Questions to ask your wedding planner

This list was taken from a fabulous article written by Nancy Tucker from Weddings Beautiful Worldwide. My comments on each question are in italics after her notes. (I also added B, C and D to question 1 because I think they are natural follow ups)

The 10 Most Important Questions to Ask a Wedding Coordinator

1A. What is your experience level?
This is more important than asking “how many weddings have you done?” They could have done no weddings officially but have helped friends or their church with coordination. This is good experience. What you want to avoid is the consultant who tells you she did her own wedding and decided to start the business. Too many times, this consultant is still full of the romantic and fun part of the process and has no clue about the brick and mortar it takes to build a wedding to accommodate someone else’s taste.

1B. Have you had any education relating to wedding planning and coordination?
Have they had any professional training from one of the major associations: ABC, ACPWC, Weddings Beautiful, June Weddings or similar? There is no industry standard certification program for wedding coordinators, the definition of certified varies from organization to organization. You just want to look for someone who has taken the time to get some sort of education.

1C. Are they a member of any of the major professional organizations?
ABC, ACPWC, Weddings Beautiful, June Weddings and ISES are all excellent organizations supporting the wedding and special event professional. They provide on going education and networking. (question 5 explains why I think this question is important)

1D. Is this your full time job?
Generally, if a coordinator isn’t full time, their availability during the day is going to be limited. Plus you want to make sure this isn’t a hobby for them – who is to say they won’t get bored with their new hobby before your wedding and leave you high and dry?

1E. Did you start this business of buy an existing one?
You want to make certain that when a planner says their business has been around for 5 years, they have been the one around for 5 years! Anyone can buy a business and start meeting clients 2 days later all the while saying the business has been around for X years!

2. How do you charge for your services?
Some wedding planners charge by the hour, some do an estimate of time your wedding will require and some charge a flat fee and still others work on a percentage of your wedding budget basis. Make sure you know what is included and what is not. If it is a percentage based fee, get in writing which budget items that is based on. You don’t want surprises down the road.

3. Do you receive commissions or referral fees from vendors?
Ethics dictate that the consultant is paid only by the bride, thereby devoting loyalty to the bride. Consultants who accept referral fees from vendors will often pressure you to use the vendor they get the best fee from rather than the vendor who will do the best job. ALWAYS get an answer to this question – if they refuse to answer, end the interview and find a coordinator who will answer it. This is also a great question to ask the vendor they give you as a reference (see question 7): have they ever demanded a “finder’s fee” or asked for something in return for referrals?

4. What is your procedure on the day of the wedding?
Some consultants get you through the ceremony and appear at the reception just long enough to see the set up and then they are gone. You want to make sure the consultant will be there throughout the reception to coordinate your special dances, cake cutting, etc. Have them walk you through a typical wedding day and what goes into it. Do they have standard procedures that transfer from wedding to wedding: timelines, checklists, info for the musicians, etc?

5. What is the procedure for a replacement should the consultant not be able to perform?
Having access to someone who could fill in if they were to break their leg or have another emergency is why I think membership in a professional organization is SO important – it gives a built in network of trained professionals who could step in and take over in an emergency.

6. How many weddings do you do per day?
You can do better with a consultant who has only one event per day. Their attention will be on your wedding not on the next one. Also ask if they will be the one at the wedding – if the company has more than one WC, who will be on site the entire day?

7. Can you provide references?
Ask the consultant to provide at least 3 references. It is also a good idea to ask for at least one vendor reference. Vendors see coordinator’s work from a different angle than the bride and groom – they see the behind the scenes things that make a wedding work. Make sure the vendor would be willing to work with the WC again. Also, ask your other vendors if they have ever worked with the WCs you are interviewing.

8. What is your record keeping system?
You need to know that your wedding coordinator uses some written form of record of your wedding details and vendors details.

9. What other services can you offer?
Many offer invitations and accessories which makes it easy to take care of multiple details with one contact. Beware of the consultant who is also a caterer, dj, photographer, etc. If they are doing that job, how can they be there for you as your wedding coordinator too?

10. How will the wedding coordinator be dressed for your wedding?
You’ll want the consultant to blend in with your guests and be in proper attire to exude authority and expertise.

As you may have guessed, I am a huge fan of websites! I think they say so much about the vendor behind them. A few things to consider when you are looking at websites:

Do they have galleries of pictures on their site?
If not, ask why! It might be that they don’t have digital photos but have a paper portfolio to show you. Or it might be that they don’t have anything to show.

Do the pictures they do have look familiar?
Are they familiar because you have seen them on every other wedding website out there? Those are called stock photos and they are one of my pet peeves! If you think it might be stock photography, ask them if they are their own work or stock. If they can’t show you anything unique, ask why.

Does their attention to detail come through on the site?
A good WC is very into the details. If they can’t take the time to put their best foot forward and check spelling, grammar, and the way the site looks – will they take the time to check the details on your wedding?

The best advice I can give you is to look for someone who is excited about your wedding and doesn’t look at it as “just another wedding.” Make sure you like them as a person – you are going to be spending a lot of time with them! Trust your gut and make sure you click. If they aren’t a good fit, keep looking. Not every coordinator is right for every bride! A good WC can make your wedding more than you had dared to hope for, a bad one can ruin it and bring more stress and drama.

Good luck in finding the right match!