Hiring a Wedding Planner? Here's What You Need to Know

“So tell me, what does our life look like if we don’t hire you?”

This couple is getting married in six weeks. A friend recommended that they call me after they spent most of a dinner party talking about how much they hate planning their wedding.

It hasn’t been easy. Based on the 45-minute call we’ve already had, they’re stressing out, losing sleep, and fighting — a lot.

What they’ve said is all too familiar — I am, after all, a professional wedding coordinator — but it never stops hurting when couples tell me that planning their wedding has become something they dread.

But that’s not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about why these two should pay me $1,750 to coordinate their wedding.

I could rattle off all the tasks that I do, from picking up flowers to cueing processionals to creating timelines to passing out tips. I could point to my reviews. “These people sure love me. Why don’t you?” I could even tell them that, statistically speaking, I’m the best deal in town. The average cost of a wedding planner is $2,000 and I know local planners who charge more than $4,000.

That’s playing defense, though, and I like to tell the truth.

“If you don’t hire me, your wedding will be just fine,” I say. “Your marriage will be just as valid whether or not you book me.”

They laugh. At least they haven’t lost sight of that fact yet.

“What you’re deciding is what resource you want to use more of: your money or your time.”

What’s More Valuable? Your Money or Your Time

Couples don’t hire me because I have some kind of superhuman ability to make a timeline. There’s a million templates for that (I share one myself). People don’t even hire me because I’m abnormally good at planning weddings, though managing more than 25 does give me a leg up.

People hire me because they prefer to spend their money rather than their time.

People forget that time is a resource too, and, in my book, it’s the more precious of the two. Time, unlike money, is guaranteed to run out.

There’s privilege in this. It’s a nasty side effect of an industry that insists that a “normal” wedding cost, at last count, $44,000. There’s reality, too.

This couple I’m talking to could do my job. I estimate it’ll take them about five hours a week for the next six weeks to finish planning their wedding. (Five hours, by the way, is on the low end. One survey found that women — yes, just women — spent on average 10 hours a week on wedding planning.)

This couple could spend those 30 odd hours before the wedding calling vendors, tracking down details, building a timeline, creating custom versions, and sending those timelines to all vendors and VIP family members and guests, and then showing up to run their rehearsal. 

On the wedding day, they could find someone to keep track of the license and the rings and the vows, to set up decorations, to send them down the aisle on time, to cue the reception, to clean up at the end of the night, to answer all the questions, all the time. 

They don’t even have to ask a friend. They could do it themselves.

Or they could hire me.

This isn’t fair. Nor is it right. A couple shouldn’t have to make this choice: Do we spend nearly $2,000 to offload these tasks or do we lose our minds a little bit more? Every couple, regardless of budget, should be able to enjoy planning their wedding.

But we don’t live in that world.

My mission is to help us get there, which is why I told this couple the truth: They don’t need me. I mean, they do but it doesn’t have to be me. I would point them to other resources, including my own. I would talk to whichever friend they found to fill my role. I would do these things for free because I believe that wedding planning should be about joy, not desperation.

What to Consider When Hiring a Wedding Planner or Coordinator

If you find yourself in a spot like the couple above, consider these points when weighing the pros and cons of hiring a wedding planning or wedding coordinator.

What Exactly Do You Need Done?

This is a toughie because you don’t know what you don’t know and I’m guessing you’ve never planned a wedding before or, if you have, never under this particular set of circumstances. Still, you know more than you think.

Sit down with your partner and make a list of all the loose ends that bug you to no end. What gives you the most stress? What makes your chest tighten just considering the logistics? That’s where you need support.

Know Your Planning Service Options

When it comes to my line of work, there are three main groups: wedding planner, wedding coordinator, and day-of coordinator. There’s a lot of crossover and the terminology may differ depending on your region.

You can find the specifics about what each type of service includes here but the general rule of thumb: full-service wedding planners cost the most and do the most, wedding coordinators do less and cost less, and day-of coordinators cost the least and do the least.

Understand What an Experienced Planner Costs

It’s notoriously hard to window-shop in the wedding industry because vendors have very little incentive to publicly post their prices but, in general, a full-scale wedding planner is going to be $3,000 to $5,000; a coordinator, $1,500 to $2,000; and a purely day-of coordinator, $800 to $1,000.

That’s a lot of money, but remember what you’re buying: that person’s experience, connections, professionalism, and, most importantly, time.

Feel empowered to push the coordinator (or really, any vendor) on their price. You can ask why they charge what they charge. A quality vendor will have a strong answer.

Read Planner and Coordinator Reviews

Yelp, Google, and various wedding industry review websites that I won’t name here — these are great places to do some digging. What did previous clients have to say about working with this vendor? Don’t stop at Yelp. Ask for references. I’ve had two previous clients do this and I was more than happy to connect them with several former couples.

Be Ready to Make a Decision

This is particularly true for planners and coordinators but no vendor can help you until you hire them. Don’t get stuck in decision purgatory. You can spend days comparing all of the options. Don’t do it. Get educated, make a decision (together), and move on.


Elisabeth Kramer is a day-of wedding coordinator and writer based in Portland, Oregon. Learn more about her work at elisabethkramer.com.