Know Your Style
To determine if you need to enlist a professional, consider your needs and expectations for your wedding, suggests event planners Katie Smith and Devra Glauberman of MarieMerin Productions in New York City. A wedding planner, the pair says, is ideal for "brides who are looking for more personal attention" – some women crave the one-on-one attention of an expert who is available for late-night seating chart freak-outs and cake chat. A wedding coordinator is also a must for couples who don't want to be bothered with the details. A planner can deliver the wedding of your dreams armed with only the basic idea of what you want, and keep it within your budget (Old Hollywood glamour and blush tones, for instance). In that case, all you have to do is show up.
Find the Right Fit
Before choosing a planner (otherwise known as your new BFF), have a lengthy discussion with her to make sure your personalities fit. "When you sit down with a planner, find out what they can offer, how they typically run things from A to Z, and what their team is like," Smith says. "Some are more personal; others are not. You'll get a first impression as soon as you sit down with them."
Wedding planners are not just for celebrities and no-expense-spared blowouts. Working with a planner can actually help you stay within your budget in part because they can often help you get vendor discounts. Before you meet with a potential planner, determine your budget, including the areas where you want to spend the most money. If you know a wedding planner is a must for you, put that in the number one slot. A detailed breakdown of expenses will make it easier for a planner to help you stay within your budget. Smith and Glauberman say that a wedding planner should cost no more than about 10% of your total budget.
Consider the Options
Couples who choose to go it alone may decide to call in backup at the last minute. Even if you've planned most of the wedding yourself, many coordinators offer their services a la carte. Many couples will work with a planner during the month before the wedding, in order to hand off tasks like confirming vendors, finalizing the menu and making sure the setup runs smoothly. "You're still in control, but you have a support system for the last-minute details," Smith says. Another option is day-of coordination, in which a planner makes sure everything from your walk down the aisle to the cake cutting goes according to plan.