Planning packages have been put together by the planner because it’s the natural procession for a majority of weddings. It’s easier for you and takes less time for the planner to do a series of some elements and have them in place for you once you make decisions, than it is for them to do the first couple steps, wait for you to do step 3 and then they come back in to do steps 4 and 5. As a result they’ve packaged them together and charged a smaller fee for them to do all of the elements than by piece mail.
However, for brides who really want to do certain items in the planning process, planners will offer their services in a variety of packages and some will even custom design a package around you and your desires. When you take a package and then add or subtract from the package the price changes depending upon how much more or less work is involved for the planner and their team. Some planners charge more when you piece mail items instead of bundling them all together. Such as if you would like hourly assistance, the planner needs to do some preparation or follow up to be able to answer your questions in some cases and that adds to your hourly fees. When they are already involved most of the time the answer to your question is already known or the time it takes to get you an answer is already included in their package.
As a result you have full packages, partial packages and day of only. Every planner and planning company has different packages. Most of them have their packages on their websites so you can see what is included. However, it surprises me that some people don’t really know what the elements are or what that really means. I’ll explain them in greater detail for you here.
- Initial Get Acquainted Meeting 1-2 hrs. This would be the consultation, deciding if the planner and yourself are a good match for each other.
- Guest List Spreadsheet Template. To me this seems self explanatory, but I’ve learned recently, that some new brides, aren’t sure what this is. This is a spread sheet and template in which you enter all of your guests information. Because of the way the spread sheet is set up, it helps you keep track for you as to current head count, any special food items, or their choice of entrée. If they are coming in from out of town so you can easily count the welcome packages you will need to have assembled and delivered to the hotel. This Some planners offer this on line; which is great when you’re going to be doing place cards to verify spelling against RSVP cards.
- Expert consultation and guidance with etiquette and other considerations. 1-2 hours. Surprisingly enough as technology grows what is and isn’t acceptable etiquette changes; and almost as rapidly. Having someone with their finger on the pulse is a necessity.
- Unlimited consultations in person, on the phone, text message and via email. This is an important item. It seems that as the wedding quickly approaches, things that seemed so minor or were overlooked as the bride will pop up and at unexpected times. A good planner typically has already thought of these things and based upon your many discussions and phone calls previously is in place as you wanted them.
- Unlimited access to your head planner & assistant access to your planner and/or their assistant when you need them. You’d be surprised how many planners to not offer this bonus to their clients.
- Attend the required meetings of the church or ceremony location to ensure that all deadlines are met and turned in on time. Depending upon the package that you choose, this may or may not be included. Also depending upon the location this could be as many as 5 visits with them to ensure that your wishes are know and that everyone is on the same page.
- Final vendor confirmations/follow-up approximately three weeks prior to wedding. Most planners will include this is every package. Confirming that your vendors know where they are supposed to be, what time, that they have directions and a timeline of what they are expected to be aware of throughout the day.
- Vendor Selection from only the best and brilliant professionals for your style, personality and budget. The vendor selection will vary from client to client. What makes the variation so extreme? A good planner has a good team of wedding professionals from which to refer depending upon their clients’ needs and what is important to that client. Such as, if the client is desiring a great band but not so concerned about the quality of food. Then the planner will recommend a great band which will cost more because they are good. Whereas the professional caterer will not be an overachiever in quality, but still taste good. In addition, a good planner, knows which vendors to steer clear from because of a bad track record. She’ll not recommend or steer you towards a vendor who runs a 50/50 or less proven record. She also needs to have vendors in three price ranges. Meaning that to be able to assist all of her clients she needs low end price range vendors, mid range quality and price vendors and high end; high quality vendors. In addition to all of the above, she also need different vendors she uses in these price and quality ranges to be able to best blend with a client’s personality. If you’re friend uses a planner and refers a different set of vendors that she recommend for you, that isn’t necessarily bad, it’s that she feels that this set of vendors is best suited for your personality, style, budget and desired outcome.
- Schedule vendor appointments around your availability. In full and in some cases partial planning packages the planner will attend the vendor appointments with you. 1) to make sure that she’s aware of any changes that are made between you and the vendor; 2) that if there is a personality clash then she can easily turn it around and be working on another option, or if the vendor is having a bad day she can fix it for you. Since the planner is ultimately responsible on the day of to the best of her ability to ensure that your wedding day is all you envisioned, she needs to be aware of any even minor changes.
- Facilitate all vendor appointments as an impartial party on your behalf. Answered above.
- Review and negotiate vendor contracts. Once agreements with your vendors are made; a great planner will go through the agreements and make sure that there is no language that was slipped in that is going to come back to bite you. She’ll make sure that everything that was agreed to between you and the vendor has been accounted for and that she’s got the correct dates marked for the payment amounts and when to be made on the calendar so that you don’t lose the location, end up without catering, entertainment or a cake.
- Attire selection (if desired). More and more we’re seeing brides come to us that live out of state or their parents live out of state and she’d love to have her mom involved, but she’s kinda on her own or so she feels. We as planners not only assist the bride where she needs help in this situation but somewhat become a stand in mother to help guide. Some planners will offer these services and some will absolutely not.
- Guest Accommodations. Many times between ¼ to ½ of your guests, unless it’s truly a destination out of the country, are coming in from out of town. This option is usually included in full planning packages where the planner arranges and negotiates a room block for your guests. Typically there two options, either you as the couple or the parents of pay for a room block so your guests can get rooms less expensively or second, guests pay the going rate and the hotel blocks off rooms that aren’t sold to others until approx a month prior to the wedding.
- Create guest amenities to include welcome bags, favors, programs, in addition to other requests. These activities are typically left up to your planner as they are all done at the last minute once you have a final head count. Your planner then distributes the assembled welcome packages to the hotel to be handed out at check out to your guests or you pay a small fee to have the package placed in the room by the hotel staff. This really depends upon the hotel and their practices. Assembling the favors and getting them to the reception hall to be set out at each place setting or a table of their own to be taken as guests leave.
- Guest and Bridal Party Transportation. Guest transportation can be two items. First guest transport to/from the airport to the hotel. And/or transportation from the hotel to the wedding ceremony and reception then back to the hotel. Bridal party would be your self and the entire wedding party to the ceremony, reception and then to two different locations as most couples opt to stay their wedding night elsewhere than their guests so they can have some quiet alone time.
- Menu and Beverage Selection and Tastings as needed. Usually only one tasting for food and beverage is needed as the caterer prepares several small portions of many different items that you as the couple picked and requested. Upon occasion, a second tasting is needed for a final decision on a couple different items that were both very well liked, but both items to be included just isn’t in the budget.
- Ongoing vendor maintenance. Throughout the planning process and especially on the day of, there’s ton’s of questions that vendors ask to ensure that they are still on the same page. Depending upon the package that you choose, either your planner gets and answers all of the countless questions over the months or if you’re on a tighter budget or want to take all of these calls yourself that’s an option. This includes making your deposits and payments to vendors at the scheduled times and depends upon the package that you choose.
- Schedule any Salon and Spa Services. The wedding day’s wee morning hours due to anticipation or family stresses can be very stressful to both the bride and her mother. Everyone wants their wedding to be perfect. In theory, every wedding is, but in most cases, one or two items will go haywire somewhere and a planner is the one to deal with these things. A good planner will strongly recommend to a bride, her maids and the brides mother to plan to get up a couple hours early to distress at a spa with a massage and soak before the wedding, if at all possible in the wedding budget. It’s a great bonding time and many spas have hair and make-up services available.
- Plan closely with your vendors to ensure all aspects of your wedding day will flow seamlessly. Ties in with vendor maintenance.
- Itemize and include all subcontracted vendors on one invoice from your planner. Maintain deposits and payments to all vendors from your payments. This monthly invoice goes to you and shows you exactly how much time the planner and her team worked on your special occasion, vendor payments made on your behalf and should include a total to date.
- Make reservation for Bride and Groom for wedding night. Most planners, depending upon the package you choose will set up the wedding night hotel room. Some planners include the decoration of the bridal suite in their package or as a surprise for their couples.
- Assist with Honeymoon planning Depending upon the package you choose, some planners will assist with honeymoon planning, deciding on where to go, if an inclusive deal is better for you than a piece mail type honeymoon, or take you to the airport in the morning. Assist you with getting your passport items together. If this isn’t included in the package you choose then they’ll hand you off to a travel agent that they trust to assist you with the honeymoon details. Most planners will suggest a travel agent and not that you do one of those “cheaper discount on line” on your own. The reason why, not because they make money on it, because they don’t. But because if you run into any issues while you’re gone, such as missing a flight, or you don’t like the hotel upon arrival etc, the travel agent can help you with those details. In addition, the travel agent because of the mass quantity that they deal with; they can get you just as good of a deal as you can get through those on line discount places with more bells and whistles.
- Handle any issues that arise in the planning process. Handling odd emergencies that creep up at any time during planning or on the day of, seriously do I need to explain that in any more detail?
- Create detailed and informative itinerary for wedding day, and surrounding activities. This is priceless and I’m not quoting Visa, in many cases, brides come up with surprises that they don’t want parents or the wedding party to be aware of so there’s one time line that only vendors and the location needs to be aware of, then there’s a timeline that her staff who needs to be aware of everything from the second you’re scheduled to get up until past the location closes down that night needs to know so there’s a second time line. Then there’s the timeline that the wedding party needs to be aware of with out all of the important fluff that the vendors and staff need to be aware of. So by the time its said and done, there’s three timelines created and distributed. Any change made to one needs to be made to all three in most cases.
- Time-line distribution to all vendors and location(s) a month prior to the wedding. And again if any changes are made. Without distribution you can have vendors and people showing up any where without knowing the key info that they have to have to do their job. Definitely not good.
- Confirm all Vendors and details. Also key in preparing the timeline and that everyone is on the same page. If you miss a step, it’s like making a pie without the crust.
Designer Décor & Floral Design
Frankly not all planners do this and will take you to an outside vendor to do these elements of your wedding. And some planners say that they can all of the following, but they really can’t. So do your homework and check out previous pic’s.
- Unlimited design time devoted to you. Design time is simply that, the time used to develop, design and pre-assemble the vision that you and the planner has discussed. You should see pics and the elements in advance of your wedding. Not always is it possible to see everything, if being rented and coming in within a day or so of your special occasion. But you should be able to see most of it.
- Create your custom designed wedding floral design completely infused with creative concepts of your vision of color scheme and/or theme. Entirely approved by you. This works hand in hand with the décor design. Many times floral is also custom designed to your vision and incorporated into the décor. You may not be able to see your actual flowers in entirety before the wedding, unless you would like to pay double for a preview of the entire order. However, most of the time, you have enough kept in the budget to bring in a small amount so you can see the color, design, shape and flow of a few pieces to approve.
- Create unique décor design created from your desires & vision with creative concepts of color scheme and/or theme. This is a combination of décor and floral custom designed to your vision and Entirely approved by you in the color scheme or theme that you have chosen to embrace in your special occasion.
- Custom design your Wedding Stationery and assist you with selection. Entirely approved by you. Custom designed stationery is just that. Designed to stay in your color scheme and theme of your wedding so the feeling of your wedding is seen and felt while the anticipation of your wedding from your guests are set from the first time they see your invite.
- Develop event enhancements including atmospheric lighting, custom furnishings and decor. Entirely approved by you. Enhancements are just that. Enhance the feeling of the location and the mood that you want to set for your wedding.
- Final consultation to determine the order of service for your wedding day based upon the church or ceremony location's requirements (up to 2 hours). Final consult pertains to your locations and you with the planner all together to ensure that any final adjustments that are made, everyone is aware of prior to the wedding day. Sometimes no final changes are made, but it does happen more often than not.
- Rehearsal Coordination and Direction. Some locations have an on-site coordinator. It’s the job of the on-site coordinator and your planner to work together so that the entire wedding party knows in advance what to expect the next day. The on-site coordinator is typically there to assist with the coordination of their staff, set up, clean up and service order. While the planner is there to help with line-up, the items of the wedding party, your bubble exit or bio-degradable wedding rice, that the outside music etc is there and ready and that any outside rentals have made it and will be set up on time.
- Rehearsal coordination and direction (up to one and one-half hours) see above they tie in together.
- Attend final walk through at location(s) This is where the planner attends the last minute meetings with the location(s) for your wedding day to make sure that all details have been attended to, that the outside rentals have or where they will arrive. Inform them of any last minute changes, decide upon room layout etc.
- Oversee and Manage wedding day installation. What exactly does that mean? I get that a lot until it’s explained. Installation is the location(s) staff bringing in and setting up the room. Making sure that the tables, staging, bars etc are set in the correct places and that there’s enough chairs for each table. Especially if you’re using place cards and not all of the tables have the same amount of place settings. Ensure that place settings aren’t missing major elements, such as if a champagne toast was requested that each place has the right glasses and if there’s assigned kids tables that there are not glasses there. Make sure that vendors are arriving in and at the proper locations.
- Oversee and manage and trouble-shoot each element wedding day installation. This is as each element is put into place, any issues that arise need to be dealt with right then and there. If they aren’t then there will be issues later or it won’t look like you envisioned.
- Unlimited on-site Wedding Day Management, including at least one assistant. This is extra help for you, your maids, your entire wedding party, parents, including all of the above. In addition to the management of all staff over the course of the day.
- Coordinate, Manage, and Trouble-shoot on your Wedding Day to create the Simply Sensational Wedding of your Dreams. This is the anticipation of where there could be hiccups in the course of your wedding day, make advance plans for these; occasionally two to three extra plans may be required for the day and application. Coordinate all of the vendors, the planners staff, the wedding party, so the day runs smoothly. To see potential problems and try to head them off at the pass before any one notices the issue. If the planner is doing their job, they don’t relax before all of the major festivities of your event are over and the dancing is underway. Then there’s time for a few minutes of a break followed by more work.
- Put out any place cards, set up the guest book, confirm that you have a cake knife and champagne for cake cutting, set out favors This is pretty self explanatory. Additional items that would not be included in this, is fabric ceilings, chuppas, major décor pieces, intricate or elaborate centerpieces, extra specialty linens, backdrops. Those all fall under décor and typically install for décor elements is an additional fee for both the install and labor required.
- Confirm that your photographer and musicians have their list of photos/ music list that you want. Additional copies of these pieces are made and brought by the planner so that if your musicians forgot them, then it’s still ok and runs smooth.
- Coordinate all of the attendees, parents, officiant with the church coordinator for the ceremony - line everyone up for walking down the aisle, make sure boutonnieres are pinned and bouquets are in the hands of the right people, make sure programs have been distributed, make sure that the vendors and family are in place. This is pretty self explanatory.
- During the reception we work with any on site event managers for the timing of the food, cake and first dance etc. This is pretty self explanatory.
- Complimentary use of Bridal Emergency Bag This is an important piece as most bustles do pull out at some time during the reception. Lip gloss is needed constantly due to the smiling. And literally every little thing that could possibly be needed urgently is in this bag.
- Become a team with your location and vendors to ensure your wedding is all that you envisioned. The key to a successful wedding is that all of the vendors, your planner and the location all know in advance what is going on, when and where and can read cues by you and your planner of when to speed things up or down so you have the day/night you’ve envisioned.
- At the end of the night, we pay all of your vendors w/ prearranged checks. This is pretty self explanatory.
- Collect all of your presents and personal items so that you and your family can enjoy the entire night and not think twice about any details. All of your gifts and personal items will delivered to you the next day or when convenient for you. This is pretty self explanatory.
- Decorate the bridal suite. We do this for all of our brides, but not all planners do.
- And much, much more!
Post Wedding Day
- Drop off gifts at Bridal Brunch. We actually go in and assist with the set up of brunch the next day. Prepare the gifts for easy opening, bring paper and pens so your maid of honor can write down who the gift is from, what it is and include an address if possible so you can easily complete thank you notes. Depending upon the location, sometimes we stay to clean up too before we leave.
- Set up Bridal Brunch. See above.
- Pick up tuxes & shoes from Bridal Brunch and return to rental shop. Yes that’s right, the guys in your wedding part do not have to return their rented items. Just make sure that they have everything they rented in the proper bag. We’ll take it all back and that way you and your wedding party can have some extra time relaxing after the festivities.
- Return any & all rentals to other vendors/suppliers. This is pretty self explanatory.
- Confirm honeymoon plans. So when it’s time to leave, you can actually leave and not worry about the reservations.
No planner has the same package and planners charge their time and fees based upon their expertise so you really can’t compare apples to apples when reviewing planners solely based upon packages and price. You really need to take into account their years of experience, personality and then the packages. See our blog post on experience to better clarify how expertise plays into how invaluable a planner is to you.