What to Ask When Hiring a Planner
Updated: Oct 24, 2020
There's this strange pressure that exists (for brides, especially) to excel at and find joy in hosting and organizing a major event like a wedding. But unless you have lots of close friends and family that can share their experiences and tips with you, chances are you've landed in uncharted territory and aren't sure where to start. Or, you dove right in and are now realizing you're in over your head.
I don't know about you, but when I think of the things in life that I threw myself into for the very first time, I wasn't very good at it the first go around. The truth is, even if you identify as Type A, event planning can prove to be a challenge for most. And, you only have one shot to get it right! We all could use a little guidance when we're navigating something that's new to us. And brides, it's OK to feel overwhelmed. It's OK to not know where to start.
So, you've landed in a place where you think you may need the assistance of an event professional. You've searched The Knot, asked family and friends, maybe checked in with your vendors for some referrals. You've narrow down your list to 3-5 planners that you want to screen.
Before sending a proposal and pricing, the planner is likely going to want to speak with you over the phone to learn more about you. This is for a couple of reasons:
1) To get the scope and pricing right. If the planner charges a flat fee (like many do), they're going to need a good understanding of what you've done, what you haven't done, and what kind of service you're seeking. In order to do that, your planner is going to want to dive into the details right away. Be prepared to give them an overview of what vendors you've secured, what your overall event budget is, how you envision your day (both aesthetically and overall experience), and what your priorities are. The more time and thought you've put into this ahead of time, the more productive your conversation will be and the more your planner will be able to create a package that's perfectly suited for you.
2) To get to know you. As much as it's important to discuss pricing and services, don't press fast forward on the "getting to know you" stuff. When I schedule an initial call, I start there. I want to know how you met, how he/she proposed, what you like to do for fun, what you love to eat. Being an event planner is so much more than updating timelines and designing spaces. We end up spending a ton of time together, so building an emotional connection and trust is key to give you the best experience possible.
When you get on the phone, a great planner will manage the call and come prepared with plenty of questions and prompts for you. However, we do give you an opportunity to turn the tables and ask us questions.
It's often hard to ask questions about what you don't know yet, so here are a few important questions to ask before hiring an event planner:
1) What's your working style like? How would you describe your approach when working with your clients?
A self-aware planner should have a thoughtful answer to how they'd describe their style and approach, and it should be very telling about their personality and the way that they like to work. For example, I would describe my own style as relaxed yet polished. I like a little edge, a little unexpected, but an overall cohesiveness and thoughtfulness to each look. I would describe my approach as collaborative, thoughtful, and focused. I view myself as a collaborator with couples and vendors, allowing everyone to feel like they play a vital role in the process. I take the time to do my research, ask questions, and consider all alternatives before making decisions and recommendations. I also view my role as the one to focus the conversation and keep everyone on track as to what we're trying to achieve. By asking this question, you'll really get a good feel for who they truly are.
2) How many events do you take on each year?
The number of projects that a planner commits him/herself to each year likely influences pricing. Those who take on a limited number of clients might have a higher price tag, but are likely to deliver a higher caliber of service. Limiting the number of events per year can be an effort to improve quality control and client experience. Or, it could be for personal reasons, an effort to juggle work-life balance. Opposite of that, planners who take on a higher volume of events might offer a more limited scope of services OR they have the staff to operate in this way. Starting off with this simple question opens to the door to questions about their team, who your main point of contact would be, how they staff their events, etc. But generally speaking, asking this question will give you good insight into their individual capacity and some reasoning behind the price tag.
3) What do you perceive to be your greatest strengths? What sets you apart from others?
Any business owner should know their strengths (and weaknesses). By asking each planner what their strengths are, you're giving them an opportunity to share with you what they're most proud of. For example. if a planner says their greatest strength is impeccable design, and design is a huge priority for you, this might be a good match. If they say their greatest strength is communication, and you know you're the type who will want frequent and timely check-ins, then this might be a good match. At the core, every planner offers similar types of services and will often have similar networks of vendors. But, we all have different backgrounds, personalities, strengths, and weaknesses. Asking this question gives each planner an opportunity to really showcase what they perceive to be their single greatest asset. And if that asset doesn't address your greatest needs and concerns, ask them directly. If they haven't already addressed the things you're most nervous about, speak up! Let them know that XYZ is a big priority to you, and ask what their approach is regarding that topic.
4) How did you gain your experience as a planner? Tell me more about your background.
I am a huge advocate for this question when screening any wedding vendor. Every business owner is unique in how they got to where they are today. Some work more part-time, while also balancing a full-time job. Some are 10+ year veterans operating a full-time business with employees. Most are somewhere in the middle. Any of these may be a good fit depending on what you're seeking. As a consumer, it's important to know that there's a very low barrier to entry within the wedding industry. Anyone with an affinity for weddings can start up a website, social media pages, and call themselves an expert. Now, that's not to say that young businesses aren't worth hiring. I'm a young business! But it's certainly important to understand how that person got to where they are and their experience in the field. I've spent the past 10 years working in the event production industry, 6 years as an event producer, and 3 years working directly for other third party planners. It's so important to understand the experience and value that one professional brings to the table vs. another.
Finding the right planner is all about striking a balance between the right personality, the right experience, and the right price.
Your planner is going to truly be there every step of the way with you, so if you find the right personality match, don't hesitate to be transparent about your budget and what you can afford. They will be quick to tell you if they can work within your desired budget or not. If you find a planner that's a perfect fit but stretches your budget a bit, don't rule them out too quickly. Investing in a quality planner who is the right fit for you is arguably the best money you can invest into your wedding day.
The bottom line is, don't be shy! There are no silly questions - ask away! Be as honest and transparent as possible about what you're looking for. And before jumping on a call, really take some time to reflect on what you really want out of your special day and what your priorities are. From there, trust your gut and you can't go wrong!