Can the foundation of a wedding be laid by a bride and her family (or her Pinterest boards) alone? Absolutely. But great weddings come from dreaming intentionally with the help of a trusted guide. Your wedding planner should be encouraging, knowledgeable, and flexible. That sounds like a simple enough checklist…and it should be.
But the truth is that many planners resist operating outside of their comfort zone.
They prefer to work with the same vendors, and recreate the same styles, in order to make each event as easy as possible to execute. You don’t want a planner who will pigeonhole your wedding into their corner or conform your dreams to fit their signature look. It’s important to find a planner who is willing to push, innovate, and go outside the box to do something different. Something you.
Once you’re ready to bring a planner into your process, it’s essential to start by asking the right questions—including (and especially) during the inspiration-gathering phase. Otherwise, you run the risk of landing a poor match or mediocre mediator.
I get it: Your life is non-stop busy all day, every day. Because of that, stopping (really stopping) to sit still and dream is something that might not come naturally to you. However, it’s important to embrace this aspect of wedding planning in order to create a cohesive, streamlined vision for your ceremony and reception.
Once you’ve clarified your dream, it’s time to bring it to life. I’ve put together a comprehensive list of questions you should ask your potential wedding planner and yourself to help you accomplish just that…and I’ve also included my own thoughts for good measure!
QUESTIONS TO ASK YOUR WEDDING PLANNER
How can I stay focused while gathering inspiration?
Your wedding planner will undoubtedly want to see any visual inspirations you’ve gathered during the dream phase, but let’s be real. Pinterest and Instagram can be cluttered and confusing. To keep your vision focused, make sure to add clear descriptions to every pin you save. Be specific about the elements that make each image inspiring to you.
How can I set myself up for success when seeking inspiration?
Set a time and place for scheduled dreaming and invite key players to join your brainstorming process. Everyone should come prepared and be ready to share their own ideas. This is your chance to put everything on the table, so don’t be afraid to really go for it! Editing can (and should) happen later on with the help and guidance of your planner.
How do you approach design?
I’ll let you in on a little secret: Most wedding planners (myself included) are also inherently designers! Throughout the planning process, I’ll help you sort through visual inspirations, make selections, book event rentals, source a florist, and so much more. For this reason, when you’re interviewing wedding planners, it’s important to find someone who is able to build a concept based on your personal style. At the same time, flexibility and versatility are both essential. No couple’s wedding should be the same, as every couple is unique, so be sure to look through every potential planner’s portfolio thoroughly before booking.
What is your background and training in the realm of wedding etiquette?
As a certified protocol officer who was trained at the Washington School of Protocol, where political officials undergo training for diplomacy etiquette, let me be the first to say…etiquette is still extremely important! Whether you’re well-versed in the protocols of hosting a wedding or have no idea what spoon goes where, it’s essential to hire a wedding planner who is at least familiar with wedding etiquette, if not professionally accredited.
What vendors do you use, and how will you choose which vendors to approach for my wedding?
Ask this question, always! As I mentioned before, you want to hire a planner who is willing to think outside of the box on your behalf. Every wedding professional maintains a network of preferred partners, but planners who refuse to budge from a set-in-stone vendor list are more likely to deliver cookie-cutter results. You deserve a wedding planner who will choose the best vendors for YOUR wedding while also stewarding your budget well.
Do you own any other businesses within the industry?
If the answer to this is “yes,” that’s a red flag. Your planner should be unbiased and totally dedicated to assembling the vendor team that’s right for you. If they own a rental company or any other business within the wedding industry, and they require you to utilize said company in order to also secure their planning services, then they’re working with their best interest in mind—not yours. You should never have to compromise your wedding dream to accommodate a vendor’s self-serving motives.
Can you show me an example of your checklist? Can you show me an example of your budget?
Ask to see these in-person, but don’t expect a planner to give you a copy of their hard work. If your potential planner has the organization skills it takes to plan your wedding, they will have an example of their checklist and budget on-hand and available for your review.
How often are you updating my budget and what kind of access will I have to it? Can you walk me through your vision of good stewardship when it comes to our funds? What is your expenditure approval process?
As a wedding planner, I make sure that my clients have 24-hour access to their budget via a secure platform that also gives them the freedom to share budgetary information with whomever they choose. Your wedding planner should be completely transparent about the stewardship of your funds, and every expenditure should be approved by you.
How do you handle disagreements between parties?
Your wedding is all about the two of you—but, like it or not, there are many other parties that will become involved in the planning process along the way. Disagreements are bound to happen. It’s important that your wedding planner, as a mediator, has a strategy for handling hiccups. My first step toward developing a mediating strategy is to determine how my clients make decisions. Feel free to take the decision-making quiz for yourself below!
QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF WHILE WEDDING PLANNING
1. As a decision maker, I most value:
B. Thorough analysis
2. In high-stress situations, I am most likely to get:
A. So involved in the details I lose sight of the big picture
B. Carried away with new ideas to the extent that I ignore the immediate details
C. So involved in analyzing the decision that I fail to recognize interpersonal needs—my own and the needs of others
D. So enmeshed in my feelings that I may fail to think things through thoroughly
3. As a decision maker, I tend to pay most attention to:
QUESTIONS YOUR WEDDING PLANNER SHOULD ASK YOU
Last but not least, you should also expect your wedding planner to ask you a few questions in order to hone in on your style and design preferences. Here are a few examples:
Where do you travel?
What kind of furniture is in your house?
How do you like to entertain guests?
What are your favorite kinds of parties?
What type of aesthetic are you drawn to?
While we’re on the subject, feel free to contact me with any specific questions you might have regarding my services as a wedding planner. It’s a joy for me to work with clients to create experiences that will be remembered for a lifetime, and I’d love to chat about going on that journey with you.
Let’s get started!