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Wedding Planners 101

November 9th, 2011 by Jeannine

Wedding Planners 101

What does a wedding planner do? The simplest answer is “plan weddings” but they do so much more than that. To find out, I talked to Alicia Keats, principal planner for Alicia Keats Weddings + Events. A little about Alicia, she completed the Special Event Planning certificate from Capilano University and soon after, she joined the ladies of DreamGroup Productions in 2006. Alicia learned the tricks of the trade and over a hundred weddings later, she branched out to start her own company, which happened earlier this year.

Alicia says, it all begins with a gameplan. She starts with a consultation with both the bride and groom to determine what their wedding vision is and develop a realistic budget for it. A guestlist must then be drafted as that will affect certain choices, like the venue. The size of the guestlist may even impact the couple’s budget, something a planner must be aware of right away.  She then organizes all the tasks that she will complete and gives this checklist to her couple so all parties will be on the same page and be able to keep track of the wedding planning progress. Afterwards, a storyboard is developed for everybody to draw inspiration from when designing how the wedding will look. Other planners may have their own style of tackling the planning process but all are responsible for guiding you through every wedding-related task, offering their years of expertise to help you make the correct decisions.

Once the guestlist has been finalized the search for a venue begins. The planner asks the couple what kind of venue they would prefer, a restaurant? Hotel ballroom? A character home? The couple’s priorities are noted and the planner shortlists some venues for the couple to consider. An experienced planner will have to be an expert on venues, among other things. They need to be able to educate their couples if what they’re planning will actually work in a specific place. Once the venue is selected, “it’s time to put the rest of the team together,” Alicia says. Finding the right vendors is not just about matching budgets. Alicia mentioned that one couple she worked for was very camera-shy so she wanted to recommend photographers based on personality as well as their pricelist. Same with other vendors, if a bride wants a vintage style wedding, maybe some florists or decorators do vintage better than others. A planner’s responsibility is to bring all options to the table, for example, a vendor who’s offering a discount and a vendor whose style matches the couple’s vision but is priced a little higher. It is ultimately the couple’s decision to choose their vendor. Once everyone has been hired, a timeline is drawn up and discussed. This helps the couple visualize how the day is going to look like, in detail, by the minute. It will show where everyone is supposed to be, what everyone is supposed to be doing, at every point of the day. This timeline will then be distributed among all the vendors and anyone involved in the wedding so everyone will be on the same page.

On the day of the wedding, the wedding planner becomes the wedding coordinator. They will oversee the entire event so you can concentrate on being a bride for the day. Your wedding coordinator will execute your plans, solve problems, make the right decisions, and keep the event moving right on schedule. If you can’t afford a planner, at least hire a day of coordinator because it’s a LOT of work and you do not want to subject a friend or family member to take on this massive job. You want them to have fun, after all! The cost of a Day of Coordinator is also just a fraction of the cost of full wedding planning services.

A wedding planner is also a support system for a couple. They are responsible for letting the clients know exactly what is happening at all times. They will attend venue tours, vendor meetings, and they will even help make sure your catering menu and wedding cake tastes just right ;) Alicia mentions that it’s possible to have a table viewing at your venue. It is a preview of what a dining table will look like on the big day with the linens, decor, and flowers in place so you can see for yourself what it will actually look like. This would be a great opportunity to make any necessary design changes. A wedding planner is also there as emotional support. They are there to alleviate any wedding stress you may have, hence the unlimited emails that they offer. Ask them anything, update them with any changes, and voice concerns, within reason of course! They can be a shoulder to cry on when times are bad and when your friends are tired of talking about weddings with you, your planner should be willing to lend an ear, besides, they’re excited about your wedding too!

Who should hire a planner?

In my opinion, you’ll need a planner if you don’t have time to plan the wedding yourself. If you feel that you are disorganized, easily frazzled or just don’t have the patience to do the research, you might as well hire a professional to help you out.

If you are a DIY bride, you can still hire planners for some aspects of the planning process. Some planners offer a customized or a la carte package to suit each couple’s different needs. If that’s still too much, some planners have consulting services where they will hold several meetings with you throughout the planning process to guide you along the right track. Research and ask for lots of quotes because every planner brings something different to the table.

To give you a general idea of price, wedding planners charge approximately $2,000 and up for full planning packages. Is it worth it? It depends on you. Planners can execute your vision and possibly save you some money by making recommendations based on their previous years of experience and connections in the industry. Your time will be yours as well because planners will be doing most of the legwork for you. It’s up to you and your fiancé to decide what’s best for your situation.

Alicia recommends you find a wedding planner at least a year before the big day, or even earlier because apparently venues have been booking up faster than she’s ever seen it before. When choosing a planner, there are certain characteristics you should be looking for to ensure you hired a good one.

Your Wedding Planner should be…

  • … a hardworker
  • … selfless, willing to put clients’ needs first
  • … very organized
  • … quick on their feet
  • … honest
  • … a great troubleshooter or problem solver
  • … genuine
  • … a great communicator
  • … passing on vendor discounts to you, their client
  • … working with a team of professionals
  • … open to work with other people
  • … a great match to your personality

Ultimately, you must get along with the planner you choose to hire because that person will be your best friend for the whole duration of your wedding planning process. A good personal relationship will lead to an even better professional relationship. I’d like to thank Alicia for letting me pick her brain and talking wedding over lunch! If you’d like to find out more about her, you can visit her website, like her Facebook page or follow her on Twitter. Happy planning!

All photos were provided by Alicia Keats
Feature Photo courtesy Jenn Best Photography
Others courtesy Jonetsu Studios, Raymond & Jessie Leung Photography,
Contrast Studio, & Sakura Photography
Mouse over each photo to identify the photographer

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  • November 10th, 2011 at 7:08 pm
    Jillian Christison says:

    Great article!

  • April 2nd, 2012 at 6:59 am
    Wedding Venues Ireland says:

    Some stunning pictures and color themes here, I don’t know how couples ever managed without wedding planners, just to have one there on the day to coordinate the various tasks and personnel is a God send


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