As a professional wedding planner you can offer a range of wedding planner services to your clients or you can make the decision to stick to one level of planning, only.
Do you want complete involvement in the wedding planning details–from the moment she accepts his proposal until the day they leave for their honeymoon?
Or are you willing to jump in during the last month or two (sometimes just weeks) before the wedding date to play the role of ‘ringmaster' making sure that everything goes off smoothly (well, as smoothly as is humanly possible with such short notice).
Naturally, the different levels of wedding planner service determine the fees you command as a professional wedding consultant. Before committing to offering your professional services, be realistic and honest about your own style, your personality and how much hands-on involvement you're (really) comfortable with for such an emotional event.
Here's an overview of the different types of wedding planner services you can offer your clients:
Hourly Wedding Planner Service
Best for: A bride who only has one or two issues to address, like finding the right band or location.
Your Professional Fee*: $50-$200 per hour (with a two to three-hour minimum)
As an hourly wedding planner, you meet with clients for however long they need–to assist with any aspect of their wedding. You can search for venues, research and suggest wedding suppliers, create a budget…the list is endless.
You may or may not be at the actual wedding–that depends on your clients. More than likely, though, your main responsibility will be to teach your clients the skills they need to plan their own day.
You can charge by the hour or by the meeting. If you're charging by the hour, I recommend having a two or three hour minimum. Give your clients the option of booking only one meeting with you or to come back as many times as they like.
Don't hold back on information during your consultations. Let them know who the best caterer in town is. Give them the inside track on that inexpensive but oh-so talented florist. Show them how to create a wedding budget if that's what they need.
Once couples see the benefit of your professional advice and experience, oftentimes they'll spring for a more comprehensive (read: more lucrative) level of wedding planning. So over deliver!
Full Service Wedding Planner Service
Best for: A busy bride who needs the hands-on professional help from a wedding planner from the very beginning to the end.
Your Professional Fee*: $3,000 and up. Charge either a flat fee or a percentage of the wedding budget.
Just as the title suggests, a full-service planner does it all. At the very least, in this role you are expected to:
- recommend and work with all wedding suppliers
- accompany your clients on all appointments
- negotiate wedding supplier contracts
- manage the guest list and RSVPs
- create a workable wedding budget
- plan a variety of wedding parties (engagement, showers etc.)
- help create the theme and style of the wedding
- provide ongoing telephone and email support (sometimes daily)
- be there on the wedding day to make sure it all happens as planned…and hold the bride's hand!
Phew! Full-service wedding planning is a huge undertaking and no small feat. Make sure your fees reflect that. The average wedding takes 100+ hours to plan (more if you're a novice planner)!
As you sign on clients, be careful how you space out this level of planning. I would think twice before accepting two full-service planning weddings that are scheduled to happen in the same month, for example.
Expect to work very closely with your full-service clients–daily telephone calls, frequent vendor visits–so chemistry is extremely important. She has to like you and just as importantly you have to enjoy working with her.
‘Day-of' Wedding Planner Service
Best for: The bride who can oversee details herself but wants someone around on the ‘big day' to make sure things run smoothly.
Your Professional Fee*: $900 and up for the wedding day. Charge additional fees for additional planning services (that are not in your contract) before that.
Being a ‘day-of' wedding planner means getting involved up to a month before your client's wedding. Ideally, all of the wedding arrangements will have been taken care of months before…by your clients.
As the professional wedding planner, you are touching base with wedding suppliers and ensuring that all of the details are in order.
With the Day-of wedding planner service, one of your main responsibilities is to coordinate and manage the wedding-day schedule so that all involved–wedding professionals and wedding party alike–are in the right place at the right time.
Although you are hired for one day's work, in actual fact you are working on your client's wedding anywhere from 30-50 hours before the wedding day actually arrives, getting prepared. Plan on meeting with your clients at least once, if not twice, prior to their wedding to go over details.
*Keep in mind: This is the riskiest of all of the wedding planning services (as far as your reputation is concerned, anyway). In essence, you're banking that your client has made all of the appropriate decisions up until now (hmmmmm…).
If the caterer she hired is incompetent, who do you think will look bad (beside the caterer)? Yup! The Wedding Planner! So, think this one through.
Referrals-Only Wedding Planner Service
Best for: Brides who need help with finding suppliers or locations only.
Your Professional Fee*: Free. As a wedding planner, you are compensated by the wedding suppliers you recommend.
Ever thought about providing brides with vendor recommendations only? Instead of planning the event, open up your professional Rolodex (do people still use those things?)!
After you determine the style and budget of a bride's wedding, you supply her with the names and contact information of available wedding suppliers that you have researched and approve of.
The best part about this type of service is that it is absolutely free for the bride. The vendors that you recommend pay you a referral fee–either per referral or for booked business. By the way, this type of referral fee is NOT the same thing as a ‘kickback'.
Claudia Hanlin's chic ‘Wedding Library' in Manhattan, New York and Cynthia Adkin's ‘A Legendary Affair' in California are both wonderful examples of how you can build a business around a referral wedding service.
Both of these companies also host wonderful events and workshops for brides-to-be and provide traditional wedding planning services for a fee. As a result each of these wedding businesses receive enviable coverage from the media. (I've visited both locations and absolutely love this type of wedding planner service.)