I love weddings! As a wedding planner, I love playing an integral role in one of the happiest days in a couple’s life, which is why 25 years ago I made it my career. Weddings, however, are about more than just love. It’s a billion dollar industry and frequently a couple’s most expensive day with budgets ranging from $5,000 USD to $100,000 USD and higher. Where does a bride begin planning? Knowledge is the key yet with so many ideas, recommendations, and changing trends, many brides are left drowning in a pool of “how to?” “how much?” and “where do I start?” Enter destination wedding planners —consider it travel planning meets wedding planning. A seasoned, well-connected planner can relieve considerable stress, saving time and money by guiding you through the wedding planning process. A destination wedding planner wears many hats and plays the role of negotiator, money manager, logistics specialist, and walking Rolodex.
Here’s what you need to know in order to choose the right destination wedding planner.
The Basics: Who? What? Where? How Much?
Who: The number of guests you plan to invite. This doesn’t have to be an exact head count but provides the basis for determining the perfect ceremony and reception locations and for setting a realistic budget.
What: Will this be a destination wedding on a tropical island, traditional sit-down dinner or a cocktail party? Do you envision an intimate soiree, a massive celebration or an affair in between?
Where: The city, country, a vineyard, a restaurant, a bed and breakfast, a remote island or at home? Think about your dream location and describe it to your planner. Who knows? He or she may make suggestions you never knew were possible.
How much: What is your wedding budget? Brides and planners alike dread discussing money, but the topic shouldn’t create anxiety. Everyone has a budget, even celebrities. Whether yours is one thousand dollars or one million, your dream wedding can’t be created without a budget to follow.
It’s About Who You Know AND What You Know
What type of wedding professional do you need? The logistical skills of a wedding planner or the artistic genius of a wedding designer who can pull together your vision using logistics and decor? A wedding planner assists with vendor referrals and selections along with venue location and ensures the wedding ceremony and reception run smoothly. A wedding designer’s role is more involved. In addition to planner duties, a designer works with couples to develop a theme, colour scheme, floral design, and floor plans and layouts for the ceremony and reception. The designer assists with selecting music, linens, rentals, favours and all other pieces of the puzzle. His or her primary purpose is to help pull together the event’s overall look and feel.
Fact: planners know lots of people in the wedding industry. Photographers, videographers, calligraphers, florists, caterers, musicians and bridal shop owners are just a few vendors responsible for bringing your dream wedding to life. But, not all companies are created equal. Your wedding planner is tasked with vetting these businesses in order to select those best suited for you based on your style and budget. Successful planners have established relationships with a multitude of vendors in every category and are well connected in special events located near them or thousands of miles away in another destination.
The Right Fit
Much like your wedding gown, your wedding planner must fit your personality and style. Contact and consider at least three professionals before you hire. Talk to each one and find out how much you do and don’t have in common. You want to hire the planner you click with – the one who embraces the giddiness of your engagement like an old girlfriend and makes you feel like your wedding is special. Ask potential planners the following questions:
- How long have you been in business?
- Are you a full or part-time destination wedding planner?
- Do you receive a commission from vendors when you bring onboard?
- Do you have references from other couples and vendors?
- Do you have real wedding pictures to share?
The Price of Sanity
So, how much will it cost? This is a tricky question because services vary. Some planners charge by the hour or take a percentage of the budget, while others offer full coordination or day-of packages. A general rule of thumb is to allocate 10%-15% of your wedding budget for planning services. The wedding planning industry is not regulated so be sure to compare apples to apples when deciding between professionals. Cost is important but should not be the sole deciding factor. Select a planner with a professionally trained eye and superb sense of style. Your planner should be extremely organized and reliable. This person is your advocate, advisor, counselor, and best friend all-in-one, so make sure you choose the one who wants to get inside your head to make your fantasy wedding a reality.
This article “How To Choose Your Wedding Planner” by Veronica Cole was originally published in Caribbean Bride Magazine June 4, 2014