which are lovely descriptors; however, hiring a professional that speaks your design language will be able to guide you in choosing a style that best reflects your vision for the day," she says. "Never underestimate the need for a connection where you feel the professional is in your head. That's when you know you found the one."
Don't delay—book early.
If you are recently engaged, remember how long wedding planning takes. For most couples, a year minimum is needed to put all their must-haves into place. If you hire a designer, you value details and a highly curated landscape and these things take time, so don't delay booking, Kolanović-Šolaja urges. "If you want the cream of the crop, you must ensure your dream designer is available and can deliver for your wedding date," she adds.
Set a budget threshold.
Next to your mortgage payment, your wedding will likely be one of the most expensive purchases you ever make. And with that in mind, understanding your financial limitations is essential. To inform what type of designer and service you can afford, Vizcaino recommends setting a budget threshold and sharing the elements of your wedding day you want a designer to help with—such as floral arrangements or styling tablescapes, event drapery, etc.
"Be realistic about your expectations and provide specific details about all those elements you want to be incorporated into the day," she explains. "Understand what services are included in each package and be open to creative suggestions."
Be ready to make choices.
And by choices, we really mean a lot of them. Colors, textures, the flow of events, sensory decisions, you name it—you'll choose it.
Design is a collaborative experience and you should be prepared for your designer to present you with questions and expect you to have at least some answers, Kolanović-Šolaja says. "If you are not in the wedding industry, wedding planning can seem like an entire college major you must learn about," she says. "Communicate this with your designer and be upfront about your knowledge and expectations. If you get lost in TikTok with inspiration, tell your designer. They will know how to navigate the overwhelm and gently guide you."
You may have anxiety and be nervous about pulling the trigger on design choices, but Kolanović-Šolaja promises that once you do, the pressure disappears. "Step into the confidence of choice and it will be easier to work with your designer," she adds.
How to Coordinate With Your Wedding Decorator After Booking
When it comes to working with a wedding decorator, communication is key. Yes, you'll likely communicate verbally and over email, but you'll likely also share images and other visual elements to make sure you're on the same page.
Be open and communicate.
You have a big vision for your dream wedding—but your designer can take it out of your head and onto the dance floor (and the ceremony and reception). You hired them for a reason, so try your best to be open to your wedding designer's suggestions and recommendations on making the most of your budget and what elements should be prioritized for them to execute their vision best, Vizcaino says.
"Share photos, Pinterest boards or other visuals to help them understand your vision," she continues. "Remember, they are the professionals with the expertise to pull off a beautiful event."
Communicate with your wedding designer all decisions related to the event.
When deciding for your wedding as a couple, don't just clue in your wedding planner, but also your wedding designer. Since a cohesive experience is a goal for most duos, staying in close communication will ensure that they are aware of any changes or adjustments that need to be made and are on board with all procurement processes, Vizcaino says. "There are decisions on entertainment, or gifted enhancements the couple feels are a good idea but could impact the guest experience, so no surprises, please," she says.
Put in the work.
Although most designers are like fairy godparents, they can only do their job if you do. With this in mind, do not expect your designer to read your mind, Kolanović-Šolaja says.
"Be sure to respond to your designer promptly, answer questions and articulate precisely the design you want," she says. "If you ignore your designer for months and wonder why you couldn't book the white dance floor you have been dreaming of; other marriers have the same deadlines. There are real consequences to not putting in the work."