Are you Charging Enough?

charging_enough

At some point, as a wedding planner you will come to the realization that you are not charging enough for your professional services.

You may justify under pricing–whether its matching a competitor or just low-balling–as a way to ‘get your name out there’.

Take it from me–don’t do it.

And if you’re already in this situation, here’s why you need to stop.

If you’re not Making Money This is a Hobby!

Making the decision to plan weddings for a living isn’t usually driven by money. More than likely your work is truly a labor of love; a passion; something you will gladly do–and likely have done– without receiving a dime.
Unfortunately, women in general (and currently the majority of planners are female) are notorious for volunteering their time, and society readily exploits those who are willing.
This practice isn’t good for your wallet.

If your goal is to operate and grow the successful wedding planning company you’ve dreamed about (and yes, you absolutely can do that!), then you have to set your fees to be profitable. Otherwise consider your wedding planning efforts a hobby.

Falling into the trap of under pricing, is easy to do. But almost instantly you’re labeled by your clients and other wedding professionals as the budget wedding planner. Will you initially attract more brides this way? Absolutely. But you’ll be working twice as hard…for a lot less.

Are you charging enough for your wedding planning services?

 Brides with Champagne Tastes on Apple Cider Budgets

Now don’t get me wrong; working with budget brides shouldn’t be off limits. For some planners, this target market is a very profitable niche–you just have to be smart about matching your time with your income.

If during your initial conversation with a bride, you determine that she’s budget sensitive, don’t dismiss her, but don’t go crazy with a 2-hour consultation, either. Just remember that your time is valuable.

Create and have ready a no-frills wedding planning package that includes a limited number of consulting hours and stick to it! When you talk to her say something like:

“Most of the weddings I work on are personalized for each couple, but it sounds like I’m hearing that budget might be an issue. I’d like to suggest the [NO-FRILLS PACKAGE NAME]. This way you get the best of both worlds; I can point you in the direction of some wonderful wedding professionals and resources to help you create a fabulous occasion and you can save money by doing some of the pre-planning legwork.

How does that sound?”

After your initial conversation, be sure to send her:

1) Highlights of your no-frills package along with details of your other planning services. Who knows? She may decide to go with a more comprehensive planning option after all. Be sure to list the package details in bulleted list so there is no confusion about what is (and isn’t) included. Actually, creating a separate a list of just the things that are NOT included isn’t a bad idea.

2) Information on all of your other services such as invitations, bridal accessories, gown preservation, etc. She needs to purchase these items from someone, why not you?

TIP: Create an easy-to-read comparison chart of all your planning packages so that brides can view each level of your service, side-by-side.

Do NOT Work for Free!!

During your follow-up if you find that brides are asking for your professional help before signing on the dotted line, with ‘innocent’ questions like:
‘Can you recommend a florist [or another vendor]within our budget?’

Be sure to let her know that you work with several wonderful wedding professionals whom you’d love her to meet, however,  that is a service you charge for.

There’s a fine line between sharing helpful information with your prospects and working for free.

By all means, share wedding planning tips and articles that you’ve written with your potential clients; doing so will position you as an expert. But reserve your personalized and individual attention for your paying clients.

Set your Wedding Planner Fees with Confidence

I know I’m repeating myself, but remember that your time and efforts are valuable. And although wedding planners are much more front-and-center than they were, say, ten years ago, unlike the must-have flowers or the awesome band, many brides still don’t ‘get’ the importance and benefits of having you on board until it’s too late (i.e. after the wedding!).

Confidence in pricing and knowing what to charge your brides truly makes the difference in your success. Believe me when I tell you that you will be viewed as a professional who is serious about what you’re doing when you charge what you’re worth. Yes, your price structure may not be within the financial reach of all brides, but then your goal should not be to work with every single bride out there.

BY THE WAY : Never apologize or make excuses for your fee. You are a professional, providing a specialized service. Practice saying your fee (hundreds of times, if you have to!) before telling your clients. When you’re hesitant or unsure, brides will assume there is a weakness and question the amount you’ve quoted.

The other equally important part of this is perception. Your bride has to perceive you to be worth your fee. (So if you’re guilty of trying to finish that box of biz cards with your new email address handwritten, all squished to the side, and thinking that no one’s paying attention, think again!) From the moment she meets with you–whether in person or virtually–you are responsible for making that bride realize how beneficial you are to her wedding (more on that topic in another article).

So, take a moment to review your current pricing. Give yourself some credit, and start charging what you’re worth.

**UPDATE:  Listen to Confetti Episode #373 – The Wedding Planner Pricing Dilemma for help with how to figure out what to charge.

HAPPY PLANNING!

77 Comments

  • Thank you Debbie, this is the most challenging part of my business but now I am well informed as to how to handle fees for services.
    Thanks again.

    • Lola says:

      I came across your blog, and it was an awakening. I felt like I was In complete darkness, in reference to pricing and services rendered, but you have shined a light on my business practices and I’m well informed! Is there an app where we can download contracts for weddings.

    • shawnder says:

      thanks so much. because i have really been cheating myself. people want all this fancy stuff but don’t want to pay for it. i’m trying to get a wedding planning business up and going. but i find myself feeling like i’m working for free. how do set your pricing so you make a profit. i have cleints that want table linens, overlays, chaircovers, and sashes. but don’t want to pay

      • Debbie Quain says:

        Hi Shawnder,

        I think we’re all guilty of undercharging…at least, initially. I plan on addressing your question/comment during the live broadcast on Saturday, Aug 2, 2014 at 10:00AM US/ET. Thanks for writing.

        –Debbie

    • Vonda says:

      Thank you so much for this information. I want to get my wedding planning business going before I retire in two years. I felt guilty charging clients an amount equivalent to what I make at my current position. Thanks to you I realize I’m worth it. Wedding planning is stressful enjoyment and the outcome is well worth it.

  • Carmen Gonzalez says:

    Enjoyed this helpful blog! Thank you

  • Alex says:

    Thanks! This is really helpful! :)

  • Rachel says:

    Your site is very helpful. I have been kicking around this wedding business idea for a few years. My oldest son suggested it to me today out of the blue. I had never discussed it with him, how funny. In the past every time I had set out to learn more – something always came up to redirect my attentions. I feel the need to become more committed to this goal.

    • Debbie says:

      Rachel, if your son’s comment isn’t a prime example of serendipity, then what is??! It’s funny how things begin to fall into place…when the time is right. You’ll know. Please keep me posted. Thanks so much for taking the time to write. –Debbie

  • Milly says:

    Thanks Debbie, this is really helpful!!

  • Kim D says:

    All I can say is, WOW!!! You’ve answered all my questions and gave me the confidence in really setting my price without feeling bad about it! My work is worth what I charge and more. And, I will no longer feel bad about it! Thanks Debbie

    • Debbie says:

      Hi Kim! Kudos to you! Setting a price for any type of professional service is tricky. But what you do is special, not to mention time-consuming, so charge accordingly! :)

  • Cynthia says:

    Thanks Debbie,
    Your information was very helpful. I’m just getting started in the business. I’ve always done it for free! My husband suggested I start getting paid. I booked my first wedding for October and had a few concerns. After reading your information I’m ready for the challenge. Thanks for everything!

  • Denise says:

    Thank you Debbie, this was very helpful

  • Kim says:

    Thank you for these tips. Just had a bride use me for my ideas and legwork only to take it to a cheaper planner. Thanks again

  • Diane says:

    Very helpful!! Thanks

  • Lana says:

    Thank you so much Debbie! I’m a up and coming wedding planner and I was so worried about how to price my services. It’s kind of difficult to price when I don’t have much experience. But above all, I have the talent for it but I just wanted to make sure I’m paid enough for both my time and talent.

    • Hi! I am in the same boat! As a new wedding planner myself I wanted to know what to charge and after reading this I have a better understand.

      Thankyou!
      Leane

      • Debbie Quain says:

        Hey Leane,

        Thanks so much for the feedback! Pricing is a tricky task in ANY business. I struggled with it for quite some time, too. Glad you found the info helpful.

        –Debbie

    • Debbie Quain says:

      Hello Lana,

      Good for you! Charge what you’re worth. It takes a lot of time to put a wedding together. So, if you’ve got the talent, you should get paid!

      Thanks for reaching out.

      –Debbie

  • Heather Phelps says:

    Hello Debbie,
    I enjoyed you article it was helpfull. I am a certified wedding planner. I have been working hard on starting my business. I am struggling on deciding on how to charge. I plan on charging twenty five dollars an hour for consultations, 400 dollars and up for rehearsal and day of coordination and 2,500 for complete planning. Should I ask clients to pay half of 2,500 up front and the rest a week before the wedding? Also how does it work when I need to purchase items for the clients wedding? Do they give me the money up front and I purchase it for? I appreciate your help.

  • Martha Bejarano says:

    Debbie I heard your show after it was finished. I’m glad I did. One of the things I struggled with; is the fees for my services. As Heather mentions to charge 2500 for a complete planning, I think is also a small amount, but since I don’t have the experience as other professionals have, then I feel I should charge less. I really would like that you go over on this subject a little more next week; I’m pretty sure many of us could benefit from your expertise. Also what to do to let people that I’m a wedding planner without spending a fortune….I really appreciated. Look forward of next week’s show.
    Have a great evening.
    Martha

  • Sylvia says:

    Hello, I am new to this business myself and that is one of my concern also on how to charge my brides. I do not think that 2,500 is too high to charge because it is us who is going to do all the leg work, negotiating to the vendors and make sure that everything is put in place for this bride. We are taking all the stress from off of her and putting everything in place. So that on the day of her wedding she and her fiance well be smiling and enjoying that special day, so I do not think that is too much to charge.

    Debbie you have some great idea. Can you tell me on what show you are on so that I can listen to your ideas. I am looking forward to be one of the best wedding planner.

    • Debbie Quain says:

      Sylvia,

      You’re right. You absolutely should be compensated for all of your hard work and the actual fee that you charge should reflect that. As far as an actual dollar amount, that depends on where you’re located and what you believe your time is worth.

      Feel free to join the live talk show, Confetti, for wedding planners on Tuesdays at 7:00PM ET. You can check out the schedule for the live show at http://confettiradio.com/listen.

      Thanks for your feedback, Sylvia. Looking forward to talking to you on the show.

  • Sylvia says:

    I have another question. At the moment I am working full-time at my job so I will be only be able to work on the weekends and after work. How can I do this. I am not at liberty to quit my job as yet. I am working on to get this business going and looking on how to get my first client. Also I need to get ideas on how to write my first contract. I have samples but do not understand on how to put it together. Please HELP HELP…….

  • catrina l says:

    Great article, I am starting out as well and I have low balled “to get my name out there” I just don’t know what the accurate price to charge is? I ask around and it’s always “depends what you do?” I just need some help in that area… :(

    • Debbie Quain says:

      Catrina,

      Pricing is a tricky topic. The thing is, only you know how much money you need to make. And only you know what your business-related expenses are. Once you know what both of these amounts are, only then can you begin working on pricing.

      Although the ‘going rate’ (i.e. what other planners charge) plays a small part, it shouldn’t be the basis for your calculation of how much to charge. I made the mistake of picking a number (out of the sky. No, really, that’s what I did!) when I first began charging for my wedding planning services. Big mistake.

      How much money do you want/need each month (expenses + your salary)? How many hours are you able to work each month on weddings? If you’re unable to answer these two (2) questions. stop and figure them out, first before you determine how much to charge…

      –Debbie

  • Ashley says:

    I have a marketing background and love planning events. I have recently in the last two years done more for portfolio purposes and experience, and to get an idea of what to charge, etc. I was wondering – Do you have to have a license/certificate from a wedding planning school or class? Do you have to have a business license right away? I know it looks better, professionally, of course. I just am having a hard time figuring out what to call my business. I appreciate your help with this. This site is really helpful.

    • Jessica says:

      I am a certified wedding & event planner and I’m a member of the association of bridal consultants both of which when provided to a bride might sway her in your direction instead of a competitor who doesn’t have either.

  • Partha says:

    Hi debbie

    There is sooo much i have learnt from this site. you truly are generous with your priceless information and i really wanted to thank you. there is one question however that i want answered and that is how do i find a constant supply of clients?

    Partha
    India

  • L. Cameron says:

    You have been a life saver on so many topics. It helps give me so much confidence in so many areas.

  • Lilieth says:

    Thanks for insight! I always worried about over price or under price. now I’ll take the bold step.

    • Debbie Quain says:

      Hi Lilieth,

      We ALL go through this, so don’t worry. The good news is that it gets easier with time. So, yes, be bold.

      –Debbie

  • felicia says:

    how to charge i have the linens and can make decorations

  • Kimesha says:

    Thank you for this article and this site. I have deleted everyithing and had given up on my business out of frusteration and MAJOR underselling of myself… Wedding/Event planning is natural for me but after working hard for pennies the flame had been extinguished. Thanks for the wisdom shared and rekindling the flame.

    Kimesha

    • Leimomi Autufuga says:

      DONT GIVE UP! If you love this business continue to honor your talents and do it. Dont be discouraged and get focus again. Set your prices on a piece of paper and stick to it. Tell you clients here is your pricing and that they are welcome to go and shop around if they arent comfortable or happy with your prices. They will come back if they really want YOU and only U. I was like you in the beginning but then when I sat down and outlined my fees for all of my services and letting my clients know know this is what my prices are and some did shop around but most of them came back. So do U girl…

  • raven says:

    When do you collect the fee(s)..before, during or after the planning/wedding is done?__

    • Angela says:

      Raven, I suggest collecting a deposit (first payment) upon contract being signed and then divided the remaining payments. Collect final payment at least a month before the wedding. This allows the bride and groom some peace, as almost all of the other vendors will collect payments within two weeks of the wedding. I would advise against receiving payments after the wedding. Hope that helps!

    • Leimomi Autufuga says:

      I always make sure to collect my fee 3 days prior to there event. Works like a charm.

  • Yolanda Alston-Clark says:

    Thank you for this article and this site. I have been doing Wedding and Event Planning as a hobby for over 15 plus years. Recently, I found myself unemployed and decided to make it a legal business. Pricing as always been on of the tough things for me. Most brides won’t so much but run when I give them pricing…. This article has been most helpful….

    • Leimomi Autufuga says:

      This must mean your prices are too high.If thats the case let them know that you will work with there budget and then they are good with that.

      • Debbie Quain says:

        Leimomi, I don’t agree that the instant and only reaction to brides who won’t pay your fee is to lower them. It really depends. Are you coming across as a professional? Are you specializing? Do YOU believe that you’re worth your fee– meaning would you hire you? :). Definitely a topic that needs more discussion… Thanks.

  • Christina says:

    Professionally, I have no experience in wedding planning. Personally, however; I have more than enough experience and I have always desired this trade. I have been a stay-at-home mom/housewife for the past couple of years and I have enjoyed taking care of my mother-in-law. I have developed cabin fever and the desire to become more productive financially in this family. I have been a preschool teacher for over 19 years but I have planned birthday parties for friends, family reunions, anniversary parties, retirement parties, Christmas parties weddings, nuptial renewal parties and New Year eve parties. Because they were family and friends I would do it all for free or charge them $100. I am now interested in doing for a living. Is it possible for me to become an event planner without professional experience?

  • CHERRY says:

    Good Morning!
    I seriously need to see a tentative pricing list so I can begin to create reasonable goal for myself & create packages.
    Part of that will include putting together my own vendors & agreeing to realistic charges.
    I have performed every phase of wedding planning/services etc
    However, I have not done any if the pricing.
    You are correct that I do not want to undersell myself in this new business where I will handle every aspect.
    Many blessings,
    CHERRY GOVAN
    :)

  • sharren akroyd says:

    thank you Debbie for being my inspiration to move forward with my plans.

  • Tish says:

    Hi Debbie

    I’ve been in the industry for years employed at Hotels and Game lodges, what is the minimum page however I am going solo now in SA.

    What is the ideal price to charge?

    Thanks

    tish

  • Eno Odiagah says:

    Thank you so much. This has been very insightful and helpful. Thanks Debbie

  • Jannice says:

    Several people have asked me to decorate the tables for their wedding reception. Do you have any idea the price range of how much I should charge per hour-just the labor, if they provide all the materials for the centerpieces?

  • Rachel says:

    Hello Mrs.Debbie,

    I’m almost finish school for event and wedding planning and i’m also struggling with pricing for my wedding packages.

  • This is such a great resource that you are providing. I love seeing websites that understand the value of providing a quality resource. It’s the old what goes around comes around routine. Big thanks for the useful info……

  • Nadia says:

    Hello, thank you for your advices, I’m thinking about setting up a wedding planning agency in Paris (I’m French). I’m young and I’m scared but I really want to try. I assume your advices could help me here too. Just looking for the “plus” I could have in front of other agencies. That’s why I’m looking for American inspirations !

  • Christopher Murphy says:

    I am in the beginning stages of start a planning business. I do it as a profession, I am getting certified – (Short,afforadable program) mostly to learn as much as I can before the start up. But I look around and I never get concrete examples of what various services are possible and what the price average is. Like Consulting – $1,000 fee. All inclusive planning package – $3,000. No one seems to put numbers to anything. So I am clueless to what a nice competitive average. I dont like the 10% of budget way because its a conflict of interest I feel. They might accuse you of keeping cost higher for my check kinda scenario. Plus what are some “non-traditional” packages some of you do? I know consultation, and full planning, also selling select services like decorations. But Some Brides might just want someone to Structure a timeline for them and confirm it with the vendor. Something like that is a less then 8 hour total effort task. And no one would pay 1000 for that kind of consultation. But a small, quick easy task list like that could be a bread an butter package for a planner. Make a few timelines for a few hundered bucks couple times a month. Make an extra grand or two a month worth out much effort. So just kinda curious about that stuff. So Average Pricing and some non traditional packages ideas. Thanks!

  • Marilyn Tarver-Rice says:

    I’m new to Wedding and Event Planning. I not sure how much to charge. Should i charge by size of wedding?

  • Sandra says:

    I have been coordinating weddings for friends and co-workers for several years I also worked as an events associate at a venue overseeing weddings, corporate parties, etc. I recently received a certification from an online course that is for people like me to broaden my knowledge as some people like to see certification. Like everyone I have seen above I am unsure what to charge, I do have a contract that outlines the duties offered. I like the option of a flat rate which I want to state in the contract but need a base fee that is not too low. Also I make centerpiece arrangements is it appropriate to offer this as a separate service or should it be incorporated in the contract.

  • Akosua says:

    Dear Debbie,

    I love love love your blog.
    I’m devouring the information.
    please I want to find out in what circumstances you would price as a percentage of total cost and in what circumstance you would give a fixed price.When quoting as a percentage of,is that percentage taken on the initial budgeted cost?what happens if the actual cost goes up?When do you bill? And in how many installments?

  • Valerie says:

    Hi Debbie! I’m so thankful I came across your website when I did. I’m in the beginning stages of promoting my event planning business and was wondering what advice you could give me. I live in Fairbanks, Alaska and as far as I know I may be the only person in my town pursuing this sort of business. Do you have any marketing and perhaps some pricing suggestions? I’d appreciate any tips you have!

  • Rita says:

    This is exactly what I needed to hear..Thanks a lot Debbie for such a tip….”brides watch out here I come,with a good price of-cause…lol”

  • Giuliana says:

    Dear Debbie,
    I’m a new italian Wedding Planner, just starting my business now. How to find a word to thank you. In Italy, and i think in the rest of Europe too, this is a profession that is still not running so well. The most of the couple do everything theirselves and it’s difficult to let understand how important can be our profession. We are still fighting against the question “why should i choose a wedding planner if i can do everything by myself saving money? why should i spend more money?Why should i pay you?” so…. very frustrating. Reading your blog i understand again how NORMAL our profession is, how “justified” is. I hope i’m explaining me good in english :)
    So i thank you very very much , i have also some questions in my mind, i organize it and.. i’ll write it soon. Thank you thank you thank you!!!!

    • Debbie Quain says:

      Hello Giuliana,

      Thanks so much for the feedback; I understood everything you said!

      You’re right, though. Not everyone ‘gets’ why a wedding planner is needed; in fact most couples won’t ever hire one. But if you can show the value that your professional services provide and, more importantly, the pain that you ease, you’re in a good place.

      Best of luck to you.

      –Debbie

  • Amazing! Its in fact awesome piece of writing,
    I have got much clear idea concerning from this post.

  • Jean Neuhart says:

    Great tips, Debbie. Thanks for sharing.

  • denisse says:

    I really appreciate all this info that you share with us. Honest to God, not everyone is kind hearted and willing to help other in the world of planning and decor. I’ve hit many walls, thought of giving up, but then I come upon your page and I begin to think I CAN do this.

    THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!

    • Debbie Quain says:

      Hey there, Denisse!

      Thanks so much for your positive feedback and your kind words. I’m happy to help. Keep going! :)

      –Debbie

  • Chantel says:

    Very useful information. I am really bad at talking and giving ideas for free! A creative individual who organised my own destination wedding. I really enjoy the organising, negotiating etc. Just don’t know where to start in terms of how much do I charge? And where to find brides?

  • Alexandra A says:

    Great posts Debbie! I know wedding planners charge anywhere between 10-20% of the couples wedding budget but what I get asked often is, why 10-20%? Who came up with that figure or what is the reason behind charging that percentage? I am a wedding planner in Kenya, in Diani Beach to be exact, and there are a lot of couples wanting to get married at our beautiful beach. When I quote a couple 10%, which is what I charge, they more than often try and beat me down on my cost and it’s so frustrating because planning a wedding is a lot of running around and leg work, which is why us planners offer this service. Your advice will be welcomed :)

  • Kim says:

    I just stumbled across this article, thanks this information is very valuable. I am definitely guilty of underpricing even working for free to get my name and my work out there. But what is still true today is that a lot of people want something for nothing, and it’s particularly the people that know you and think you should do it for little of nothing for them. I have begun to be firm with my pricing and not backing down. It’s mind blowing with some people, I once had someone say to me they were having three hundred guests and all they had was $300. Wow!!!!

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